The York City School District has been in the news recently, and, generally, not for positive reasons. First came reports that all but one of the district's schools failed to meet the state's AYP requirements. Then came news that the school board fired Superintendent Sharon Miller, a firing that came with a $700,000 price tag (due to a provision in her contract). This all adds to the community-wide view that the city school district is overwhelmed with problems - vast numbers of poor students and disengaged parents; low staff morale; and tension between administration and the board and even among board members.
Warren Bulette, head of the York County Taxpayers Council and a high-profile critic of several different York County school districts, has thrown open the door on an idea that has been quietly discussed for years: merging the city school district with neighboring districts.
Bulette, in a letter to the editor to the York Daily Record/Sunday News, wrote the city school district has tried for years to reverse declining student performance with little success. He identified this as a countywide problem because all those students who don't graduate or who graduate ill-equipped for a decent job are more likely to drain government resources rather than add to them as a working, tax-paying citizen.
"The city is not going to prosper, nor is York County, unless York city students are better educated," he wrote. "The time has also come for the rest of the school districts to step up to the plate and actually help instead of making it look like they are concerned."
Consider consolidation, he pleaded.
"If the new consolidated organization is organized properly, overall student achievement will improve and the beleaguered taxpayer will benefit — a real win-win."
The Daily Record responded with an editorial - and it agreed.
"The district is just not working - and hasn't been for some time," stated the editorial that ran in the Sept. 28 paper. "... Just bringing in a new superintendent probably won't be the solution. No, we need something more dramatic and systemic."
The editorial called for York Suburban, Central York and West York to divide up the city district. The editorial acknowledged the idea might not be popular - in the city or the suburbs. (Can you say "understatement"?) It offered up - and shot down - some of the expected excuses that opponents might advance to claim consolidation "wouldn't work." It also suggested that consolidation would increase the already growing diversity of the suburban schools, and that would be a good thing.
It concluded: "Yes, Mr. Bullette, you're right. Suburbanites should step in and help the city. They should stop ridiculing and demeaning a struggling district, power up their smart boards and do something to improve the situation."
How long should a struggling school district be given to right itself? Can we as a community make an intentional decision to allow some kids to fail year after year? Is this not an option that should at least be discussed, constructively and sensitively?
- Dan Fink