At the May 12 Special Meeting, electors of the School District of New Berlin voted 61-11 to grant approval for the " sale or disposition of Glen Park Elementary School under terms/conditions satisfactory to the school board. " See May 13 New Berlin NOW report.
The vote followed a very brief presentation by New Berlin Public Schools Chief Financial Officer Roger Dickson, who conveyed that Glen Park School had not been "actively marketed" until September 2013. He said the district has an accepted offer of $1.75 million for the school from Heritage Christian Schools.
According to a May 2 New Berlin NOW article, Heritage wants to consolidate its 550 students (pre-kindergarten through 12th grade) at Glen Park. Whew. That's almost double the number of students attending Glen Park before it closed!
NOW reported that Heritage wants to build a gym addition to Glen Park and extensively remodel the building. To purchase the school and make those changes would bring the estimated cost for Heritage to about $4 million, although Heritage's superintendent would not confirm that figure.
The NOW article also conveyed that Roger Dickson said, "The district has obtained reasonable assurance of the ability of Heritage to secure the necessary financing."
"Reasonable assurance" ? From Heritage Christian Schools, which has had significant financial problems?
A Nov. 11, 2013 New Berlin NOW article about Heritage states.... "the school had apparently been bilked out of about $1 million after purchasing fraudulent life insurance policies in 2004 from a twice-convicted felon. The school managed to recoup a significant portion of its losses, but it lost additional revenue from lowered tuition and failling enrollment."
The Nov. 11 article also communicates: " A former board member at Heritage Christian Schools is suing the school for allegedly failing to pay back a $100,000 loan the man provided in 2008." (The suit, which was filed Nov. 1, 2013 claims HCS violated a contract that he'd negotiated with the school's former superintendent and also alleges civil theft by the school.
In the May 2 NOW article, the Heritage superintendent acknowledges the school had suffered large financial losse in the past, but claims Heritage is back on its feet. He says the school's financial instability "was one of the reasons why the school left its location on Highway 100 in West Allis at the end of the 2010-11 school year."
Speaking of financial instability, rememeber the Wisconsin Air Academy debacle? The Journal Sentinel ( Feb 3, 2009) reported that Jeff Starke tried to buy the former Prospect Hill Elementary School from the School District of New Berlin in 2008 for a private military school (Wisconsin Air Academy), but instead negotiated a lease argreement. His military boarding school was open only a few months before it abruptly closed. Evidently, Wisconsin Air Academy couldn't afford the upgrades needed to meet the fire code and did not have the required completed occupancy permit. Per The Waukesha Freeman: "The Wisconsin Air Academy closed Jan. 30, giving parents only one day's notice and leaving at least one New Berlin business with an unpaid bill."
The sale of Glen Park to Heritage Christian is not a sure thing. The sale could fall through if Heritage fails to secure the necessary financing or if the City doesn't approve their remodeling/construction plans. If that happens, the New Berlin School Board could sell the school to someone else without having to seek the electorate's permission. That's because the electors' vote at the May 12 meeting gave the school board the authority to sell or dispose of Glen Park.
If Heritage Christian does buy Glen Park, here are a few concerns:
- The increased traffic that would result from taking 550 children to and from school
- Is there adequate parking? Where would staff for so many students park? What about the high school students who drive?
- Any plans for after-school activites? Expanded athletic fields? Lighted fields?
- Heritage wants to build a gym addition. Given Glen Park's circular structure, where would this be located?
- Selling to a private religious school (tax exempt) doesn't help our tax base
- The New Berlin School District would be selling to a competitor. This is especially noteworthy because student enrollment is a factor in the funding formula for a public school.
New Berlin Now reports: " New Berlin officials say they would use sale proceeds to help pay for millions of dollars of facilities improvements, much of it at Eisenhower Middle/High School."
The district's facilites, particularly Eisenhower need millions of dollars of improvements? Hmmm. I remember when Board Members John Burke, Matt Thomas and Michael Gratz insisted that our district's facility needs could be met within the budget. But if that was do-able (rather than a lot of hot air), why has the district been closing schools, merging elementary schools (creating mega-sized elementary schools), borrowing huge sums ( and having to pay to service the debt), sold off district properties to raise revenue, and delayed making the improvements at Eisenhower?