Sunday, December 10, 2006

Just Give Us the Money Now and We'll Figure Out What to Do With It Later.

There were no specifics given when the Utica City School District announced this past week its $100 million capital plan. It now appears this was because THERE ARE NO SPECIFICS. "What should city schools tackle next?" the OD asks today, and from the article it appears that everyone has their own ideas on how to spend the money and the School Board has yet to decide.

UCSD's approach to spending money is like New Hartford's: "Just give us the money now and we'll figure out what to do with it later." This is a serious flaw in the characters running our school systems that ultimately will lead to higher operating costs and school taxes. Salivating contractors will dream up all kinds of things to sell to the schools, most of which will not result in any improvement in the quality of student graduates. Learning does not require fancy buildings with sophisticated gadgets. However, poorly designed or located buildings, and gadgets, can waste time and distract from learning.

As long as everyone is putting in their 2 cents on how to spend money, here is
Strikeslip's plan:

  1. Re-establish neighborhood schools, particularly at the elementary level.
  2. Re-establish on-site vocational education in high school.

In short, roll back
the decisions that destroyed the structural advantages that the Utica City School District traditionally enjoyed over its suburban rivals.

Get off the bus. While unavoidable in the suburbs, Utica is populated densely enough that most busing could be eliminated. Buses are a bane. Students waste time riding them, don't get enough exercise because of them, and are discouraged from seeking after-school help by having to stick to their schedule. Each neighborhood would again have its own school, allowing students, parents and community to know each other. Eliminating busing and re-establishing neighborhood schools will make students healthier, smarter, and better behaved.

Make vocational education part of regular education. Unlike the suburbs, Utica has enough students by itself to support voc-ed programs right in the high school rather than busing the students to BOCES in New Hartford. Immediately the students would gain at least a class period of time by eliminating the cross-town trip. Scheduling voc-ed subjects with regular academic subjects would be easier because all coursework would be on-site. The BOCES "stigma" (that it is for "dummies") will be eliminated. Easier access and elimination of the stigma will encourage more students to take voc-ed. The result will be more (and more knowledgeable) voc-ed graduates and trades people.

Hopefully UCSD will make the right choices.


PerfectTosca said...

Just think of all the jobs they can create while they are thinking about it. The promotions. The new administrators. More principals. More vice principals. A hotel...who knows with this bottomless pit that just happens to use education as some kind of afterthought?

RomeHater said...

Busing is unfortunately a liability issue. With below zero temperatures and careless drivers, there is a potential for children to be injured without a transportation network. If busing were eliminated, the first time a kid got frostbite or, God forbid, died on the way to school, Utica would have to begin busing again AND face a huge lawsuit.

Strikeslip said...

Unless the school district is required by law to provide busing, there should be no liability.

It is the parents' responsibility to ensure that their children are dressed properly and get to school safely. If they don't, then it becomes a matter for the Department of Social Services to resolve -- not the schools. Require each agency to do what it was created to do and not let them do each other's work while leaving their own undone.

Anonymous said...

YES! I am a big supporter of neighborhood schools. I firmly believe that everyone should attend the school that is closest to them, and that, whenever possible, they should be able to walk to that school. It's best for everyone...the kids get to know each other better, the faculty gets to know the kids better, extra help is easier to come by, and it's more of a community.

Anonymous said...

Hey! That last post was me...not sure why it ended up posting as 'anonymous'.