SEPTEMBER 8TH, 2009 – ROMEO, MI- Today marks the opening day of a brand new school in the Village of Romeo. 350 excited faces greeted the staff of North Macomb’s newest charter school. “We can’t believe that this dream became a reality this fast!” That’s Todd Nelson, the school’s principal. Nelson is a 14 year veteran Principal who came to Romeo after being laid off in Hillsdale last June due to decreased enrollment. He’s referring to the miraculous creation of the new charter school, which sprang up just months ago when concerned parents realized they were left with few options. In May, when the Romeo Community School board voted to close Croswell Elementary School for alleged budgetary reasons, a group of parents met to create an alternative to the struggling school district. Tiffany Johnson, who lives on Tilson Street remarked, “What we love about Romeo is that our kids can walk to their neighborhood school. When we heard the school was starting and they had recruited the best teachers in Michigan who just happened to have been laid off because they didn’t have the seniority to keep their jobs in union school districts, we signed up our Susie right away.”
Of course that is fiction. Yet, I don’t think it’s impossible to believe this scenario is true for Fall 2009. Last Monday, the Romeo Community School board voted to close the centrally located, recently updated Croswell Elementary School because of their lack of foresight. They all balked, laughed even, when I presented them with 5 Money Saving Ideas just a year ago. Today I balk at their lack of foresight and mismanagement. Every member of that board should be recalled as they have failed to lead the district through tough times.
Their administrators all make money college administrators would dance over. Their staff all make too much money with guaranteed raises despite falling test scores and a deficit budget. While the district had the opportunity to negotiate with the unions last summer, they chose to deny the data they had and sign a new contract which completely bankrupted the district. With more than 91% of their overall spending going to employee salaries and benefits (more if you figure in the slush fund known as the Sinking Fund) they have fiscally robbed the education of the children they were voted and hired to serve.
While housing prices in the district slumped 50%, the board planned for an INCREASE in tax revenue from the state. While unemployment soared in the district, they projected that more students would move to Romeo. What we see from that district is backward thinking… it’s time for a fresh start.
Unlike some of my friends who go to school board meetings ready to argue, I think the wisest thing to do at this point is to let those silly elected officials have the district. Many are bankrolled with MEA union dollars or physically threatened into doing the will of contractors who get rich. It’s a tiring game of cat and mouse. They will not be satisfied until they have completely blead the district dry.
With prime real estate and a willing group of parents, the perfect time has arisen for a new option in Romeo education: Charter schools.
Here are the facts:
- A charter school would be entitled to the full per pupil income that RCS currently recieves. If Croswell attracted 300 elementary students, they would instantly generate roughly $2 million in revenue from the State of Michigan.
- A charter school could further get grants from the Federal government. President Obama is pro-charter school and anti-1950s era school failures like we see in Romeo.
- With unemployment hovering around 17% in Michigan and higher in Macomb County, hiring teachers at a fair wage would be a snap. I am convinced you’d have thousands of applicants for the 15-20 positions you’d need to fill.
- The rest of the needed positions, from janitors to food service, could be filled with community members looking for reasonable hourly work.
- There are hundreds of parents whose children are being displaced. Kids who once walked to school from the neighborhoods are now going to be required to ride buses. I’m guessing those parents would love the opportunity to experiment with a new school. In fact, I have no doubt that there are parents in surrounding communities willing to drive into Romeo to try something outside of the union box.
- There is plenty of data to back that a public charter school can provide an equal or better education. My own children attend one!
- Once a new charter is formed, they would be wise to hire a charter school company to run the school. Here’s a link to get you thinking.
- Other then procuring a rental/purchase agreement for the otherwise vacant property, the Romeo Community School board would have no say. It would truly be a new day for education in the village.
- All of this really could happen by September 8th 2009! Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. A charter board would need to be created to start the paperwork immediately. It is plausible. E-mail me if interested and I’ll help get the group meeting!
Some may dismiss me and say, “Adam, why should we listen to you? You don’t even live here anymore?” True, I moved from the district in August. (sadly) But I continue to be concerned because this is an issue of justice. It sickens me to see reform-minded board members intimidated and threatened. It sickens me to see 1950s era unions having more say in the district then the parents. It sickens me that money is wasted on overpaid administrators while the education of the districts children continues to decline.
Someone has to encourage others in Romeo to stand up and scream outragiously “ENOUGH!” There is another way. There is a way where that coin is flipped and dollars are spent on education. There is a way which truly puts the kids first and the unions in their place. The time for school reform has passed. The time to take action and educate children in a responsible way has arisen.
The question is, are there parents in Romeo willing to lead that charge? Or will 2009-2010 just be another year of fighting a battle against 1950s era unions?