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Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Results of The Rock Hill School Board August 24, 2009 Meeting

At the August Business Meeting of The Rock Hill School Board, the following action was taken;

approved the minutes of the July 27 school board meeting, personnel recommendations, and disbursement of Jim Vining's board compensation for July through December (vote was 7-0);

approved the long-term use of the Resource Center's annex for the 2009-10 school year for the partnership agencies that occupy the facility and not charge utility costs for the current year. The board also agreed that any expenditures on the facility exceeding $20,000 must come back before the board for approval (vote was 7-0). The district must notify agencies by mid-year if utilities will be charged for the next year. District Operations staff will investigate why the 3,400 sq. ft. facility has utility costs in excess of $12,000 per year and the administration is to have a work session discussion on a potential sale of the property;

approved a request from the Boys and Girls Club for the long-term use of facilities in all middle schools for after-school programs for middle school students (vote was 7-0);

the board took no action on a request to spend nearly $600,000 for capital projects at Finley Road (roofing), Rock Hill High (boiler replacement), and Saluda Trail (HVAC control repairs) when the administration could not answer all the board's questions. The administration will include this topic on the agenda for the August 29 retreat. A vote is expected.

The following was presented during the meeting;

recognized Rock Hill School Teachers of the Year;

heard a representative from the First Steps program request the board forgo charging utility costs during 2009-10 to the programs that now occupy the Resource Center's annex building because budgets had already been completed;

heard Sam Foster, a former educator, principal, and state legislature, talk on the value of balance;

heard Chris Causey, sales manager with Roofers Supply of Greenville, Inc., suggest the board get additional roofing products approved, and interview more roofing consultants, to take advantage of potential savings.

heard Dr. John Hoitink ask the board to slow down the process of approving a policy on reassignment to allow more time for public feedback. (His letter to the Board is at the end of this post);

listened to Joy Bower, lead school nurse, talk about the H1N1 virus. Nurse Bower stated there are scattered cases in our schools which are being addressed by school nurses.

listened to a report by Sheila Huckabee, executive director of secondary education, and administrators from each high school on the results of AP, IB, and dual credit testing during last school year.

•Rock Hill Schools will be closed on Mon., Sept. 7, in observance of Labor Day.

•"Open House" in our secondary schools is scheduled from 6:30-8:00 p.m. on the following dates:

All middle schools – Thursday, August 27

All high schools – Monday, September 14

Applied Technology Center – Tuesday, September 15

•Sat., Aug. 29, is the date for the school board's retreat and the continuation of a discussion on topics related to a new student reassignment policy. The retreat will be held in the Board Room in the district office.


Dear Board Members,

Thank you for allowing me time to speak tonight about the school reassignment issue.

I requested to address the board tonight prior to the release of the formal reassignment policy because it appears to be on a fast track to be confirmed by a second reading in October. Additionally the upcoming retreat this Saturday is "Listen-only." I believe public interest will rise over the coming weeks but will come too late to be incorporated into the policy. Therefore I ask the board to delay the second reading if public feedback warrants this over the next few weeks.

Reassignment currently is based on the necessity of forming a new attendance zone for a new school. The new policy will create a tool that will reassign individual students when an unbalanced variable measured in the whole school fails to "Change over time." I expect when the policy is unveiled that evidence justifying a net benefit to students will be provided. Each variable in the formula should be used only if proof of a net benefit can be provided. The cost of school reassignment is not just disruption of an individual student's education. Large amounts of political capital, time and budget resources must be invested by the district in each reassignment. There is often a demoralizing effect on parent involvement in the child's school and a migration out of the public school system by some families. For this reason, I feel the district has acted wisely by trying to monitor the Oakdale and Mt. Holly situation rather than rushing to reassignment.

Most educators and parents would agree moving students between schools should be a last resort when other solutions such as natural shift, targeting of additional resources and magnet schools fail. I applaud the school district's use of magnet schools which engage families and can prevent forced relocation of students. These better alternatives usually take years to work and therefore I would ask that the final policy include a statement specifying a minimum number of years that less drastic options should be used before we reassign students. We should also specify the minimum number of years before a school can be up for another reassignment. However, a great concern about this policy is that even though no reassignment may be immediately warranted after application of the new policy we will have appeared to set the precedent of allowing reassignment to happen after a single year of monitoring - that is the earliest interpretation of "Change over time" as I understand it. We may then be subject to challenges, legal or otherwise, to frequently reassign students. As an example of the long term effects of public policy, the restrictions created by a 2003 legal settlement based on race will likely weigh upon this new policy.

The actual disruption of a student's education and also just the parent's fear of this can have a very negative impact on the participation of motivated families. These families put in extra time at their schools raising the chance of success for all students. Just one more uncertainty could push more families into private school. Or, worse yet, also take their public funding with them by moving to Fort Mill or enrolling in the new charter school opening in 2010.1 attended the initial meetings during the formation of the new charter school and there were a large number of parents in attendance who spoke of being moved multiple times when they were students in our city's public schools. The charter school of course solves that problem.

In closing, I ask the board to slow down the reassignment process as necessary to allow for public feedback, provide evidence of benefit, and include language that would generally ensure several years between reassignments. By doing this I feel you will retain the participation of motivated families in our school system. I look forward to following this issue closely. I wish to thank the educators and board members here tonight for your obvious dedication to our children and the future of our community.


John C. Hoitink, MD

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