Taxpayers should demand — and expect — accountability. At all levels of government, we elect representatives who must answer for their votes.
That pattern breaks, however, when it comes to public charter schools. These charter schools receive the same amount of per-pupil funding as students in traditional public schools where elected board members can be ousted if voters don’t agree with board decisions. However, charter school board members can get on the board by simply expressing an interest, and are picked by other board members who decide who they would most like to work with.
Consider this. Shining Rock Classical Academy, Haywood’s only charter school, received more than $3.2 million in state and local taxpayer funding for the current school year. The only oversight for how that money was spent or how effectively students were educated comes from a self-perpetuating group of 10.
Taxpayers as a whole have zero say, and if parents are unhappy with board decisions, the usual course has been to select another education option for their child.
Last week, Shining Rock’s governing board voted to spend up to $40,000 on a marketing director, reasoning that board members, who all have other jobs, do much of the work now.
The decision is a strange choice given the other challenges the board is facing with staff turnover, an inability to find and keep a school director that suits them and steadily declining test scores where state results show that Shining Rock is a low “C.”
Most elected school board members, who also serve with no compensation, have other jobs and represent 15 schools, not just one. They are frequently seen at events where they can chat with parents and taxpayers about their school concerns countywide.
Haywood County Consolidated Schools does not have a marketing coordinator. Superintendent Bill Nolte said he would love to have one, but can’t justify spending $50,000, (which will be the cost of the position once benefits are included) when such funds could be better used on a teacher assistant or beefing up supplements to retain staff.
This comes from a school system with more than 7,100 students that’s ranked 14th out of 115 school systems in the state.
Instead of focusing on basic education issues, Shining Rock board members apparently believe hiring a spin master is the highest and best use of resources in a school that’s now dwindled to an enrollment of 400 or so.
When Shining Rock started, the school relied on a lottery system to select successful enrollees, and was turning students away. Now, after the open enrollment period, only the second and third grade classes are full, and there’s ample room for students in other grades to sign up for the coming school year.
Maybe hiring a marketing director is a self-preservation decision. For every slot left vacant, that’s $7,600 the school won’t have to operate on.
Then again, banking on a slick marketing campaign to turn things around could be risky, too.
It could be that parents are simply basing their “choice” on which school will best educate their children, and no amount of spin can change the facts.