Closing schools? Rehabbing schools? Shifting boundaries?

I missed the first portion of yesterday’s Committee of the Whole (COW) meeting with the demographers we hired to map out the future needs of our schools. Alanna Oswald tried to protect me from showing up late yet again but once again I had the phone on mute. I quickly scanned the handout I was given and was intrigued by one glaring bit of information. Of all our newly fixed up schools only one, Congdon elementary, could expect future enrollment growth over the next ten years. “Well,” I thought to myself, “The parents and teachers have been begging the Board to change their boundaries for the last three “Think Kids” meetings.” I wish we had done this a couple years ago.

When I suggested that we could change the Congdon boundaries by ourselves now and skip making any further payments to the demographers for a year’s worth of community meetings some of my colleagues were appalled. The defenders of the “process” rolled out the big guns. Why we needed community involvement. (three years of Think Kids meetings evidently didn’t count) – If we tampered with even one school’s boundary we would cause a domino effect just like in Vietnam and all the adjoining school boundaries would have to be tinkered with (nevermind that all the other schools were predicted to lose students over the next decade and have plenty of room for reboundaried kids) Also, nevermind that we could do this now and grandfather in existing families and let them stay at Congdon…….NO, NO, NO…….we had to delay decision making for another year. No one seemed to know how much we would pay these consultants for a year’s worth of meetings but Alanna Oswald sent them to me last night. We would pay another $31,000 or as I think of these expenses one-third-of-a-teacher.

I also missed one big headline from the beginning of the meeting. Alanna told me it was suggested that our declining enrollment might necessitate closing one of our existing elementary schools. Lakewood was a likely candidate. Golly, what a testament to the demographers of the Red Plan!!!!

After having this COW I hustled down to Congdon Elementary where 85 folks were assembled to tell us how overcrowded their school is. I don’t think the delay pitch went over very well with them. Here’s the DNT story about that meeting.

And here’s the DNT story about our demographer COW with my suggestion that we try to entice students to our western schools by letting them have more of the Compensatory Education money that they are entitled to. That fits into the spirit of the law rather than letting our District spend poor kids funding on rich kid’s schools.

And finally, our plans for Rockridge resulted in my getting a call from the Real Estate expert who valued our facilities for the Red Planners. He wondered why we were paying rent to use another school’s building – the old Cobb School that we sold to Woodland Hills twenty years ago. I had no ready answer for him. Then he asked if we were going to set up an amortization schedule and make certain we would have Woodland Hills rent the Rockridge facility at a rate which would pay off what it would cost us to fix Rockridge up. I explained that we don’t know how much it will cost to fix up Rockridge yet. We are paying experts one-and-a-half-teachers to estimate those costs before we agree to fix Rockridge, however the current guesstimate for fixing it stands at twenty-five teachers. I didn’t think to mention that we might not bond for this. We might pay for it out of our capital costs and general fund. General Fund????? Yup, that’s being researched even as I type this. More classroom dollars will go for rehabbing old buildings.

When the Congdon parents asked if we were trying to come up with innovative ways of educating kids with our fewer dollars I pointed out that we have fewer teachers (and the larger classes that they deplore) because: 1) The Red Plan takes $3.3 million (34 teachers) out of our General Fund for debt repayment annually and no experts have come up with a plan for us to restructure this debt so that we could return this money (and 34 teachers) back to our classrooms. And 2 our unhappy voters have only authorized a pitifully small $1.8 million referendum annually (14 teacher’s worth). When I told the Congdon crowd we had the ability to offer voters a referendum for two or three times that amount the Superintendent explained that my calculations were an oversimplification. (One I got from him I might add)

I’ve put in a call to our new CFO to find out about the Rockridge financial mechanics. I’ll report back to the realtor when I get that straightened out. I may even share it with my eight loyal readers. In the meantime I’m going to swim a few laps to work off my frustrations before I head over to serve food at the Damiano Center.