Who Is In Charge

23 BEST bids advance

Nearly two dozen applications for cash grants have been “short listed” by state Capital Construction Assistance Board, meeting this week to weigh applications for 2011-12 grants from the Building Excellent Schools Today program.

Members of Capital Construction Assistance Board
Norwood Robb, Adele Willson and Lyndon Burnett, members of the Capital Construction Board, listen to discussion on June 27, 2011.

The board started work Monday and on Tuesday morning finished its initial review of applications for cash grants, which generally are used for smaller projects like roof repairs, new boilers and upgraded alarm systems.

Later in the day, the board began review of lease-purchase applications, which are made for new schools, large additions and other high-cost projects.

The board received 42 applications for cash grants totaling about $44 million in overall project costs.

Both cash and lease-purchase projects are funded with a combination of state and local money. Applicants receive full cash grants upon final approval. For lease-purchase projects, state and local money is pooled to pay back over several years the investors who provide construction funds.

The board’s cash short list includes 23 projects totaling about $20 million, including $12.3 million in state funds. The board won’t make a final decision until after it’s completed review of all applications for both cash and lease-purchase projects. The board’s ultimate recommendations go to the State Board of Education, which makes the final decision on grants.

Among the larger projects on the short list are $2.7 million for renovation at the Paradox Valley Charter School, $2.6 million for various projects in the Holyoke schools, $2.4 million for roof projects in the Commerce City schools and $1.8 million for a new roof at the Byers school. (The totals include both state and local funds.)

About half a dozen other large projects weren’t put on the short list for cash grants but will be considered for lease-purchase awards.

The projects in this year’s list of applications have a total cost of $553.6 million, with $372 million requested in state aid and $181.5 million promised in local matching funds. In addition to deciding to allocate about $12 million as the state’s share of cash grants, the board Monday set a ceiling of about $180 million in state funds for lease-purchase grants.

“Unfortunately, our choices are constrained by one thing – revenue,” board chair Mary Wickersham said, reminded applicants that many projects, no matter how worthy, won’t get funded.

Grants judged on multiple factors

The board makes grants based on a complicated set of factors, including building condition, suitability for educational use and a variety of financial factors. By law, projects involving health and safety get top priority.

The first two days of the board’s meeting, held at the PPA Events Center in west Denver, drew a crowd of about 70, including superintendents, other administrators, architects, contractors and others.

“It’s a high-stakes process,’ said one board member, noting that most districts and charters have no other alternatives for construction financing.

For the first time since the BEST program started, the board this year allowed applicants to give brief presentations and respond to board questions. Applicants seemed to have prepared carefully since most had no trouble staying within the two-minute time limit.

Discussion of each application was accompanied by a slide show of construction plans and current building conditions, showing a depressing succession of leaky roofs, cracked foundations, water-stained ceilings, patched pipes, moldy modular classrooms and other structural problems.

See this recent article for more details on 2011-12 applications and on the BEST program.

Who Is In Charge

Indianapolis Public Schools board gives superintendent Ferebee raise, bonus

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy
Lewis Ferebee

Indianapolis Public Schools Superintendent Lewis Ferebee is getting a $4,701 raise and a bonus of $28,000.

The board voted unanimously to approve both. The raise is a 2.24 percent salary increase. It is retroactive to July 1, 2017. Ferebee’s total pay this year, including the bonus, retirement contributions and a stipend for a car, will be $286,769. Even though the bonus was paid this year, it is based on his performance last school year.

The board approved a new contract Tuesday that includes a raise for teachers.

The bonus is 80 percent of the total — $35,000 — he could have received under his contract. It is based on goals agreed to by the superintendent and the board.

These are performance criteria used to determine the superintendent’s bonus are below:

Student recruitment

How common is it for districts to share student contact info with charter schools? Here’s what we know.

PHOTO: Laura Faith Kebede
Staff members of Green Dot Public Schools canvass a neighborhood near Kirby Middle School in the summer of 2016 before reopening the Memphis school as a charter.

As charter schools emerge alongside local school districts across the nation, student addresses have become a key turf war.

Charter schools have succeeded in filling their classes with and without access to student contact information. But their operators frequently argue that they have a right to such information, which they say is vital to their recruitment efforts and gives families equal access to different schools in their area.

Disputes are underway right now in at least two places: In Tennessee, school boards in Nashville and Memphis are defying a new state law that requires districts to hand over such information to charters that request it. A New York City parent recently filed a formal complaint accusing the city of sharing her information improperly with local charter schools.

How do other cities handle the issue? According to officials from a range of school districts, some share student information freely with charters while others guard it fiercely.

Some districts explicitly do not share student information with charter schools. This includes Detroit, where the schools chief is waging an open war with the charter sector for students; Washington, D.C., where the two school sectors coexist more peacefully; and Los Angeles.

Others have clear rules for student information sharing. Denver, for example, set parameters for what information the district will hand over to charter schools in a formal collaboration agreement — one that Memphis officials frequently cite as a model for one they are creating. Baltimore and Boston also share information, although Boston gives out only some of the personal details that district schools can access.

At least one city has carved out a compromise. In New York City, a third-party company provides mass mailings for charter schools, using contact information provided by the school district. Charter schools do not actually see that information and cannot use it for other purposes — although the provision hasn’t eliminated parent concerns about student privacy and fair recruitment practices there.

In Tennessee, the fight by the state’s two largest districts over the issue is nearing a boiling point. The state education department has already asked a judge to intervene in Nashville and is mulling whether to add the Memphis district to the court filing after the school board there voted to defy the state’s order to share information last month. Nashville’s court hearing is Nov. 28.

The conflict feels high-stakes to some. In Memphis, both local and state districts struggle with enrolling enough students. Most schools in the state-run Achievement School District have lost enrollment this year, and the local district, Shelby County Schools, saw a slight increase in enrollment this year after years of freefall.

Still, some charter leaders wonder why schools can’t get along without the information. One Memphis charter operator said his school fills its classes through word of mouth, Facebook ads, and signs in surrounding neighborhoods.

“We’re fully enrolled just through that,” said the leader, who spoke on condition of anonymity to protect his relationship with the state and local districts. “It’s a non-argument for me.”

A spokeswoman for Green Dot Public Schools, the state-managed charter school whose request for student information started the legal fight in Memphis, said schools in the Achievement School District should receive student contact information because they are supposed to serve students within specific neighborhood boundaries.

“At the end of the day, parents should have the information they need to go to their neighborhood school,” said the spokeswoman, Cynara Lilly. “They deserve to know it’s open.”