Monday, December 18, 2006

BOCES Bigtime Spending (Here We Go Again) . . .

Following close on the heels of New Hartford and Utica Schools, it's now BOCES' turn to pitch for more construction spending.

BOCES Empire Building is more like it.

Chipped steps, water damage and peeling paint in the middle school gymnasium is justification for spending almost $39 million? (Some new paint, concrete and sheet rock are cheaper.) And the "growing enrollment" also cited as justification actually decreased last year in spite of BOCES' moves to expand into lower and lower grades.

Put this in perspective folks, $39 million is more than what the Millenium Project at Proctor cost -- and that was at a facility serving well over 2,000 students. $39 million is enough to construct almost a $170,000 home for each of the students they want to move out of town.

The answer to No Child Left Behind is to Send the Child Away?

That seems to be the approach the local school district and BOCES are taking. Because the local school district failed to educate these students, BOCES uses that as an excuse to spend more of your money.

Instead let's get to the root of the problem.

School staff were accommodating and understanding when students had problems, said Derfuss, 20, who now works as a cook."

By implication, staff in regular school were not accommodating and did not understand when students had problems. Maybe it's time for a little "attitude adjustment" or training for the staff in the regular school.

We've heard this song before to justify an alternative school in another school district. We found out that students had been permitted by the regular schools to fall years behind their peers -- making it unlikely that they would be getting anything out of class in the higher grades. To be years behind is clearly a system failure. What do you think it does for that student's behavior? When the students become mature enough to understand that they have been ignored for years, they become disruptive. To make matters worse, we also found out that these same students were ridiculed in the classroom by teachers and other students for their poor performance. Naturally, such students would want to get out of the regular school. But warehousing these students out of the mainstream at such a great cost does both the student and the tax payer a disservice.

There are other things wrong with this spending plan -- and better things that could be done with the money if it really needs to be spent. These will be the subjects of future blog entries.

Fix what is wrong with regular school and you eliminate the need for alternative school.


Anonymous said...

I can understand your frustration. I am also a tax payer, but I am also a teacher at the Career and Technical Education Center or as you call it BOCES. The teachers there are doing what the main streem teachers are failing to do and that is to teach these kids. CTEC did not did not choose to take programs away from the school rather the schools decided that there was a desperate need for a place to help these childern be successful in life by teaching them skills beyond just academics. If you ever visited CTEC you will see the programs that are being taught there are some of the best CERTIFIED programs in the state. This is not the BOCES of 10 or 20 years ago. Maybe thats why you might feel that it is a waste of money. The programming there provides our childern a chance to make it, and it worth every dime to keep highly qualified teachers, and adminstrators there.

Strikeslip said...

Thank you for the comment.

I don't want what I say to be construed that I don't think the programs are worthwhile -- quite the contrary actually. . . and you are right that you are expected to fix what the main stream teachers failed to do.

The problem I have is the way BOCES is organized and how it is used: essentially having become a place where academically poor and troubled students are concentrated (inadvertently producing a "stigma" for a student who may want to go there) -- and becoming too convenient for main stream schools to rid themselves of "problems" that they could be fixing.

When Career and Technical Education as you call it (or Vocational Education as I would call it) was part of the main stream school experience (in Utica -- because it was large enough to support the program) everyone went to the same school, the programs were easily accessible to everyone, and "good" students availed themselves of them just as much as the poorer ones. This benefited the students and society alike.

Instead of concentrating everyone at an ever growing campus in New Hartford, it would seem to make sense to integrate the services back into the schools themselves. While this may not be practicable in the suburban districts owing to their smaller size (the reason why BOCES was created in the first place), it certainly is practicable in Utica -- especially now that all high schoolers are now at one school. Students should be able to easily access both academic and vocational subjects without the discouraging cross-town bus ride.

I see this huge expense as "hard-wiring into architecture" a system that is horribly flawed where city students are concerned, which is where the greatest need exists.