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Senate bill set up to keep students on track

SB 25 intends to keep kids from charter schools

September 29, 2011
By Richard Sberna
Pending state legislation and funding was the primary focus of Tuesday night’s meeting of the Boardman Board of Education at Center Middle School. The guest speaker was state Sen. Joseph Schiavoni, who has proposed a bill that would prohibit parents from sending their child to a charter school with an inferior performance rating than the public school where the child is currently enrolled.

The bill, S.B. 175, is intended to keep children in public schools with ratings superior to community charter schools. The goal is not only to keep children in a school in a better educational rank, but also to preserve the public funding that is lost every time a student transfers to a charter school.

“It’s not taking total choice away from parents,” Schiavoni said. “It’s just saying that you cannot go from a high-performing public school to a poor-performing charter school. To all of us, that makes common sense.” He said that parents frequently aren’t aware of the schools’ ratings, often assuming that the charter schools are superior. As a result, many parents return their children to the public school after a negative experience. “The whole purpose is to make sure that every child gets the best possible education available,” he said.

Director of instruction Dr. Linda Ross emphasized the educational caliber of Boardman Schools, announcing that the district received an Excellent rating for the fifth consecutive year, meeting all 26 quality indicators and earning a Performance Index of 103.3 out of 120, the highest ever for the district.

"We have outperformed every school district identified as a similar district by the Ohio Department of Education,” she said. Such school districts included Berea, Bowling Green, Miamisburg and Howland. “We are really proud of all the work that our staff, our parents, our students and our administration are doing,” she added.

For the 2010-2011 academic year, the district lost 100 students to community schools. According to board Treasurer Richard Santilli, this loss represents not only two percent of the district’s student population, but also a transfer of approximately $8,046 per student from the district to these various charter schools, a total loss of $807,762 for the year.

Santilli said that Boardman receives an average $1,335 per regular ed student from the state. However, when that student leaves the district, an average $5,753 of state funding leaves with them. He said these figures did not include special ed students, which result in even higher funding losses.

Of the 18 charter schools that Boardman students transferred to, five are classified as being in Academic Emergency, two are under Academic Watch, six were rated as Continuous Improvement and two were not rated; only two were rated as Effective. Santilli pointed out that this record pales in comparison to Boardman Schools’ own Excellent rating.

Schiavoni emphasized that he isn’t opposed to charter schools, and that isn’t the intention of S.B 175.

“For students that are going to a public school in Academic Emergency, that isn’t serving the students correctly, [charter schools] can provide a better option,” he said. The bill provides exceptions for children who are disabled or have special needs that might be more effectively met by certain charter schools. Parents may also petition their child’s principal for a waiver and approve a charter school transfer.

“The bill would make charter schools accountable,” he said.

Admitting the the current legislative climate might not be hospitable to the legislation, Schiavoni said that, even if it fails, S.B. 175’s other purpose is to educate the public. “Many taxpayers don’t realize that a lot of their tax money is being spread out amongst these charter schools,” he said. “The purpose is to get a conversation going.”

Schiavoni is also hoping to generate a groundswell of support from school boards and superintendents around the state who have also lost funding to lower-performing charter schools. Towards that end, Lazzeri and Santilli were scheduled, as of Monday night, to testify before the Senate in Columbus on Tuesday. According to Schiavoni, parents, teachers, members of the Ohio School Board Association and the Ohio Educational Association have already provided testimony on behalf on the bill.

Of the current policy model, Jim Massey, director of operations said, “I find it hard to believe the intent of the legislature was for students to go from an excellent school system to a lesser school system. I don’t see the logic in permitting that.”

“Logic lies where the money goes,” board member Mark Fulks quipped, suggesting that lobbying efforts in Columbus by the for-profit school were partly responsible. “We’re doing a good job; I don’t think that we should be losing money,” Massey replied.

A calendar of the following events for the month of October was approved by the board: Homecoming Dance, 7 to 10 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 1, in the BHS cafeteria; no classes on Friday, Oct. 14; the Halloween Witchwalk in the BHS art hallway, 7 to 9 p.m. Saturdays, Oct. 15 and 22, and Sundays, Oct. 16 and 23; the BHS Orchestra pops concert, 7 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 19 in the Boardman Performing Arts Center; and the BHS Marching Band concert at 7 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 29 in the high school gymnasium, during which a representative from the Department of Education will present the “Excellent” banner recognizing the district’s academic achievement.

In other business:

- Judge Theresa Dellick was scheduled to present an award to Al Cervello, principal of West Boulevard Elementary School, for a poster contest the students won. She had to postpone her appearance until a later date.

- The board set the times and dates for the next two meetings as 7:30 p.m. Nov. 22 and 5 p.m. Dec. 19, both at Center Middle School.

- David Pavlansky, who was in attendance, was commended on his 30 years of service to Boardman Schools by members of the board on the occasion of his resignation from the schools. He is an English teacher and boys track and field/cross country coach at BHS.

- Superintendent Lazzeri proposed the district request a waiver from the State Body Mass Index Screening program for the upcoming school year. “Parents are not comfortable with it,” Lazzeri said. “I’d rather not participate.” It was unanimously approved.

- The board approved a district-wide staff inservice day on Nov. 28 for a program on student bullying and harassment. According to Lazzeri, the inservice will be county-wide, hosted by the school. School will be out for students on that day.

- Board granted recognition to West Boulevard Elementary students for their winning contributions at this year’s Canfield Fair.


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