Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Hey School Board -- do the right thing!

We have to insure that the people in our educational institutions are doing the right things for the students, the clubs and support teams, the volunteers, the paid professionals and the taxpayers. There must be a balance.

This blog helps to show where the 'sweet spot' is located.

4 comments:

Sherry Butler said...

As most of you know, I am the mother of 3 children who attend Carlynton and am a Carlynton graduate myself. My youngest is very involved in sports/clubs etc. With that said, I am also a taxpayer and am confused as to why this has become such an issue. I was unaware that we allowed non district children to participate without additional fees and it makes sense to me. If our school district is too small or underfunded to keep these programs afloat perhaps our students should consider participating in other district's programs? Why is a small district, with less tax base providing programs for students in other districts? Am I missing something? Why should our taxpayers provide services for students outside the district?

Of more important concern should be the fact that a lot of Carlynton's own students cannot participate in our own district's programs due to the lack of activity busing. As far as I'm concerned this is the bigger issue. Perhaps we would have 90% participation of our own students if they were able to get to/from the facilities. Do we not feel shame as a district that a student whose parents cannot or will not drive them to/from school cannot participate in their own school programs? The school is situated in a place not easily accessible to public transit and not safe to walk to/from due to the lack of sidewalks and distance from Crafton/Carnegie. Perhaps the clubs/sporting programs should ask themselves why they are not able to retain 90% participation of their own districts' students. Are they providing a club that is not of interest? Is the lack of transportation keeping student's from participating? Is our district too small to provide the program and they need to join with another district and share space? Are the times the programs/sports being offered in conflict with dinnertime? Furthermore, am I the only parent that thinks our children need more family time and more down time and less structured activities that seem to be fulfilling some of the parent's wishes/needs aspirations more than the children? Do our children need anymore "enriching activities"?

I should add that I do not attend board meetings and only know 2 people on the board, neither of whom voted in favor of this latest issue, however I am not in agreement with all the emails circulating and think they are rather one-sided.

Informed Citizen 15106 said...

Sherry,

Let me begin by clarifying something for everyone. There are two types of clubs that use the school facilities. The first are school programs that are sponsored by the school. Examples include JV and Varsity sports teams. School programs are available only to kids who go to Carlynton Jr/Sr HS and are paid for in part by our tax dollars (eg, coaches’ salaries). The second are parent-run clubs, which are independent of the school, receive no funding from the school, and are mostly aimed at the under 6th grade group because that group typically has no or few after school school-related activities. The previous policy allowed these groups to use the facilities at cost if they had 75% Carlynton kids (whether or not they attend public or non-public school). The new policy raised that to 90% and required a fee from the non-resident kids of $100/quarter ($400/year) only for athletic-related groups.

With that in mind, I completely agree with you that non-residents, who don't contribute to our tax base, should be paying a facilities usage fee to our district. I proposed this to the school board at the April 17th meeting when the directors were gearing up to adopt a new policy that increased fees to the district groups admitting non-residents, which would penalize residents as well as non-residents (http://fixpa.wikia.com/wiki/School_sports-Carlynton-Maryfrancis). I then followed up with a specific proposal outlining a fee that was fair to the district taxpayers but not excessively high that it would effectively turn away non-residents from programs offered through Carlynton (http://fixpa.wikia.com/wiki/Carlynton_Facilities_-_A_New_Proposal). I also provided the directors with some procedural suggestions to ensure that organizations were giving Carlynton kids priority in membership because there was a concern that non-residents were getting onto teams while residents were not. Thus, Carlynton kids would be given the maximal opportunity for participation in clubs, the district would make money to offset the facilities costs and the programs would get whatever they "needed" from non-residents.

At the May 27th meeting on this topic, several groups came forward and stated that the non-residents helped them to field teams. Groups also provided information on other benefits to district residents from non-resident participation, such as helping to reduce parent volunteer hours, helping to increase program offerings and helping to keep program costs low (by dividing fixed costs among a greater number of members). There seemed to be way more wins for having some non-residents in our programs than having few or none.

Unfortunately, the fee that the district adopted ($100/quarter) is so high, it will effectively cut out non-residents and hurt our own clubs and our own parents (eg, increased volunteer time, increased fund-raising requirements, increased fees, or having to drive elsewhere for their kids to be in an activity). The fee I proposed was based on the district's total facilities and maintenance expenses (which includes ALL personnel, equipment and supplies). We as taxpayers contribute about $120 per year to that part of the budget. I suggested charging non-residents $60, which is 50% of what we pay. Since the facilities are used primarily and mostly for school, and since no group uses the facilities 50% of the time, I thought this number was very fair to the school district, but not so high as to completely turn off non-residents, which would negatively impact some organizations.

The new policy also does nothing to ensure a Carlynton kid won’t be left off a group using the facilities. And, it only collects the non-resident fee from athletic-related organizations. So non-athletic groups can have non-residents and they don't pay a dime extra for using our facilities. Why is that?

I hope this clarifies some of the background and my opinion on this topic. I will respond to some of your other points later.

Thank you for posting your opinion here. One of my goals in this blog is to enable us to have open, honest dialog about our views so that we can better understand each other and work together to create a great environment for our kids.

Francesmary Modugno

Informed Citizen 15106 said...

Hi Sherry.

Continuing on....

As far as your supporting going elsewhere if our district doesn't have enough of its own kids to field a program, I'm a bit confused. You are OK with our kids going to other districts but not OK with other kids coming to ours? I don't understand that. Can you explain?

Wouldn't it be better for us to run our own programs for the benefit of our own kids in our own facilities the way we want them to be run rather than have to drive them elsewhere?

And in checking out programs in other districts, I found them to be much more expensive than our own programs. Also, now that Carlynton passed this restrictive policy and high fee to non-residents in our clubs, can we expect the neighboring districts to do the same, making it more expensive or impossible for our kids to get into certain activities elsewhere if they are not offered here?

If the district parents volunteering their time to run the programs and the district parents whose kids participate in the programs are satisfied with what they are doing and getting for their kids, and there is no cost to the district, why do people not involved in the programs want to see the programs shut down?

You also suggested if our student population is too small that we should consider finding another school join with. Is that for school-related groups or parent-run clubs? If you mean for parent-run clubs, how does that differ from our running clubs in our facilities and allowing non-residents in? Also, under the new policy, we would not be able to use Carlynton facilities because presumably, more than 10% of the kids in a joint program with another school would be out-of-district. I"m not sure how that would benefit any district group.

More later. Thanks again for your input.

Francesmary

Informed Citizen 15106 said...

Sherry:

continuing on...

I think your idea of providing activity busing is excellent. How would it be paid for? Who assumes liability?

In terms of family time, dinner time, over programming, etc. I agree with you on that completely. We allow our children to participate in a limited number of activities and days depending on the season (school, non-school).

However, if other parents want to use Carlynton facilities in order to have programs for their kids several hours a day, every day of the week, that's their choice. Just because I don't agree with that doesn't mean I support policies that would take those opportunities away. If they are willing to invest the time and resources to have those programs, that's great - it enriches the community, making this a more attractive place to raise children. Everyone benefits by that in terms of increased property value and increased diversity.

Moreover, even though I limit my children's activities, I want my kids to choose the activities they want to be in based on their interests and I want them to have as broad an opportunity as possible. Selfishly, I want this to be most convenient for me. I'm not excited about the possibility of now driving my kids 15+ minutes away to pay more for programs when I could have driven 5 minutes down the road and been among friends and neighbors.

In terms of the e-mails being one-sided, the reason I created this blog was to encourage everyone to post so that we could hear all sides of the issue. Thank you for doing so.

Francesmary