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Okaloosa's schools are some of the oldest in Florida
-- Kelly Humphrey, nwfdailynews.com

Florida: January 16, 2017 -- If you have a child in the Okaloosa County School District, chances are good the school he or she attends is older than you are. In fact, it's not uncommon - especially at the county's oldest schools - for three, and sometimes even four generations of a family to attend the same school. While that may breed nostalgia and a great deal of school loyalty over the years, it illustrates an important fact. Most of Okaloosa County's schools are old, and their age is beginning to show. The oldest in the state School Board member Melissa Thrush is a product of Okaloosa County Schools. An alumna of both Meigs Middle School and Choctawhatchee High School, she spends a great deal of time visiting the district's nearly 40 school buildings. What she's seen during those visits sometimes surprises her. "I was at Meigs for an athletic event not too long ago, and I was shocked to see that the girls locker room locked exactly like it did when I was a student there more than 30 years ago," she said. "I'm finding that's true at many of the schools across our district." Thrush did some research and discovered that Okaloosa's school buildings are among the oldest in the state.


Parents appeal to black, Latino caucus over Boston school closings
-- Kathleen McKiernan, Boston Herald

Massachusetts: January 13, 2017 -- Several Mattapan neighborhood and parents groups are calling on the black and Latino state legislators to defend and protect Boston’s majority minority communities from exorbitant school closings, charging that the state’s school accountability system is broken and discriminatory. The Haitian Parents Association and Mattapan United, in a joint letter sent yesterday to the Black and Latino Legislative Caucus, argue that Mattapan, Dorchester, and Roxbury communities have suffered disproportionately from past school closures, including the recent closures of the E. Greenwood Leadership Academy and the William Rogers Middle School in Hyde Park. They argue that the Mattapan community has been disrespected by the district's decision to close Mattahunt Elementary and turn it into an early learning center.


School leaders decry any delay in spending state bond money
-- HAROLD PIERCE, Bakersfield.com

California: January 13, 2017 -- The governor's call this week to delay spending of Proposition 51 state school bond funding until rules for spending it are more equitable to small districts is irking local school leaders in growing districts that desperately need the money. Gov. Jerry Brown has been critical of Proposition 51, the $9 billion school construction bond voters approved in November, calling it “the developers bond” and something legislators should have drafted instead of special interests. He’s now proposing halting the sale of those bonds in his proposed budget until the Legislature rolls out better auditing systems and ensures the program doesn’t perpetuate a “first-come, first-served” approach that benefits resource-rich districts. The reform process could take as long as 18 months. “We continue to have a commitment to the taxpayers to make sure that every dollar that goes out through that program is accounted for appropriately,” said Michael Cohen, director of the state Department of Finance, during a Tuesday news conference. Brown's reform proposal comes just four months after a Department of Finance audit revealed a lack of financial oversight in bond spending and that almost $200 million had been used statewide for ineligible purchases including trucks, golf carts, iPads and cleaning supplies rather than construction.


Behind sale of closed schools, a legacy of segregation
-- Kalyn Belsha , The Chicago Reporter

Illinois: January 13, 2017 -- Key Elementary School, a sandy-colored brick building on a tree-lined street on Chicago’s West Side, sits empty now. Several windows near its entrance are boarded up, giving the school’s façade the look of a smile that is missing front teeth. The school is in a busy, historic section of the Austin neighborhood near a stately town hall inspired by the building where the Declaration of Independence was signed. In 2013, Mayor Rahm Emanuel closed Key and 49 more public schools—the most at one time in any school district in the nation—in an attempt to save money by shuttering schools with low enrollment. About 11,000 students, or 3 percent of the district, were forced to change schools. Emanuel said residents would have a say in turning the former schools into facilities that would benefit the surrounding neighborhoods. Yet four years later, two-thirds of the buildings are still vacant. There are no common standards for community involvement in determining their reuse. And aldermen, who until recently oversaw the process, have not held public meetings to discuss the future of about half of the schools, including Key. In response to a widely criticized and failing reuse plan, Chicago Public Schools put 28 vacant schools that were shuttered in 2013 on the market this week, taking decision-making about their future out of aldermen’s hands. The announcement came months after The Chicago Reporter began questioning CPS officials about the status of the repurposing. District spokesman Michael Passman said in a statement that the decision to expedite the sales was made to “accelerate the reuse and revitalization of former school sites and help spur new value from properties throughout the city.” School officials hope a mass sale will increase the number of offers, as the approach has in other cities.


Building Boom: Towns, school districts spending millions on new or improved facilities
-- Jake Flannick, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Pennsylvania: January 13, 2017 -- Around the suburbs, numerous municipalities and school districts are planning, building or have recently completed large-scale construction and renovation projects, issuing bonds or tapping reserve funds to address pressing needs. In general, the activity is being driven largely by aging infrastructure, not growth, said Orlie Prince, vice president and senior credit officer at Moody’s Investors Service. Its credit rating agency rates the financial condition of a number of municipalities and school districts throughout Allegheny County. Over the past couple of years, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has reported on a flurry of capital projects big and small that have been completed or are underway, being planned or under consideration. Some municipalities and school districts are paying for the projects out of their own pockets, tapping cash reserves. Others are borrowing money amid lower interest rates, which have proved “favorable” for issuing bonds or refinancing debt, said Charlie Goodwin, managing director and head of public finance for the Bank of New York Mellon. The global corporation serves as the county’s financial adviser. In Brentwood, officials are considering replacing the nearly century-old borough building with a two-story structure that would contain about 14,000 square feet. It would cost about $5 million, which would come from a general obligation bond, borough manager George Zboyovsky said. While the existing borough building is much larger, containing more than 35,000 square feet, it once housed a library as well as a number of other services but now is home only to the police department and the borough’s emergency medical services and administrative offices. More pressing, however, is the condition of the building.