Friday, February 13, 2009

Same Old Song and Dance

Last Monday night, school board member Jim McCourt only served to corroborate the facetiously offered post suggesting that the new school board mantra is "You're wrong for thinking we're wrong...and that make you wrong twice".

After community resident--and school board gadfly---Rick Mealy suggested that by applying for a "21st Century Community Learning Center Grant" the school board was doing an about face on its commitment to balance socio-economic diversity in the schools, McCourt had two words for Mealy:

"You're Wrong!"
-Jim McCourt

In keeping with past board practice when a resident catches them with their pants down, McCourt tried to deflect from the substance of the input presented to the board. It's that old amateur magician's game of "don't look at what the left hand is doing, keep your eyes on the right hand."

McCourt took issue with Mealy's statement that the intent of these DPI grants was for schools to commit to a 5-year program . That only makes can't build a "21st Century Community Learning Center in only one school year! You can really only initiate the process and then continue it in future years.

We'll let the readers decide. The DPI application for the grant, 21st Century Community Learning Centers info, clearly states the following:
What is the length of the grant period?
"The DPI intends to make grant awards for five years to successful
who demonstrate satisfactory progress. Annual grant awards will be made dependent upon availability of funds. For grantees who have demonstrated success during their five-year cycle of funding, continuation grants will be awarded to successful applicants for a three-year cycle.
So...yes, Mr. Court, you are technically correct: a school district can apply for the grant for ONE year and then choose to not re-apply the next year. See? We can be fair. We'll give you that.
But can you be equally giving and admit to the community what we both know to be true- that the DPI WANTS schools to continue this program for 5 or even 8 years?

The DPI is not in the business of awarding grants so that school districts can buy some really cool stuff and then walk away with a "Thanks for the cash, Stupid" arrogance. How exactly would THAT approach affect student achievement?

What McCourt--and none of the other board members would answer, was the actual question that was asked by not just Mealy, but community resident John Welke:

"What I'm concerned about is the mixed message the board and district are sending. On one hand, I hear you say balance the socioeconomics, and on the other hand, you seem to suggest that you're willing to accept schools are high poverty schools," - John Welke

At last, Dr. Culver answered the question indirectly,
" The grant is renewable every year for five years. I just can't see that by next August the boundaries are going to change. The next elementary school is four or five years out, the referendum is two or three years out, and you'll have to change boundaries anyways. Personally, whenever we
can provide direct services to kids, it's worth it."

--District Administrator Tim Culver

So there you have it. The answer is that no changes to the boundary mess or attempts to balance socio-economic diversity across the district will be implemented for at least 3 to 5 years---when we plan for the 8th elementary school.

Now that we know that, we can more loudly applaud Westside Principal Mueller's efforts to DO SOMETHING to help the high number of kids at Westside elementary caught in this middle of this issue.