DOYLESTOWN – The Board of Education approved a resolution Jan. 13 condemning the state’s new EdChoice Scholarship program.
The program provides vouchers for parents in “failing” public school systems to attend private schools, paid for with the state money that would otherwise go to the school district. Changes increase the number and availability of the vouchers.
“Back in 1996 and ’97, the state started providing vouchers in the Cleveland system,” Superintendent Todd Osborne said. “From there it grew. It’s continued to grow by about 1,000 students a year. With the new laws, they estimate it’ll increase by about 6,000.”
Districts are designated EdChoice should they fail on any indicator on the ever-fluctuating “State Report Card.” Chippewa is one because, despite high marks overall, it failed on its “Value Added” component. This costs the district $115,000 per year in lost state money. Once the state designates a district as “EdChoice,” it stays that way for several years.
“Even if we get an A-plus next year, for the next five years we’re still in the program,” Osborne said. “We’re still paying for kids who are already on it.”
Osborne said the district has consistently averaged a graduation rate of 97 percent. Last year was 100 percent.
“This isn’t about accountability,” Osborne said. “I don’t think there’s a single educator or administrator who is against being accountable. But if I’m graduating roughly 97 percent of my kids any given year, I’m not sure what I’m being accountable for.”
The resolution was approved unanimously and will be sent to the state legislature, which is reviewing the act for “unintended consequences.”
Board President T.J. DeAntelis read a statement announcing that a potential decision to allow Osborne to retire and then rehire him would await a public hearing and then would come to a board vote at a later meeting. Osborne told The Post earlier that the hearing would likely be sometime in the spring.
Ohio schools frequently take advantage of the retire/rehire option, sometimes derisively called “double-dipping.” This allows a district to take advantage of experienced teachers and administrators at reduced cost, as a lower salary is supplemented by the person’s pension. The terms of Osborne’s potential re-employment have not been disclosed.
Hazel Harvey Principal Jodie Hughes reported that she was about to take training to be a trainer in intervention techniques.
Intermediate School Principal Jamie Zollinger told the board she was grateful to community members for many donated clothing items, including the Lions Club and Share a Christmas. Items included coats, socks and other personal items. She also said the school Kindness Club was working on Valentines Day cards, stickers and other items to go into bags for kids at Children’s Hospital.
“This is our third year working on this project and donating,” she said.
Junior and Senior High Assistant Principal Rob Marshall gave a lengthy report, speaking for several officials. He began with his team’s exploration of vaping detectors for the restrooms. For between $8,000 and $10,000 apiece, they can be installed and alert the administration that vaping has occurred. However, an administrator will not necessarily be nearby at the time and the detector has no way to isolate which student was doing it.
“They’re pretty easy to hide,” he said.
Osborne announced that a new officer was due to be hired on the police department but this would not be the new school resource officer.
“We’re looking for someone with experience in that area,” Osborne said. “Since we pay a significant portion of the cost, we will be involved in the hire.”
Osborne also said the district is applying for a $200,000 grant to build an outdoor learning lab on about two acres of land at the junior/senior high.