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.

Friday, November 11, 2011

AA Dixon Charter School Struggles Continue--The Good, The Bad, and the ..............

At yesterday's workshop of the Escambia County School Board, a presentation on the progress of the embattled AA Dixon Charter School was given.  Some interesting information was disseminated, but curiously-- no local press coverage of this school's progress report occurred.

An updated but not yet official (?) revised Corrective Action Plan was handed out to members of the board, along with other documentation. A verbal presentation was given by AA Dixon Principal Cathy Culbert as well.

The good:  The school has made an effort to recruit students and their enrollment spiked to 165 students for the October count  (it has subsequently receded to around 148 students).  Additionally, anonymous donors have given the school a significant number of books and the principal reports that the library at this school has been established. (this has been an ongoing concern for me personally--what elementary school does not have a library with books in it for the students?) So many books have been donated that students were given books to keep and take home. This is very good.  Also, some unknown, anonymous but generous donor has given the school over $30K in monetary support--a much needed boost for this financially troubled school.  Additionally, the school reports that they are working to purchase and repair excess busses from the Escambia district in an effort to save on transportation costs. (Currently Dixon charter is outsourcing their transportation to Durham School Services)  In addition to these positives, a local hotel chain company has pledged assistance with mentoring students at this school--an extremely helpful part of the puzzle if this school is to succeed.  We were also given minutes from their newly constituted, locally recruited school board which was a nice addition to the presentation.

The Bad:  As was discussed at many previous meetings, the financial condition of this school continues to erode fast. Their latest P&L statement has a negative fund balance of (-$2,689.00).  Unreserved fund

 balance brought forward from last year is a negative (-$100,688.00), Net Assets and year to date Net Income is a negative (-$19,139.00).  There is a 35% increase in Current Liabilities since the previous month due to increases in accounts payable.  The cash balance in the amount of $1,366.00 is inadequate to meet current requirements.  (All of this with the remaining staff at Dixon having voluntarily agreed (?) to continued 10% salary cuts for themselves)

In addition to the financial woes--an audit team comprised of state department of education and Escambia County School district personnel noted significant curriculum deficiencies in a report dated 11/1/11, to include the following:

---Asst. Principal Position deleted
---No instructional coaches for reading, math, and/or science
---Delays in software implementation did not allow for an accurate review of the grade data
---FCIM processes incomplete
---FAIR  AP1 test window missed
---School has inadequate resources to adequately meet new science standards
---Math--very few students scoring at or above proficiency

The Future?

Other concerns were expressed at yesterday's meeting.  I reiterated my continuing concern about this school's train-wreck financial condition.  Unless the anonymous donations continue, I see this school's cash burn-rate outpacing their revenues, and this will lead to a disastrous end.

The superintendent expressed concern about the fluctuating, up and down student attendance numbers, pointing to an increased churn rate of students between AA Dixon and Escambia District schools. This serves nobody well, students especially.

Why are we here?

A few months back, the 90 day notice was crafted and added to an agnda for school board action to close this school at the Christmas break and re-assign these students to other traditional district schools.  three solid votes on the board seemed to be aligned with support the issuance of the 90 day notice back then.  For reasons which I continue not to understand--that 90 day letter was inexplicably pulled and these students are officially stuck at AA Dixon, at a minimum, until the end of this school year in the spring of 2012.  How far behind will these students be next school year at whatever school they end up attending?

As I have said numerous times with respect to this school, I wish them the best and I want them to be successful, but I do not think this school will survive--there are simply too many factors working against them.

And the students will fall further behind because we failed to intervene when we should/could have.  I wish I would have been more foreceful in my calls to close this school when the opportunity was there--but I wanted to believe this could be salvaged.

We'll all have to wait and see how this shakes out over the next 7 months.


Sharalyn Kluke said...

Hi Jeff. I noticed that AA Dixon is hiring several teachers. Are they replacing teachers or are these positions for extra support?

Jeff Bergosh said...

Sharalyn, I'm not sure if these positions are for extra help or if the school is simply filling vacancies. I'd suggest that you call the school directly and ask to speak to the Principal, Mrs. Colbert, if you are interested in applying.