News items come from the U.S. Department of Educations's National Clearinghouse for Educational Facilities (NCEF).
Fairfax County School Board delays review of renovations process
T. Rees Shapiro, Washington Post
May 14, 2013
-- The Fairfax County School Board decided Monday to postpone a review of the district’s criteria for school renovations.
The board opted to delay the review of the so-called renovations queue until November, after the new superintendent, Karen Garza, begins her tenure.
Board members and school administrators said many school buildings are badly in need of renovation, but that the district lacked the funding to begin the projects. There are 63 schools due for renovation in the current queue.
Richmond School Board again debates closing schools
ZACHARY REID, Richmond Times Dispatch
May 14, 2013
The talk of closing schools in Richmond is back on — and there’s a third school on the list.
On a 5-4 vote during a heated Monday work session, the Richmond School Board agreed to begin a process the prevailing side hopes will lead to the closure of Clark Springs Elementary School, the Adult Career Development Center and the old Norrell Elementary building, which currently houses a preschool center.
The plan also calls for reopening part of the open enrollment process and beginning a citywide communication blitz to let people know what’s happening.
A second motion to close four other schools — Carver, Fisher, Fox and Ginter Park elementary schools — failed on a vote of 5-4.
The contentious idea of bringing back the topic started when the board voted 6-3 to rescind an April 22 vote to not close any schools next year.
The change in course came on a motion by Kristen N. Larson of the 4th District, who voted in favor of waiting in April but agreed to a new process that will still lead to closing schools.
Broward superintendent proposes outsourcing facilities department
Michael Vasquez, Miami Herald
May 14, 2013
-- Arguing that its expertise and focus is the education business — and not the construction business — Broward’s school district is considering outsourcing much of its long-troubled facilities department.
The proposal, in which about 40 of the department’s 65 jobs would be eliminated, is being pushed by Superintendent Robert Runcie, and comes at a time when Broward’s school-building activities have largely dried up under state budget cuts and the steady loss of students to competing charter schools. With fewer students and less money to work with, some big changes are called for, Runcie argues.
There’s also the problem of the district’s poor past performance in managing construction and renovation projects. The district for years has been plagued by over-budget projects, delayed projects, and overall waste of taxpayer dollars. At the same time, the facilities department has played a key role in some of Broward’s biggest corruption scandals. In 2009, for example, former School Board member Beverly Gallagher was arrested on bribery charges for accepting $12,500 in exchange for helping contractors (who were really undercover agents) land a piece of construction work.
In presenting his privatization plan to School Board members on Tuesday, Runcie said, “The cost of not doing this is projects being delayed, over budget, mishandled.” Runcie said the overhaul will allow the district to spend its construction dollars more efficiently “and improve public trust at the same time.”
School Board members, who were meeting in a non-voting workshop, didn’t formally approve the changes, though many of them seemed inclined to support it.
“We cannot continue to do what we’ve been doing,” said board member Rosalind Osgood. In the roughly six months since she’s been elected, Osgood said she’s struggled to get timely answers from the facilities department.
D.C. Council education committee flexes its muscles on school boundaries
Emma Brown, Washington Post
District of Columbia:
May 14, 2013
-- The D.C. Council’s education committee stepped into a looming fight over school boundaries last week when it voted unanimously to ensure that parents get at least a year’s notice before boundary changes take effect.
The measure would force Chancellor Kaya Henderson to put off the politically sensitive changes for at least one year, from fall 2014 to fall 2015.
It is just one of many ways in which the council’s five-month-old education committee has asserted itself as a force in school policy during the spring budget season. The committee’s recommendations — including the school-boundary tweak — now go to the full council, which is scheduled to discuss them Tuesday as part of a broader debate on the fiscal 2014 budget.
Led by Chairman David A. Catania (I-At Large), the committee is pushing for significant changes to Mayor Vincent Gray’s (D) proposed spending plan, including an additional $1 million for summer school, $2.3 million to limit budget cuts at schools with low enrollment and about $250,000 for a public education ombudsman to help parents navigate traditional and charter schools.
The committee also restored funds for full-time librarians at 20 schools that otherwise would have seen those positions cut to half-time.
Peter MacPherson, a D.C. parent who has been lobbying for investment in libraries, said he was thrilled by the changes. “I was giddy for about 12 hours,” said MacPherson, a vocal critic of Henderson and Gray who said he welcomes the new education committee’s scrutiny of school budgets.
“They’re definitely a new sheriff in town,” he said. “This really represents a sea change.”
Money for the popular additions came from utilities — the committee estimates that the school system will spend less than it had expected on electricity and water due to closing 13 schools in June — and from regular personnel vacancies, which reduce personnel costs over time.
The committee also proposed slicing more than $350,000 from the office of the deputy mayor for education, a key adviser for Gray on schools issues. That move would reduce the deputy mayor’s office from 11 positions to 7 — a size more in line with other deputy mayors’ offices, according to Catania.
The proposed cut highlights a growing tension between the mayor — who is responsible for public education — and education committee chairman Catania, who is often mentioned as a possible 2014 mayoral candidate, and who has criticized the Gray administration for failing to move aggressively on issues such as reducing truancy and improving coordination among charter and traditional public schools.
Gray spokesman Pedro Ribeiro said Catania’s proposed cuts would make it more difficult to make progress on those issues.
“We don’t know why he would do this,” Ribeiro said.
The education committee also threw its weight behind individual school projects. H.D. Woodson Senior High is slated to receive $135,000 for a long-promised but never-delivered science, technology, engineering and math program. Garrison Elementary, which parents fought to keep open last fall, will get an accelerated renovation.
Chicago building commission approves construction plan for school downsizing
Bob Secter, Chicago Tribune
May 14, 2013
-- Mayor Rahm Emanuel has yet to win approval for his push to close more than 50 public schools, but on Tuesday he got the go-ahead to spend more than $160 million for construction projects on schools this summer to accommodate the downsizing.
The 11-member Public Building Commission, which Emanuel chairs, voted to hire 17 teams of contractors to oversee fast-tracked construction projects at dozens of schools, including those projected to see enrollments soar when other facilities close.
The school board is scheduled vote on the controversial plan to shut 53 elementary schools and one high school program next Wednesday.
Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle was the only commission member to vote against the construction program. Preckwinkle noted not only that the district's consolidation plan had yet to be approved but that hearing officers recently objected to 13 of the proposed closings.
Half of closed Flint schools over last 10 years in predominantly black neigborhoods
Dominic Adams , mlive.com
May 12, 2013
-- Nearly half of the more than 20 school closures announced by the Flint School District over the last decade have been in predominantly black neighborhoods on the northwest side of the city, according to an MLive-Flint Journal analysis.
The district has closed seven facilities north of Davison Road and Hamilton Avenue in Flint since the 2002-2003 school year and will close two more in that area this year as part of a closure plan to save $4 million.
The closures will leave the northwest side with three of the district's remaining 15 open school buildings.
Although the city is about 57 percent black, those neighborhoods are at least 90 percent black, according to 2010 U.S. Census data.
School officials say race is not a factor in the decisions and that the closures are primarily determined by aging facilities and declining enrollment, as well as a $15.6 million deficit.
Rev. Lewis Randolph, president of Concerned Pastors for Social Action in Flint, said he understands that the district is losing students, but said the closures are alarming.
"It's a concern because it's so sad that these schools have to close -- especially in the black neighborhoods,"¯ Randolph said. "It looks like some mismanagement has been going on with the board of education and therefore they've closed schools."¯
Added Randolph, "I don't agree with all the schools that they're closing. I do understand that some of the schools need to be closed."
Baltimore schools prep for massive renovations
MICHELLE JANAYE NEALY - Associate Press, BeaumontEnterprise.com
May 12, 2013
-- Baltimore public schools are on the verge of a system-wide makeover that officials hope will provide safer learning conditions for students and spark an era of academic achievement.
About $1 billion in new funding is expected to transform some of Baltimore's most run-down schools — where students and staff endure leaky pipes, undrinkable water and inadequate heating and air conditioning — into state-of-the-art learning sites with science and computer labs.
Recent data has shown a small but positive relationship between the quality of a public school's building and its academic outcomes. School districts across the country, including Los Angeles and New Haven, Conn., saw gains in student performance when they improved outdated or dilapidated schools.
Baltimore's teachers and families are hoping for a similar result.
Despite gains in graduation rates and declines in suspension and dropout rates over the past few years, Baltimore schools struggle to meet state and national standards. Data collected from states by the National Center for Education Statistics show about 78 percent of students across the country earned a diploma within four years of starting high school. That compared with 83 percent of students in Maryland, but just 66 percent in Baltimore.
Experts say that higher rates of student attendance and, in some cases, teacher retention make sense when dilapidated schools are revitalized.
"Students and teachers don't really want to be in very poor conditions, so they don't show up to school as much. They are not as engaged," said Mary Filardo, executive director of the 21st Century School Fund, a nonprofit organization in Washington that advocates for improving school buildings.
Daisha Wood, a fifth-grade honor roll student at John Eager Howard isn't seeking anything fancy at her school.
"Cleaner bathrooms and lockers that close," is what Wood said she would implement if she could help plan a new school.
School officials say that the benefits of new and renovated facilities extend beyond improved test scores.
"It's about creating a set of conditions that articulate how we value you," Alonso said. "That message gets internalized in communities and in kids."
After 19 months, New Orleans schools committee returns to building master plan
Danielle Dreilinger - Times-Picayune , Nola.com
May 9, 2013
-- A New Orleans public schools committee that hasn't held an official meeting in 19 months returns to work Thursday night to address financial strains that jeopardize the ambitious pledge to put every student in a new, renovated or refurbished classroom by 2016. The building master plan oversight committee has not met since September 2011 and will have entirely new membership.
Jim Garvey, who previously held the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education's seat on the committee, chalked the delay up to the need to restock the group after departures.
Created in 2008 and amended in 2011, the master plan is a joint project of the Orleans Parish School Board and Recovery School District to reshape the city's school building landscape. Hurricane Katrina's winds and floodwaters wreaked havoc on schools that were already in bad shape, and long-term population decline meant the city had too many classrooms anyway.
The current plan, fueled by $1.8 billion from FEMA, shrinks the number of school campuses from 129 to 82.
The lack of oversight hasn't kept the plan from proceeding. At the end of February, both school systems had almost $500 million in open construction contracts.
D.C. to establish a hybrid traditional-charter school in Southeast
Emma Brown, Washington Post
District of Columbia:
May 9, 2013
-- A long-struggling Southeast D.C. elementary school will undergo a renovation and then reopen under the management of a high-performing charter school, Chancellor Kaya Henderson announced Wednesday evening.
Malcolm X Elementary was among five city schools that the chancellor proposed to close last fall but later decided to keep open. Now the school, after the completion of a $21 million renovation next year, will be operated by Achievement Prep Public Charter School.
Henderson described the effort as a first-of-its-kind partnership that will produce neither a traditional school nor a charter school but something in between. Neighborhood children will have a right to attend the new Malcolm X, she said, but the school’s leaders will have charter-like freedom to run the building as they see fit.
Charter operators have won contracts to run city schools in the past, but this would be different, according to the chancellor, who called the hybrid a “new school model.”
“It’s an animal that we’ve never seen before,” said Henderson, adding that she hopes it inspires future partnerships between the school system and charters, two sectors that have more frequently competed for resources than collaborated.
“If I can provide a set of high-performing seats, an opportunity where kids are going to get more than we were able to give them at Malcolm X, I’m good,” Henderson said. “I don’t care whose shingle they’re under.”
Fewer than one in five Malcolm X students are proficient in reading and math, according to their scores on the city’s standardized tests. Meanwhile, Achievement Prep — a middle school that serves children in the same part of town — 86 percent of children are proficient in math and 69 percent are proficient in reading.
The school system has not signed any agreement with Achievement Prep yet and the two sides are still working out important details of the arrangement, including how to navigate rules and regulations that require charter schools to be open to children across the city.
GARRISON COMMUNITY STANDS UP FOR FULL MODERNIZATION OF SCHOOL
Ann McLeod, Garrison PTA
District of Columbia:
May 9, 2013
-- At a Logan Circle Community Association meeting held at Garrison Elementary last night, DC City Council Education Committee Chair David Catania (I, At-Large) announced that he has identified resources that will accelerate the Phase 1 modernization of Garrison to FY2014, rather than 2015. The crowd gathered at Garrison - one of the schools in greatest need for strategic investment according to the Deputy Mayor for Education 2013 Master Facilities Plan - cheered out loud.
Councilmember Jim Graham (D, Ward 1) stated "I will support expediting that funding to support Garrison." Budget Chair Councilmember Jack Evans (D, Ward 2) said, "I have vowed to make Garrison the gem of a neighborhood school that it should be. The funding I was able to secure for the field renovations last year was a first step, stopping it from closing was next and making sure that the renovations take place in an expeditious manner is part of that commitment."
Initially Garrison was scheduled for a Phase 1 modernization in 2012. In subsequent budget years Garrison's phase 1, 2 and 3 were all postponed. Even under the currently proposed budget, Garrison's phase 2 and 3 won't be completed until 2022. Ann McLeod, Garrison PTA president said, "This is just unacceptable! The school has not been updated since it was originally built in 1964 and its facilities rank among the worst in the district. The $8mm is a great start. But the Garrison community, led by the PTA, will continue pushing for a full modernization by 2015, as we have been all along."
ANC 2F and ANC 2B both passed resolutions asking that the City Council appropriate $16 million to fully fund Garrison's modernization in Fiscal Year 2014 to allow for a complete modernization.
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