Sword/Plowshares 21 – Correcting wild innacuracies

Disclaimer

If you can get into Facebook you will see how Bonnie Jorgenson calmly addressed the many wild accusations leveled at the Duluth Public Schools Academy by the many union critics who hogged the first portion of microphone time at Tuesday’s public meeting.

In case you can’t get into Facebook this is what Bonnie writes:

Clarification on some Misconceptions Related to Duluth Edison Charter Schools
March 29, 2016

It was gratifying to see so much public participation at the Duluth School Board’s March 28 community meeting regarding the potential sale of the Central High School property to Tischer Creek Duluth Building Company, for reuse as a Duluth Edison Charter Schools high school.

Information shared by some of the speakers at that meeting, however, was inaccurate. We have clarified those inaccuracies here.

ABOUT THE DECS SCHOOL BOARD

The DECS School Board is made up of eleven individuals elected by the caregivers of the students in our school and our staff. The Board always includes three teachers who work at our school. The remaining Board members are caregivers of our students and Duluth community members.

An election is held every November for three to four of the 11 seats on a rotating basis. All Board members are Duluthians.

The DECS Board follows open meeting law — as do ALL school boards in Minnesota. All of the Board meetings are public. Minutes and other information about our public school board can be found on the board page of our web site — www.duluthedison.org.

ABOUT DECS RELATIONSHIP WITH EDISONLEARNING

For the past 18 years, the DECS local School Board has had a contract for services with EdisonLearning. The services DECS has paid EdisonLearning to provide include professional development, human resource services like payroll and benefits, and other business services. DECS has only paid EdisonLearning this fee for service. EdisonLearning has no other connection to anything occurring at the school or any of the facilities owned by Tischer Creek Duluth Building Company.

A change planned for several months will become effective June 30, 2016, when DECS will no longer contract with EdisonLearning. The reason for this change is that, while we have appreciated EdisonLearning’s participation in the past, DECS no longer needs its services. For example, DECS has received the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) School Finance Award for several years during which we’ve operated with a local business office. All audits are available on our web site — www.duluthedison.org — and submitted to MDE and other official bodies each year.

All services and business done by the school will be conducted locally.
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ABOUT DECS SPECIAL EDUCATION PROGRAMMING

DECS follows all of the state and federal regulations related to qualifying students for special education that any other public school follows. DECS has successfully completed both program and fiscal audits by the Minnesota Department of Education over the past 18 years.

Per state and federal law, a student’s Individual Education Plan (IEP) team determines the services and accommodations a student needs. DECS currently has seven (7) individuals working as one to one paraprofessionals.

Delivery of special education services to children with disabilities is mandated by the federal government (free and appropriate public education), and although there are federal and state supports directed to the student, the federal and state governments expect the student’s community to also assist in the cost of service delivery. As charter schools are not taxing authorities, the only way for community support for these students is through the local district (in our case ISD 709). It would cost the district the same (even more) to provide these services themselves. Per MDE reports, ISD 709 was billed the following related to DECS special education expenditures in recent years: FY14: $1,395,745.66 and FY15: $1,569,109.07

Our DECS school budget expended $2,109,680.49 million on special education expenses in FY 14 and $2,690,177.79 million in FY 15. ISD 709 does not pay for DECS entire special education program but only the portion deemed appropriate by federal and state law.

Please feel free to contact me with additional questions about DECS’ programming and compliance with public school requirements.

Bonnie Jorgenson, Head of School