Saturday, September 5, 2009

Tarnished Deeds: When SCOs Go Wild

The 2009-10 school year began this week. Eastside elementary kids were greeted by wonderful new playground equipment, funded by "ESCO", the Eastside School-Community Organization. That's a great thing....right? A success story? Sadly, there's more here than what you hear from the school district. And when you dig a little bit, things really begin to stink.

There is a LOT of detail to this story, so let's start you off with the summary of our findings.
There is no evidence to refute that the new Eastside playground equipment was at least in part financed by inappropriate "class fees".

► Class fees represent a double tax for parents. The school district budget, which is paid by state aids and property taxes, should cover ALL classroom/student needs.

► Class fees represent an inequitable financial advantage for a school. We could only find evidence of this practice at Eastside.

►The school district and school board SHOULD have been aware of this situation (were they?)and nipped it in the bud.

►There is crystal clear evidence that principal Coulthart, deputy district administrator Phil Frei, and 3 school board members (McCourt, Shimek , and Slane) SHOULD (arguably MUST) have been aware of these class fees--and done something about them.

►The transparency of government becomes clouded-- to say the least-- when SCOs do not have to provide financial accountability for their revenues.

►Board member Jim McCourt is constantly prattling on that teachers who are not getting things they need should speak to school board members--and that such a need doesn't exist.
They shouldn't HAVE to, Jim. You were present at the ESCO meeting last fall when class fees were discussed: how much, and the fact that they paid for things teachers need but don't get.

SP-EYE: Ponder that for a bit. We'll be presenting all of the DOCUMENTED FACTs on this issue a followup. There are some many layers to this issue that it needs to be peeled an onion.
Take out all the subplots and it boils down to 3 main issues:
1. The idea of "voluntary" class fees to supplement teachers in their classrooms is fundamentally a bad idea. The school board needs to take action to stop this practice permanently.
2. Too many administration and board members had to have their heads in the sand to NOT know this was going on. This is one of those "Have you stopped beating your spouse" questions. No matter how you slice it, it comes down to, "Were you that clueless? Or did you look the other way?" And, if it was the latter, then did you pull a Pinocchio when asked directly about the fees?
3. The perceived need for class fees to purchase things which teachers need to do their jobs, passively supported by administration, lends credence to arguments that the 2009-10 budget should not target classrooms for 5% cuts.