The York City School District's future may go one of three ways:
Going to all charters.
Consolidating with neighboring districts.
Or allowing the district to come up with internal transformation.
None of those are definite, but they do happen to be the three options the district's financial recovery advisory committee has decided to further investigate.
The 20-person committee is coming up with recommendations to transform the York City School District after the state identified it as in "moderate" financial recovery. David Meckley, the state-appointed chief recovery officer, has final say on what recommendation is given to the city school board to vote on.
Charters, consolidating, and internal transformation were three of five options laid before the committee at Thursday's meeting.
Two more - the community school model and lobbying for state funding formula changes - were dropped as individual options, with the idea either could work as part of any solution.
The community school model involves using school buildings as 24-hour, seven day a week community resources. The three options the committee is pursuing aren't necessarily the final three, but all three do seem to viable enough to warrant more consideration, Meckley said.
The options: As for the three options being considered, the committee will use consultants to further evaluate how they'd work. Each was discussed at the meeting:
**Going to all charters was initially recommended by YorkCounts and the York County Community Foundation. Several committee members, including Genevieve Ray, Kate Orban and Dennis Baughman, said they'd prefer sticking with nonprofit charters if that route is taken.
Michael Johnson, though he said nonprofits may be better, said he wouldn't want to take for-profit charter schools off the table yet in case a perfect fit was found.
"I'd hate to rule something out," Johnson said.
Charters use public funding but operate privately. In York City's case, the general idea is the district would bring in outside charter companies to run all of their schools, with the district mostly just involved in collecting tax money and distributing it.
Meckley, the chief recovery officer, previously said the all-charter option would effectively work some of York City's administration team out of a job.
Baughman, who is president of the nonprofit York Academy Regional Charter School in the city, said paying a for-profit management fee means money "I don't have to spend on kids."
**Consolidating schools will be considered as well. For now, the committee decided to formally ask West York, York Suburban, and Central York school board presidents to consider whether their districts would be open to the discussion of absorbing some city schools.
Meckley said afterward consolidating might mean just divvying up the city schools between those three districts - and that's only if the districts even would want to - or perhaps a more wide-scale approach of trying to get a countywide school system going. Meckley quickly acknowledged that would be a daunting task.
Ken Phillips, a committee member and district financial consultant, had similar concerns during the meeting, wondering if the state even has the authority to mandate districts participate in consolidating. Further research is being done.
Orban, who is York Suburban's superintendent, said "ease of implementation," one of the hallmarks the committee wants considered for any viable idea, isn't what she thinks of when it comes to consolidating.
"It's almost insurmountable," Orban said.
The neighboring districts will probably need about a month to get back to the committee, Meckley said. And the goal there is only to see if they would consider a conversation, not if they would agree or disagree, he emphasized.
**Finally, the internal transformation idea is about giving the district a shot at figuring something out, Meckley said. He didn't elaborate on exactly what that might entail, although the teachers' union has come up with at least one option.
The public will get a chance to give its opinion again at the Thursday, March 14, public forum held at Martin Memorial Library. That begins at 6 p.m.
The committee's next meeting date is 6 p.m. the night before, Wednesday, March 13, at the district administration building. All of the committee's meetings are public.
More information on the committee can be found on its website, www.ycsdrecoveryplan.or.
- Reach Andrew Shaw at firstname.lastname@example.org