Tonight’s Special Meeting of the Board was supposed to be a short, routine affair — adopting the already-approved budget in SACS code format (don’t ask – it’s required by the state before we submit our approved 2010-11 budget document) and a few stray consent calendar items. But it was not to be — not after an angry group of staff and community members at Horace Mann Academic Middle School came to the Board meeting last week to protest the planned co-location of Metro Arts & Tech, a charter High School, at their location. Because the co-location was not on the agenda for the June 22 meeting, Board members agreed to hear a staff presentation and discussion of the plan at tonight’s Special Meeting.
Several dozen members of the public were on hand, with 10-12 Horace Mann staff members and parents speaking against the plan, and a handful of Metro staff and parents (including one student) speaking about their desire to be collaborative partners with the folks at their new school site.
Mary Richards, our Executive Director in charge of K-8 and charter schools, was on hand to give Board members an overview of the sequence of events in the decision to issue a final offer of space at Horace Mann to Metro; David Goldin, our director of facilities, spoke to the facilities issues raised around Metro’s current space at Burton High School, as well as its proposed space at Horace Mann.
Members of the Board expressed extreme frustration at being back here again — fielding complaints from parents and teachers about the district’s failure to make the outcome of the cumbersome annual Prop. 39 process fully transparent and timely. Of course, no one is ever happy about sharing a school facility with another institution — it presents big logistical headaches on top of the already significant day-to-day challenges at a school site. Still, Horace Mann’s principal, former Board of Education member Mark Sanchez, had engaged in informal discussions with Metro over the fall and winter, thinking that a partnership with the charter school could be a good opportunity for his students — who attend a school that is among the lowest-achieving in the district. After Metro turned down the district’s preliminary offer to remain at Burton for another year, discussions began in earnest. The picture gets very fuzzy here, according to the timelines the Board was given tonight, but several things are clear: Continue reading