Friday, March 27, 2009

Excellent Letter on MYR Costs

 

Here's a press release well worth reading. It was written by Lisa Boneham, a parent of Leesville students:

 

WCPSS Is Planning To Cheat Taxpayers Out Of $350,000 by Operating Leesville Elementary and Leesville Middle on the Year-Round School Calendar

Raleigh, North Carolina, March 25, 2009. The Leesville school community experienced a destructive and divisive year round school conversion at Leesville Elementary School in 2007. At that time, WCPSS claimed that the conversion was necessary in order to keep up with “explosive growth”. Eventually, the School Board studied the facts surrounding that conversion. They realized that converting Leesville Elementary to the year-round calendar was indeed unnecessary and would be a mistake. Unfortunately, by that time, all they could say to the Leesville families was “sorry, it’s too late in the process so we cannot change our minds now”.

Many current Leesville families vividly remember that negative experience, and they are not about to let it happen in their community again. Last fall, WCPSS proposed converting Leesville Middle School to the year-round calendar. The reason given for this conversion was “excessive growth in the area with no relief in sight”. Upon studying the growth projections, WCPSS realized that growth in the Leesville area was not at all excessive. In fact, based on WCPSS staff projections, it was determined that growth in the Leesville area is very flat and will be that way for many years to come.

What was initially a desire to keep families together has grown into a fact based mission proving that the Leesville schools should be operating on the less expensive and highly desired traditional calendar. During the past 3 years, this group of 1200+ Concerned and Committed Leesville parents has come together like no other grassroots organization of its’ type, and it looks like their efforts to stay informed and involved in school assignment issues should finally be paying off.

But after yesterday’s Budget Work Session, with an informal vote of 5-4, it appears that WCPSS still plans to operate Leesville Elementary and Leesville Elementary on the year round calendar, even after knowing that this will unnecessarily waste $350,000 of taxpayer funds. ($250,000 at Leesville Middle and $100,000 at Leesville Elementary) The excuse given by those voting to continue with the wasteful MYR conversions is “it is too late now to make the changes…” When the school system should be looking for ways to cut unnecessary spending, operating Leesville Middle and Leesville Elementary on the traditional calendar would instantly and painlessly cut $350,000 out of the budget. CCLP is hopeful that the School Board will take more time to study the facts and will formally vote on making these changes very soon.

“They used the ‘it’s too late because families have already made plans…’ excuse on us with our Elementary School, and this time they know they are completely wrong”, said Lisa Boneham, founder of CCLP. “It is not too late. The fact is, families and teachers have not even been given their track assignments, so no one has been able to make future plans. I especially feel for those who have to rely on childcare and track-out camps, because they are truly in limbo. They cannot confirm any of those things until track assignments are made. People cannot even make summer vacation plans yet. Besides the fact that the overwhelming majority of our families and teachers desperately want to keep Leesville Middle on the traditional calendar, we are still ‘up in the air’ waiting for track assignments. Saying that they have to go through with the year-round conversion, knowing that they will waste $250,000 at the Middle school alone ‘because they cannot upset the families who have already made plans’ is unacceptable. Plans have NOT been made. Making the decision to keep the desired traditional calendar will not upset us. Forcing a year-round conversion when it is not justified is what is upsetting.”

While converting a school to the multi-track year-round calendar does increase the capacity of a school, that additional capacity is not needed in Northwest Raleigh for many years to come. There is currently an overabundance of space at several area schools that is not being utilized, and according to Growth Management, there are no plans to utilize that excess space during the next 3-5 years. CCLP sees this as a waste as well.

“There is absolutely no reason to waste $350,000 by operating these 2 schools on the year-round calendar. Leesville Elementary and Leesville Middle can both operate on the traditional calendar, and can comfortably hold all base students who are assigned to the schools---and there will still be space available for future growth. Leesville Elementary will have 693 base students attending the school with a traditional capacity of 860, while Leesville Middle expects 1095 base students with a traditional capacity of 1222. Knowing the facts, but making the conscious choice to operate those schools for 12 months during the year (when they can educate all of their current base students in a 10 month school year) is completely irresponsible” said Angela Davis-Williams, a founding member of CCLP.

Boneham believes that everyone deserves transparency, not constant spin and hidden truths. “What they won’t admit to the general public is that Leesville Middle will now have 176 fewer base students assigned to the school for 2009-10. Our enrollment is decreasing drastically, so wasting money to create additional capacity that is not needed now and will not be needed for at least 4-5 years is insane. Now that the facts have been released, it is obvious that there is no justification for forcing another unwanted, unnecessary, and wasteful conversion on the Leesville community.”

“We have provided clear data and alternative options showing that converting LRMS to a year-round calendar is the wrong thing to do for so many reasons. The recent updated enrollment numbers are the icing on the cake. A year-round conversion at Leesville Middle would unnecessarily waste taxpayer dollars when we should all be looking for ways to cut expenses instead. WCPSS plans to fund the conversion, and will also increase annual operational expenses by over 20% while decreasing the number of students attending the school. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out what a poor decision that would be” said Eric Blau, parent of 2 children in the Leesville community. “The facts have been given to the School Board many times during the past several months. For the School Board to continue ignoring the facts and blindly proceed with this unjustified change would be very irresponsible.”

If the community’s overwhelming desire to keep their families together wasn’t enough to convince the School Board to stop Mandatory Year Round, the undeniable facts appear to be exactly what is needed in order to bring positive change to the Leesville campus. One thing is for sure…CCLP and their mission of ”One Campus One Traditional Calendar For Leesville” will continue to insist on transparency and honesty, and they are here to stay.

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