We have come together to stand for the students of Timken Senior High School, students who are at risk of loosing their school. We come together for a community of Alumni who are risk at loosing their legacy and history. We come together for a community of residents who are at risk of being left with an inadequate High School structure, one that will fail to support the needs of its youth. We come together to stand for what is right, what is just, what is supported by facts/data and what is in the best interest of all those concerned. We come together to stand against a proposal that is not founded in research, supported by the masses or building a Brighter Tomorrow for our children.
Superintendent Allison offers four critical areas where serious damage has been caused to the District as a result of operating two high schools. Each of these areas show flaws in reasoning, are not supported by research or data, and do not reflect the desire of much of the community.
Superintendent Allison states there are approximately 40 additional courses offered at McKinley that Timken students cannot access. We challenge this logic on several points. The 40 courses consist of the same class being offered numerous times throughout the day. This wording misrepresents any disparity between the schools curriculum. Currently there are advanced placement courses offered at Timken including things like calculus. Additionally, Timken offers courses that are specialized and unique in infrastructure. To enable McKinley students to enjoy the benefits of this education more than 200 students are transported to Timken to take part in these unique educational experiences. Why doesn’t the Superintendent offer the same courtesy to Timken students, affording them the opportunity to take some of the far fewer than 40 courses unique to McKinley? Alternatively, these courses could be offered at Timken as well. There is even the ability to share Instructors across the campuses, giving our educators more opportunity. Have any of these alternatives been explored fully before recommending the consumption of Timken into McKinley? No.
He further states that one of the top priorities when he was hired was to ensure social justice for CCSD students. Social justice, simply stated is ensuring justice and equality in terms of distribution of wealth, opportunities and privileges within a society; and in this case, educational society. However, the root of issues at our CCDS High Schools has nothing to do with social injustice and inequity between city schools and suburban schools as Superintendent Allison would lead us to believe. The root cause of the academic inequalities Superintendent Allison has proffered includes poor decision making of past Superintendents, which would only be compounded by the poor solution being offered today.
Superintendent Allison initially stated the primary and most compelling reason to close Timken High School is that the District would be facing financial cuts from the state and would be unable to keep both schools open. We reject this outright, but it more significantly became moot when the Governor’s office of management and budget announced that the Canton City Schools will get significantly MORE money from the state.
State aid to the District will increase from $79.5 million this year, to $87.7 million next year, and again to $96.3 million the following year. The Superintendent would be correct in pointing out that those numbers are not set in stone until the state legislature approves them in June. This fact, however, supports the need for the Board to slow down and do more diligence on this proposal. The Superintendent also knows that since Governor Kasich has been in office, the legislature has generally obtained his educational aid numbers. There is absolutely no reason to believe that state aid to the Canton City Schools will decrease. At the very least, the District has time to think about how many high schools it should have. But more appropriately, it an be stated conclusively that the District can afford both high schools, and what is best practice for high poverty urban districts; small schools, small classes, safety, good climate and interest-based choice.
Data also shows that Administrative staffing has grown from approximately 71 to 93. That is 22 additional Administrators over the last 3 years at a cost of nearly $1 million a year. This figure does not include the cost of support staff for each administrator. At a time when financial resources are stretched to the extent that the Superintendent believes it is necessary to eliminate a High School, it is only prudent for an aggressive review of Administrative expenditures to be conducted. This must happen well in advance of any decision to consolidate and reduce educators; a move that will directly impact our students at the closest level.
Superintendent Allison offers that the consumption of Timken into McKinley will lead to a $1.6 million savings annually. That “savings” is flawed in that it fails to take into account costs associated with the changes. Cost such as expenditures for transportation and additional security just to name two. There will also be a reduction of state provided per student funding due to the erosion of our student base. There are students who have specifically stated they will seek education outside of the CCSD before they will be forced to attend McKinley. The history of the Lincoln and Lehman elimination proved this to be true. The proposal calls for an increase of security staff while reducing educational staff. This is not the most effective way to spend District funds at a time when resources are constrained. If educational excellence is our goal, dollars most certainly should be directed toward educators verse security and any plan that fails to facilitate this should fail.
The Superintendent argues that a basis for his proposal is a decline in District enrollment since 2002. While District enrollment and McKinley enrollment have declined, Timken enrollment has increased by 4.9 % over the last 9 years. The current proposal fails to in any way acknowledge or reflect the fact that our students are choosing Timken’s culture and offerings in a manner that defies the declining trend of the District. What is Timken doing right and why is it the school slated for elimination? In building a Brighter Tomorrow, the Superintendent has failed to study and learn all that can be gleaned by Timken’s faculty, staff, students, coaches, and culture, prior to dismantling and destroying a prestigious institution that offers a wealth of lessons to the District.
ARTS LIMITATION AND ATHLETIC INEPTNESS
Superintendent Allison proposes that by consolidating schools, participation in arts and athletics will increase, training will be better, lower grades will be better aligned and younger students will be afforded better opportunity to grow and develop. However, what he again fails to address in any manner is the impact of his proposal. Our students will have fewer opportunities to participate. There are currently 350 students at Timken who participate in athletics. This proposal will fill the roster at McKinley where they are short, but there will be nearly 300 students with no way to participate. There will be fewer opportunities for current high school students to participate, there will be fewer opportunities for students in lower grades to participate at higher H.S. levels once they enter H.S., there will be a negative short term and long term affect on those students excluded from programs they once participated in, and there will be negative future affects on our younger students who are excluded from H.S. participation. These programs go a long way in keeping students off the streets and engaged in school activities. A future that limits these opportunities for our children exposes them to higher risk of drop out and delinquency.
There is a legitimate possibility that the proposal is designed in part to save Division 1 status for McKinley at the expense of Timken. The state requires that in order for a school to maintain Division 1 status for athletics, they must retain male student enrollment at approximately 608 students. Because of McKinley’s declining enrollment, (612 males in 2013) there is a real and eminent risk that Division 1 status will be lost in the near future. The OHSAA makes their recommendations for next academic year in May.
Superintendent Allison offers a vendor encounter to support his position. This example in no way depicts community divisiveness. It is wholly unrelated to the issues he outlines as central to his proposal. It in fact is irrelevant and nothing more than noise and distraction from the issues at hand. Lastly, he cites animosity and negative sentiments expressed and words used by students, staff members, and adults as support for his proposal. However, the proposal itself has sparked a new level of animosity within the city. The proposal only worsens any community divisiveness or creates it where none previously existed. To see this you need only review pages on Facebook and Twitter where the proposal is being debated.
The last time the CCSD closed high schools was 1976. The resentment and bitterness continues to exist today, 40 years later. History also shows that families vote with their feet. More than 500 families left the District as a result of that decision. Have we learned nothing from our history? Will we repeat our mistakes of the past?
In closing, a report from the National Educational Policy Center (NEPC) found that the effects of consolidation, when it results from policy that implements large-scale forced consolidation, suggests that additional consolidation is likely to result in neither greater efficiency nor better instruction outcomes. The report also shares that the research comparing pre- and post- consolidation expenditures found that district consolidation does not on average reduce educational expenditures and that some studies reported increased costs, because operational budgets were affected by diseconomies of scale that resulted from increased expenditures for transportation, operation, management and supervision, security, and guidance. The very things that are necessary to facilitate the current proposal.
Section K of the Canton City Schools Board Policy, clearly articulates that community participation is essential to promote and maintain the quality of education of all students. And that the Board should give consideration to the advice it receives from individuals and community groups. The strong public outcry against this proposal should not only cause the Board to reject it, it should inform them that much more study and collaboration is needed before further changes to the CCSD High Schools should be proposed.
Section B of the Canton City Schools Board Policy, requires the Superintendent to base his recommendations upon the results of a study and upon the judgment of the staff and study committees. Superintendent Allison has failed in his obligation to engage these studies, staff and study committees prior to submitting his proposal to the Board of Education for vote. Any reliance on studies and debates held 12-18 years ago are outdated and insufficient. Because the policies and principles of Board Policy has not been followed, the Board of Education should not take action on such recommendations until they are brought in line with these requirements.
The Board of Education has the power. They can force this change, reject this change or modify it. For these and other heart felt reasons, we urge the Board to vote NO to the proposal on February 25th. This is our City, our voice, our schools.
The Timken Senior High School Alumni Association,
Concerned Citizens, Students, Parents and Alumni