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Re: [mpls] Who made the decision to close schools and why?   |   Reasons to Keep Pratt Community School Open as a District Run School

Re: [mpls] Who made the decision to close schools and why?
Subj:      Re: [Mpls] Who made the decision to close schools and why
Date:     7/24/2004 7:50:18 PM Central Daylight Time
From: (Doug Mann)

"With school out for the summer, the time has come to talk about which Minneapolis schools will be closed for good come 2005."

[Comment by Doug Mann] We were told that about 30 small schools (enrollment under 400) are on the hit list because they are more expensive to run than bigger schools.

The average per-pupil cost of administration and facility maintenance is probably higher in small schools, and unavoidably so, but those costs are going to be offset to a large degree, if not completely, by lower transportation costs (more of the students live within walking distance of the school)

It is important, in my opinion, to point out that a majority of the operating budget is dedicated to classroom teacher compensation. The district's better performing schools have generally received large, usually hidden subsidies
(and continue to receive them) in the area of regular classroom instruction due to low teacher-turnover and the higher-than-average ranking of teachers in those schools on the district wide seniority list.  If that is where some of the difference lies, there are some steps that could be taken to reduce them, such as desegregating the district's least experienced teachers.

Small schools are significantly more expensive to run because of

1) Six figure salaries and perks for principals and
2) Overhead costs of curriculum tracking, including gifted and talented programs reserved exclusively for a minority of the students (and mandated by the district for most schools), and the greater number of interventions (discipline, truancy, etc.) typically required for "low-ability" students.  

Why not give parents, teachers, and students at the small schools options like

1) Instruction for the general student population based on a college bound curriculum, individualized educational planning, and enrichment strategies rather than ability-grouping and watering down the curriculum for a majority of the students.

2) A lower-paid, less than full time principal (especially in very small schools), more administrative support from the district's service center, and duties for the principal that focus more on the role of master-teacher and supervisor
(teaching, training, troubleshooting and filling in). The teachers should assert their right to not play musical chairs with their jobs every year (which would help to improve the overall quality of instruction).

If the current crop of high-priced principals don't want lower paid jobs in small schools, let them go and put the jobs up for bid by experienced classroom teachers. There is a glut of elementary school teachers right now, and I am sure that some highly qualified teachers might be willing to do work as a  small-school principal for the same or slightly higher salary than top-paid union teachers make.

And there is a lot of fat to cut in the MPS management, in my opinion. The 2004-2005 budget boosted upper management pay and greatly beefed up the area superintendent office and employee relations office. It looks like upper management is planning to spend more time assisting and directing the labor-intensive work of micromanaging (and harassing) teachers rather than focusing on a problem-solving / planning process in order to fix the schools. And the huge amount of money spent on public relations staff, advertising campaigns and PR gimmicks could easily be saved and put to more productive use.

-Doug Mann, King Field
Minneapolis School Board Candidate