At the regular workshop of the School Board of Escambia County yesterday, one contentious issue that was discussed for more than an hour by the board and staff was A.A. Dixon charter School of Excellence.
After sustaining a disastrous first year--this school, a charter school, appears to be in significant financial trouble. This on top of registering an "F" school letter grade by the Florida DOE and being listed as one of the lowest performing elementary schools in the state.
So, over the last three months, the school board has had this charter school and its revolving cast of officers and consultants at each regular monthly workshop in an attempt to get answers to significant questions like:
Why are there no books in your library?
Why do we not yet have an audit of your books from 2010-2011?
How is it that your ending bank account balance is only $800.00?
How come your projections for the 2011-2012 school year are based on 230 children, when you have only 157 registered?
How come your bus routes are not yet finalized six days before the start of school?
How come your finances seem to be so out of sorts?
Although I am convinced there is no more ardent supporter of Charter Schools (and the larger concept of Charter Schools and their place in public education) on the Escambia County School Board than me--I have deep concerns about A.A. Dixon and their viability going forward.
...And my initial thought, upon seeing no members of this charter school's school's staff that could provide answers to these and other difficult questions over the last several months, was to contemplate voting for non-renewal of this charter contract. Based upon one somewhat legitimate issue A.A. Dixon had with their payments from the district, and thorough deliberations and discussions with the superintendent and school board attorney last month, I held my nose and reluctantly voted to renew this school for another year--with stipulations. These stipulations included more accountability and oversight by the district.
So, these stipulations are to be voted on by the School Board this Tuesday night in the form of an amendment to their charter.
Here is where I have a problem.
Instead of acknowledging the serious issues this charter school organization has had and realizing that essentially they were given a reprieve by even getting an extension of another school year based upon their performance --the attorney retained by A.A. Dixon handed over a list of revisions to the contract they want from the district! This list was sent over at the last minute, to boot.
To me, it is a lot like a hypothetical "boss" bringing in an employee who is not performing adequately to be counseled and given an improvement plan. Imagine if such an employee took issue with each and every deficiency offered by the boss during the counseling session, refused to sign the performance improvement plan, instead offering his own list of demands from the boss? Imagine if this employee blamed the boss for said employee's numerous performance problems and demanded a bigger office, and less supervision? Sounds pretty balsy right? That's essentially what A.A. Dixon did to us at yesterday's workshop in my opinion. It doesn't sit well with me, because we are talking about kids that will bear the brunt of the repercussions from this charter school's failure if they do not get their financial act in order this coming school year.
So I asked the operations director(?) of this school to bring me a projection of how this entity could remain solvent if their enrollment decreses to 150 students--and he said he would bring it to the regular meeting this Tuesday night. I have little faith this organization can remain solvent even if they are fortunate enough to enroll 150, 160, or even 170 students. Corners will have to be cut to manage the budget, and this will directly impact the kids, and that's the rub.
As I said in the meeting yesterday, this charter school is like a Mom and Pop hardware store setting up in the shadows of a brand new Home Depot (our Global Learning Academy). it's trouble for them.
And I bit my tongue numerous times during the meeting when I had to listen to the A.A. Dixon folks, and my fellow board members and other staff say over and over that "we are not in competition with each other." Maybe we're not--but to the caring parents of students in the shared GLA/A.A. Dixon attendance boundary areas--you'd better believe it's a competition! It's on!
I am one member of a five person board. The opinions I express on this forum are mine only, and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the Escambia County Staff, Administrators, Employees, or anyone else associated with Escambia County Florida. I am interested in establishing this blog as a means of additional transparency to the public, outreach to the community, and information dissemination to all who choose to look. Feedback is welcome, but because public participation is equally encouraged, appropriate language and decorum is mandatory.