What the current School Board is finding are basically the same things my Board found not that many years ago.
The Magnet program is too expensive to run.
Six years ago, the cost was a staggering $11 million with an additional $8 million in transportation alone, bringing the total cost to $19 million dollars.
Put another way, 42% of the total cost to run the program was eaten up by transportation.
Or, you could look at it this way: Transporting students added 73% to the bill.
My Board chose to end some of the Magnet programs in order to reduce costs.
It was nothing more than kicking the can down the road.
I say get rid of magnet schools altogether. While part of their intital concept was rooted in desegregation, restructuring can keep most of those goals in mind.
There are currently 32 high schools in the district, 30 if we discount the College Academy and Atlantic Tech, both of which are specialty schools.
Instead of the career bound specialties in the magnet programs, divide them among local groups of high schools.
With 30 schools to choose from, the district can divide the programs in ten sets of three or six sets of five.
The curricula can be replicated in each of the sets.
Parents and students would then have a choice of area high schools to attend regardless of boundaries.
The biggest difference would be the cost savings in transportation alone would be $10 or $11 million as the choices would require parents to provide their own.
But what about the cost of spreading out and duplicating the programs?
As much as I hate to admit that BTU is right on any subject, the district’s high schools are overstaffed with Assistant Principals.
One Assistant for each grade (9, 10, 11, and 12) plus one more with varying titles from “operations” to “ESE” to whatever.
Back in the dark ages, I went to one of the finest high schools in New York City (which opened the same year the Constitution was adopted) and had a student population of 6,000 in three (not four) grades.
How many Assistant Principals? Only one.
Grade Advisers? Four. When my own children were at Piper, more than I cared to count.
The system’s not just top heavy, it’s bloated.
Cypress Bay High School has it right. Only three Assistant Principals for the most crowded high school in the county.
There is a point here, I promise…
There is more than enough slack in the system not only to restructure, but perhaps even reduce costs.
The district is going to face a new round of budget cuts come the new legislative session in January.
It’s long past time for the district to engage in aggressive restructuring of programs, operations and staff.
Get rid of the magnet programs and spread the load to already bloated management in 29 other high schools throughout the county.