In a previous post I explained that Wilkes-Barre was in a fight for it schools. Little did we know that the district was in a fight to remain solvent. The district claims that they are facing a catastrophic financial issue.. It us nit the first time they said this, in fact they have said it quite a bit. The difference now, they are bringing in the Pennsylvania Department of Education to go over their finances. In the next few weeks PDE will be arriving, they will go through the districts finances layer by layer to help determine what can be done. This is something the members of Wilkes-Barre Area Save Our Schools has been asking for. Not exactly the PDE, but an expert to come in and examine the finances. It was a concession to the WBSOS. The state budget impasse has not helped the district in any way, shape or form. But it has opened doors to this consideration. It is a start.
While the district is in financial distress, they still plan to move forward with their $100 million plan to consolidate 2 of our city Schools in a horrible location. When asked if the district should wait until PDE was finished to continue with the project, the superintendent responded that PDE coming in has nothing to do with the project. Although the plan is still moving forward, there have not been any submissions to Plancon for additional property purchase or plans for the public hearing. Those are 2 important points. The property purchase would add several million to the price tag and most likely remain unused after the new school was built. The public hearing was rumored to be either in December or January. Typically the public hearing is held 9 months to a year after the Plancon process was started. The rumors had it at 6 months.
Coughlin, which was rumored to be closed on November 1, will remain open until the end of the school year. The juniors and seniors will remain in the Annex, newest part of Coughlin, while 9th and 10th graders will attend Mackin. This is important because it shows the district is pumping the breaking, going a bit slower then originally scheduled. We have made progress there. Important pie e of information to note. The district will raise taxes to the max amount from now until 2022, at that point we should see light at the end of the tunnel. Very expensive for the taxpayers. There is also no plan in the works for Meyers. A board member said that they were looking for someone to partner with in the future. At least 5 years or more in the future. Will it still be standing? According to the architects and engineers, it is in trouble. The future for the Meyers building could be anything from a sports center to a community center.
They are looking at possibly 5 administrators in the new consolidated school. The typical salary of a principal is between $100,000 and $150,000. They are also looking at Dean of Students and Head Teachers. This despite the engine behind this consolidation being finance. The superintendent also said that he spoke with the head of the NAACP about possibility if a large portion of minorities remaining in an underperformed school, while other children attend a brand new school with all the bells and whistles. He told the NAACP local president that finances are driving this. I am not sure that defense will work if this finds its way into court.
All in all it was an informative meeting. The brakes are being pumped, at least for the time being. It is not a victory for the public, just a concession. I admire the fact that the board was willing to bring in the PDE. That is an important step. I hope as we move forward the board and the people can find a way to work together more. The concern here needs to be about our kids, not just money.