School closure meetings continue: No, no — We won’t go
The general consensus at Indian Valley school closure and consolidation committee meetings seems to be that six to eight weeks is not enough time for the task at hand, and that the administration is unreasonable, unreliable and undesirable — or to put in into a simpler term — corrupt.
More than one person at the committee meeting Tuesday, Jan. 24, deemed the whole closure and consolidation process tainted due to the early disclosure of the administration recommendations to close Greenville High and Taylorsville and Quincy elementary schools.
Immoral, unethical and other terms were used to describe Superintendent Glenn Harris and his work to steer the course of the Plumas Unified School District toward school closures.
Among those commenting was retired administrator Joe Hagwood, who served as principal for more than one school in the district.
“It’s deeply flawed,” he said of the sequence of events, the process and ethics involved. “It was inappropriate for the superintendent to make recommendations in the midst of the process … (closure) shouldn’t be a foregone conclusion.”
Others decried the data and statistics provided by administration.
The budget study, for example, does not conform to the California State of Education Best Practices Guide when it comes to the 11 factors that should be considered before closing a school.
One specific example of this, pointed out by committee chairwoman Centella Tucker, was that the sale of school buildings was described in terms of mitigation and not of the potential resource.
And the transportation recommendation that found a bus trip to Chester to be safer than one to Quincy was also flawed by not taking traffic numbers into account.
Even the study of the two Quincy elementary schools was flawed, said one meeting participant, who claimed the decision had already been made, so the study was focused to suit that foregone conclusion.
“They backed us into a corner to make the bare-bones charter option look good,” committee member and former high school teacher Veronica Tilton said. “But that won’t solve the district’s problems.”
Instead, she wants administrators to stop some planned work, including installation of new technology and facilities, even administrative expenses, until the committees have more time to make plans.
“We need to get out from under the gun,” committee member and Indian Valley Academy staff member Sue Weber said of the short amount of time they had left before a recommendation is expected.
“We need to get the kids back together on one site,” she said in discussing the charter options. “That’s what would be best for the community.”
School Structure Subcommittee members developed three options, including keeping Greenville High School a traditional district school, with the cost-saving addition of teaching colleagues, or aides.
Class formats would be similar to those found on a university campus, with teachers offering a lecture, and the aides leading instruction in the labs.
The other two options were both charter, dependent or fully independent, if no other option was available.
Regardless of the format, having all students under one roof was deemed best.
Budget study review
In a review of the administrative facilities-budget study, committee members made the following findings:
Turning Taylorsville Elementary into a K – two school would serve more than 70 students and protect early education.
Returning to lunch service there from Greenville instead of from the central cafeteria in Quincy would save more than $10,000.
Merging the remaining elementary grades three – six into the 400 wing of the high school would completely empty one facility and save more than an additional $200,000 annually.
Per-student versus per-school costs were also studied, which totally flip-flopped foregone conclusions.
Administrative numbers show that Greenville is a more expensive school option, while committee members found the opposite to be true.
In fixed operating costs, Greenville was actually less expensive by about $25,000 annually.
And if looked at on a square-foot basis, Chester is 23 percent more expensive than Greenville.
Greenville also has the capacity for more students, as do all schools in the county, due to declining enrollment numbers.
Disabled access issues, including needed construction of a restroom, would have to be addressed in Chester, unlike in Greenville, where there are four accessible restrooms.
The cultural value of ethnic issues was also a part of this report, and Greenville is where the majority of the county’s Native American population resides.
Busing them to another school might balance school populations, yet the cost to do so might be socially unbearable considering the recent suicide crisis among young Native American men.
Transportation is one area where committee members really focused on the tainted and potentially dangerous results of the administrative study.
District transportation officials reported that “based on the direction the board wants to go,” it recommended busing students to Chester would be safer than sending them to Quincy.
“Why is this section not based on facts?” locals want to know.
In their own study, mileage costs were found to be more expensive for the Chester route and would actually be more dangerous, with vehicles 12.7 percent more likely to be involved in a crash.
The “least well-off” people in the community would also be the ones burdened with the increased transportation costs, according to the local response.
The review ends with a discussion of financial and community value.
While the subcommittee for economic review has yet to chime in, the local review already shows that administration is disregarding their own statement: “Nothing says future ghost town like shuttered schools.”
The local review of the administrative facilities-budget review concludes as follows:
“The district should recognize there are good reasons to maintain comprehensive K – 12 education programs in each community rather than to sacrifice one for another.”