Monday, February 02, 2009

CCSD Financial Answers Severely Limited

We are just so ignorant, according to Charleston County Schools Superintendent McGinley (not her, silly, us), that we just "don't have a good understanding of the way the district funds its schools." [See Where the School District's Money Goes] That's why she had so much trouble getting attendees at her public hearings of the School Redesign plan to agree with her ideas. Let's set up a simple interview with simple questions that the dummies can understand. Just one problem, sister--the questions we want answered weren't asked, or if they were asked, they weren't answered!

Of course, most of the general operating fund goes to "teachers' salaries and classroom expenses." Duh. "Formula distribution" (we could quibble about that practice but not now) accounts for 64 percent of the budget, according to "the district's finance director." (Why was Bobby not questioned instead?) According to Terri Shannon,
"officials decide how they wanted to distribute the remaining 36 percent - or roughly $117 million. Some of the $117 million goes to high-achieving schools, but more of it goes to low-performing schools. Some of it pays for the district's administration, such as the superintendent and district workers' salaries, and some pays for schools' bills, such as heating and cooling."
What officials? Names, please. More importantly, what percentage goes to "the superintendent and district workers' salaries"? How does that percentage compare to a decade ago? What's wrong? Can't answer that one? Does it need a FOIA request too?

What about "heating and cooling"costs? Would it turn principals into business managers to know how much that expense is for their buildings? Is it possible to have a reward system for reducing those expenses where they occur? Everyone's father has complained about "heating (or cooling) the great outdoors," so why not get schools to be more aware of saving money? Too complicated? You don't have those figures available? Does it need a FOIA request also?

How much in Title I funds (not included in Shannon's answers) will be foregone by shutting down high-poverty schools? Ditto on FOIA?

How disingenuous is this statement:
"If the district were funded the same way it is required to fund charter schools, it would cost an additional $80 million." Show me the numbers. You're fudging by comparing apples and oranges. Charter school funding takes away money from the district overhead (like McGinley's salary).

Say, maybe $80 million inadvertently represents the administrative costs that are such a district-wide mystery!

Most important unasked (or unreported) questions:
  • On what legal basis does the district regularly put funds generated from the sale of properties (capital) into the general operating fund on an ongoing basis?
  • And is such a practice planned to make up the $23 million shortfall that the Superintendent claims for the district?


Anonymous said...

we have no control over heat and cooling.
district put in sensors.i get air conditioning in winter
and heat in summer
make sense?

Anonymous said...

CCSD is too big. Like coherent curriculum, one size doesn't fit all. Principal positions are so temporary, there's no way most of them could ever assume ownership of their schools, even if they were competent. Three years is about all the superintendent allows them before reshuffling them. There’s nothing quite like micro managing everything from the superintendent's office, even the heating and cooling systems.

Anonymous said...

Great questions, but unfortunately no answers are expected. In between the lines you can see a little of why schools like Burke High or McClellanville Middle cost so much. Both schools are top heavy in their administrative offices while classrooms and course offerings are neglected. Don't blame the good teachers who remain, the students who got left behind or the parents who are ignored. This is a game for school district insiders only. Mike Bobby and the CFO he follows (Don Kennedy) both hid the facts on individual schools which most of us could easily understand. Instead the details are buried under tons of accounting paper for the entire district.

Burke alone has a total of 5 principals or assistant principals. The school enrollment is down to about 700. That's 140 students for every senior administrator. Most teachers don't have student-teacher ratios that favorable. Burke's top dog gets over $140,000 thanks to the special incentive package the superintendent offered him.

These "special" agreements, wink-wink, all go into the total cost to operate dozens of schools district wide, while quality teachers and special courses get cut. Just in case the public should get too suspicious, they roll out another dog and pony show to confuse the issue. Just like the games they play with personnel, they shuffle the funds from one pile to another. Can't worry the public about such things and they don't want anyone at the school level too long to figure out what's going on either.

These are all decisions made in McGinley's office and not at the local or school level. Still McGinley plays the facts in a variety of ways. She says Burke expenses are "average" and McClellanville's costs per student are "too high". She's cut all the extras at Burke to pay for warehousing so much dead weight. She's just dumped her problem cases on McClellanville. Now she can close McClellanville and quietly get rid of the people without the unpleasantness (and law suits) associated with firing them.