Instead of being good stewards of all the neighborhood schools that were entrusted to them, our “fiscal conservative” New Berlin school boards deferred maintenance from some schools, such as Glen Park, letting them deteriorate. Then after years of such neglect, the Board/District has the audacity to cite costs of repairing/updating those schools, as justification for closing them.
The officials obviously think it’s acceptable to take a resource (such as maintenance funds) for a school and divert it elsewhere.
Monday’s unanimous School Board decision to close Glen Park Elementary at the end of this school year is the latest example of rob- Peter- to- pay- Paul money management.
Finance Director Roger Dickson has been wailing that the district has a “structural deficit” and can’t keep up with maintenance.
Oh, really? Then maybe “fiscal conservatives” John Burke, Matt Thomas, Michael Gratz and their supporters should have refrained in the past from claiming that district facility needs could be met within the budget and referendums were unnecessary.
Remember when “fiscal conservative” candidates Jennifer Eitel, Keith Heun, and Carl Artinger ran as a “bloc” in 2002? They expressed support publicly for the District's neighborhood elementary schools (there were 7 at that time) and opposed closing any. But shortly after the spring election of 2003, Eitel led a school board that voted to abruptly close Calhoun Elementary. Money from closure and sale of Calhoun was to be diverted into other facility projects, such as fixing New Berlin West.
And so it began. Calhoun was closed and sold to a church group. Merging the Calhoun students into the Cleveland Heights facility quickly to create “Poplar Creek” was done, It was certainly not a smooth transition. A new elementary school (named after Ronald Reagan) was built, despite the District’s static or declining enrollment numbers. The District closed New Berlin Center and Prospect Hill Elementary Schools. What became of those two schools? Well, it razed New Berlin Center (that was an expense) and has been unable to sell Prospect Hill. New Berlin Center and Prospect Hill students were sent to the mega-size Reagan school.
Glen Park is the latest District casualty. It will be the District’s fourth elementary school to close in less than ten years. See my previous blog post.
Glen Park is a top performing 300-student elementary school whose students score high on WKCE tests. Nevertheless, the School Board voted to close it. So, if transferring to a much larger school in fall hurts the Glen Park kids academically, socially, and/or emotionally, no big deal? What about the impact of the school closure on its neighborhood or upsetting parents by failing to listen to or address all their concerns? Seems these issues are of little importance to the board. To them, it’s all just collateral damage and what matters most is $$. Board members and administration view Glen Park (closure, sale) as a source of revenue and are eager to tap it. The Board is using its power to dismantle the Glen Park “community” and parcel its students out to different schools. Glen Park students, parents and staff will be affected. The Board doesn't care about their feelings. The Orchard Lane, Elmwood or Ronald Reagan communities are expected to absorb this influx of GP students. Yup, redistricting and creating larger elementary schools is just fine with this board.
And speaking of “deficits” , the district incurred a huge debt obligation of many years duration when its "fiscal conservative" school board opted to borrow a massive sum to finance construction of a humongous new elementary school to immortalize Ronald Reagan and to fund extensive renovations at New Berlin West, including a spiffy new Field house, classrooms, theater, and other projects—and pay it off (with interest ) annually through (not outside) the budget.
Dr. Kreutzer inherited that situation. Also, at the beginning of his tenure as District Superintendent, he announced there were "dire" needs that required immediate attention (such as Orchard Lane's unsafe pavement), but which had not been budgeted for ---and declared Eisenhower needed $44 million in upgrades. At an Annual Meeting, the District’s Finance Director indicated the District lacked the funds to renovate Eisenhower. Well, siphoning $50 million to pay for the West renovation and Reagan School construction was bound to make it difficult to adequately fund maintenance and improvements at the other school facilities via the budget. Indeed, when 40-yr old boilers at Eisenhower were red-tagged as hazardous a few years ago, the District had to borrow additional money to replace them because funds had not been budgeted for it.