Members of the York City School District school board took official action Wednesday that moves the district closer to charter operation by the 2015-16 academic year.
In an 8-1 vote, the board authorized Superintendent Eric Holmes to issue a request for proposals from charter providers that could begin operating one school building, multiple school buildings or all of the district's school building by the fall of 2015.
"None of us wants to see this district go charter," board President Margie Orr, who voted in favor of the resolution, said. "We don't want to see this happen. But if we have to, we will."
Proposals are due to the district by Friday, Aug. 1, according to a timeline included in the board's agenda documents.
By Aug. 22, the Community Education Council will submit its recommendations to the school board, which will interview finalists in September.
The board plans to approve any contracts for the 2015-16 school year by Oct. 31.
The past year: The district has spent the past year implementing a financial recovery plan known as the internal-transformation model, which emphasizes site-based management as a way of achieving performance goals. The model was proposed by union and administration leaders.
Charter conversions are the alternative if the transformation model does not achieve its performance goals or if the district is not able to achieve its financial goals. Its success hinges on wage and benefit concessions from teachers, support staff and administrators.
Despite a year of talks, negotiations between the teachers union and the administration have not resulted in a new collective-bargaining agreement reflective of the recovery plan.
Union leaders have said they rejected an offer earlier this month that asked some teachers to concede $11,200 in benefits and another $2,000 to $4,000 in salary, depending on the pay scale.
"I'm at a total loss because everybody signed in on the recovery plan right from the start," Orr said Wednesday after the vote. "Where the breakdown occurred, I couldn't tell ya."
Student performance: Board member Glenn Medice said he remains frustrated with students' academic performance. There's only so much compromise the district can accept when test scores are so low, he said.
"At some point, we need to see some measurable change to the positive," Medice said.
Medice said he's not given up on the internal-transformation model, but "I'm not ruling out the other one."
Wednesday's vote "doesn't mean we're bringing in charters," he said. "We're just taking the next step."
Union reaction: The union's president-elect, Ira Schneider, questioned the financial prudence of reopening Hannah Penn, a former middle school that will become the district's seventh K-8 school in the fall.
"There's space for seventh and eighth grade at the high school," he said. "Don't spend $4 million opening up a building for potentially 225 students." Schneider was referring to the number of students expected to return to the district at the K-8 level from New Hope Academy Charter School.
However, according to district business manager Richard Snodgrass, the district would incur most of that cost regardless of whether Hannah Penn opens. For example, he said, the district would still have to hire new staff members to teach at the high school if the seventh and eighth grades moved there.
Only about $500,000 of that $4 million accounts for operational costs of the building, Snodgrass said.
Also Wednesday, the board also approved the district's 2014-15 budget, which does not raise property taxes.
Schneider said the union will continue to negotiate. He warned the school board about the potential consequences of hiring charter providers. If that's the best financial option, he said, "You're going to get what you pay for."
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