STOP THE WASTE & BE ACCOUNTABLE: Part 6 of 13

lion-office-jungle-law-illustration-by-frits-ahlefeldt

Graphic Courtesy of Hikingartist.com

I had to call the Lyons School District 103 Admin Building the other day.  A very nice woman picked up and greeted me with “Village of Lyons.  Oops, sorry (giggle).  School District 103.”

It got me wondering how many people have left District 103 since Mayor Getty’s school board began just over a year ago (see HERE, HERE or HERE for more).  The list:

  1. Assistant to the superintendent
  2. Payroll Coordinator
  3. Benefits Coordinator/Receptionist (see above)
  4. Director of Technology
  5. Network Administrator
  6. Infrastructure Support
  7. Director of Curriculum
  8. Title I/ELL Coordinator
  9. Director of Special Education
  10. Director of Buildings and Grounds
  11. Principal of George Washington Middle School
  12. Assistant Principal, George Washington Middle School
  13. Principal of Costello School

Those 13 who left collectively had about 200 years of experience in education.  Most of the replacements for the above staff are friends of Getty, former (and current) Village of Lyons employees, or recommended to Getty by his friends.  They collectively have about 50 years of school experience.

It’s not clear if they understand if they are working for School District 103 or the Village of Lyons.  Or perhaps it is clear.

Essay on How Charter Schools Weaken Democracy and Societly

Dennis Smith, former consultant to the Ohio Department of Education Charter School Office, writes how the formation of charter schools weakens our society – it rings true on several levels.  Read his piece here:

Charters, Vouchers, Individual Choice And Our Strained Social Fabric

 

Effects of School Choice: Holland, Michigan

segregated-city-divided-town-illustration-by-frits-ahlefeldt

While visiting my mother-in-law she gave me an article titled ‘Urban district, suburban community’ from the March 23, 2016 Holland Sentinel newspaper.  The article focused on the long-term effects of school choice on the Holland Public Schools.

The lead sentence of the article stated rather straightforwardly, “State policies that promote school choice have fueled a changing demographic landscape for many of Michigan’s public schools.”  The article goes on to say that 1,600 students (over 30%) within the Holland Public Schools’ boundaries have used the state’s 20 year Schools of Choice law to attend charter schools or go to neighboring school districts.

What caught my eye was the reporter’s assertion that as a result of school choice, the district “doesn’t represent the town in which it operates” and that Holland has become “a fragmented community that prolongs stereotypes.”  The numbers show the demographic differences between the city and school district:

Holland                  White    Hisp./Latino  Black          Asian

2010 Census             68.9%          22.7%        3.2%            2.9%

Holland Public Schools

2015-16                     37.9%         47.1%         7.4%           2.6%

So even though Holland’s population is about 69% White, only 38% of the students in its schools are White.  Similarly, the town is about 23% Hispanic/Latino but its schools have more than twice that proportion.  What happened?

Superintendent of Holland Public Schools Brian Davis points directly at school choice as the reason why the district’s population doesn’t reflect the community it serves. Davis recalls 1996 (when Michigan’s Schools of Choice law went into effect) as a time when Holland parents began to look at neighboring Zeeland schools as a choice. Zeeland was 94% White (2000 census).   Also, providing school choice was an invitation to start charter schools.  Today, 17% of students attending school in Holland go to charter schools.

Davis said some families chose to attend other schools when they noticed an “increasing free and reduced lunch” student population.  He stated that “middle to upper-middle class families with disposable income” were the ones with enough time and money to drive their kids to neighboring Zeeland or charter schools.  It’s not too hard to read between the lines – because they could afford to white families took advantage of the school choice law and left lower-income Hispanic/Latino and Black families in the Holland schools.

Is it OK that school choice allows parents to create segregated schools?  At what point in time do their children learn to live with people who look different from themselves?  Is this the kind of America we want?

Stop the Waste & Be Accountable – Part 5 of $461, 494

money-heap-how-much-is-enough

Under “Action Items” on the February 25, 2016 Lyons Elementary School District 103 board agenda was listed, ” XIII E. Motion to Approve Contract Extension for Kyle Hastings as Assistant Superintendent.”

Let’s look at this in a little more detail:

  1. This was not a “contract extension” as Hastings will no longer be the superintendent.  The board ended his current contract and created a completely new position of Assistant Superintendent (which the district never had before) and hired Hastings.
  2. No board members had an opportunity to review the many-paged extension contract before the board meeting.
  3. Hastings receives an 11.1% increase in pay, going from $900 per day to $1000 per day.
  4. Hastings’s contract is four years long – unheard of for school administrators.
  5. Hastings will receive an automatic 3.25% increase in each of the next three years of his contract.  That means in year-four of the contract his salary will be almost $121,000.
  6. Assuming Hastings also receives board-paid health insurance at about $10,000 per year, his first year income will be $110,000 for 100 days of work.  This is about $2.30 per MINUTE of work.
  7. Over the course of the four-year contract Hastings will receive $461,494 in compensation for 400 days of work.
  8. He says he is going to take over the work of Jason Gold.  Mr. Gold’s title was “Coordinator of ELA and Math Initiatives, and Teacher/Principal Retention and Development.”  Hastings isn’t certified to be the ELA coordinator or to evaluate teachers and principals.  He has little or no knowledge of K-8 mathematics.
  9. Hastings said he will also help out in “human resources.”    The board has already hired two people to do the job of the one person (Judy Pohanka) who was doing human resources for many years.  What this probably means is that Hastings’ job will be to check with Mr. Getty before each new staff member is hired.
  10. Getting back to the numbers, Hastings making $110,000 for 100 days of work is equivalent to $253,000 per year for a superintendent working 230 days.

So why the huge contract?  Four years?  A total of $461,484?  Does Hastings have dirty pictures of Getty?  Does Getty owe Hastings for some big favor worth about a half-million dollars?  Or is Getty “paying forward” for some big future favor?  Does it have anything to do with Kyle Hasting’s son Michael Hastings, senator of the 19th Illinois Legislative District? Looking for more turf to control, Chris?

 

 

On the horizon: At the March 24, 2016 board meeting they set up a committee to review the district’s insurance contracts.  Hey, doesn’t Chris Getty own an insurance company?

Does District 103 Matter?

man-2weights-illustration-by-frits-ahlefeldt
Graphic Courtesy of hikingartist.com

About 5 years ago Chris Getty, mayor of Lyons, IL, decided he would take over the Lyons Elementary School District 103.  He ran a slate of candidates for the school board and one was elected.  Four years later he got four of his candidates elected, so now he controls the school board.  Does anybody care?

District 103 is a small district (one square mile) with less than 3,000 students sitting in the shadows of Chicago.  So why does it matter?  To me, it’s a test case: do people in the community care who runs their schools?   I don’t think it’s right that a powerful person can just decide to take over a school district – not because he wants better schools, but because he wants more power.*  Do the people care?

I’m curious to see…

  • Can anyone put together a war chest bigger than Mayor Getty’s for the next school board election? Or more importantly, will anyone try?
  • Once the residents of McCook, Stickney, Forest View, and Brookfield know that the mayor of Lyons is controlling their schools will they object?**
  • Will the parents of District 103 stand up for the teachers who are feeling disenfranchised and are looking to teach somewhere else?**
  • Will the taxpayers continue to allow an attorney, being paid $185/hr, to speak for the board president and run the day-to-day affairs of the school district?
  • Is the teachers’ union going to stand up and act on behalf of the students?

Ten months from now nominating petitions for District 103 school board positions will be submitted.  Can anyone stop Mayor Getty?  Does anybody care?

 

* Similarly, I don’t think it’s right that a corporation can be given a special status as a charter school – not because they want better schools, but because they want to make a profit.
** I’d be interested in hearing from you about your concerns.  You can email me (from home with a non-District 103 email address) at education.under.attack@gmail.com.  All responses will be kept anonymous.

 

 

 

An Open Letter to Mr. Zuckerberg and Dr. Chan

Mark_Zuckerberg
Mark Zuckerberg courtesy of eu.wikipedia.org

Dear Mr. Zuckerberg and Dr. Chan,

Thank you for your generosity!   With you as exemplars I hope others will follow: untold billions of dollars could be targeted to benefit mankind.

As an advocate of public education, I hope some of your generosity will help the millions of public school students here in America.  Your letter said one of your initial areas of funding would be personalized learning – I can only assume that you have K-12 education in mind.

As you formulate goals for the Chan Zuckerberg Initiatives you must decide early on if your actions will be designed to improve public education or to weaken it.  Or if they will be able to make any difference.  As you well know from your experience in Newark, putting large amounts of money into schools can be a waste of that money.  How many billions of dollars have been spent on the Common Core and the PARCC initiatives, both of which are rapidly losing support?

If you see your daughter Max. and America, as beneficiaries of public education and you don’t want to have your money wasted, please consider the following:

  • Find out what’s needed before providing a solution.  Your letter stated an interest in supporting personalized learning. Does this solution arise from your obvious expertise and interest in technology or have you reviewed the scholarly research in education, talked to the experts in the field and decided this is what is needed?
  • Don’t just listen to rich/powerful people telling you what should be done to public schools.  Use some of that money to listen – really listen – to teachers, parents, students, and education professionals.  Be different from your peers – learn from those most invested in education.
  • If you hear that some of the problems with schools, particularly in urban areas, are societal (i.e. poverty, poor nutrition, lack of pre-natal care, gang violence) don’t turn a deaf ear as others have.  By attacking societal issues you will help improve education.
  • If you do listen when the rich/powerful people talk about public education, are they talking about what’s best for children?  Or what’s best for themselves?
  • Don’t assume public schools can’t adopt new practices.  They have again and again.  But it can be a slow process, so identify what is needed, come up with a solution, improve it along the way, and be patient.  Don’t shove it down the throats of educators and expect change over night.
  • Hear what is good about public education.  Too many people have found it in their best interests to bad-mouth schools.  Look around – America is the greatest country in the world because of our public education system.

In closing, good for you but do some good.  Forty-five billion dollars is a lot of money – use it to find ways to improve, not reform, our public schools.  America will thank you for it.

Sincerely,

Mike Warner