UPDATE: Rezoning, Bus Fees, and Green Factors

There are three issues on the table: (1) the rezoning proposal, (2) the bus fees, and (3) the determination of whether Hoover City (and Jefferson County) has met its obligations on the Green factors.

There was a conference call on Monday, January 26, between the parties that resulted in all attorneys agreeing to file motions requesting time extensions of the January 30, 2015, due dates.

The due date for the joint statement of the attorneys involved (Jefferson County, Hoover, NAACP LDF and DOJ) has been postponed until February 6, 2015.

This motion requests an extension on the joint statement. As part of the reason given for requesting the extension, Hoover board of education attorney Donald Sweeney stated one of the reasons to be “the necessity for the Board to address its position regarding two components of the six Green factors at a Board meeting scheduled for February 2, 2015”.

No mention of what those “two components” are.

The due date for the requirement for Hoover to file 5 years of additional data (2009-2013) has been postponed until February 13, 2015. Here is the 2014 data for school year 2013-2014.

This motion requests an extension of time to produce the data.

The Judge granted the motions for extensions on Wednesday, January 27.Pages from Order Granting 995 and 996 Motions

What’s on the Table

The rezoning proposal appears to have flaws, particularly given no reasons other than “balancing the numbers” have been given for moving one set of children who are living in apartment homes to another school, while moving another set of children who are living in apartment homes right back into that school. Hoover school officials have provided no justification for doing so, instructionally, programmatic, or otherwise. Thus, there is no benefit to the children being moved.

Rumors abound that the rezoning proposal has been “rejected”, but there has been no official word from Hoover or any of the other attorneys involved.

The bus fees are still on the table, and will likely be part of the discussion of the Green factor that relates to transportation.

The Green factors are: (1) student assignment, (2) faculty assignment, (3) staff assignment, (4) transportation, (5) extracurricular activities, and (6) facilities.

The Judge has allowed a larger conversation about  the treatment of students, regardless of race, to take center stage by putting focus on the Green factors.

Data will show whether Hoover is meeting its obligation to treat all students the same in class assignment and facilities, which includes disciplinary actions. Initial review of the 2013-2014 data that Hoover filed in November 2014, reveals serious concerns about placement of students in high school classes.

All attorneys have been called to a status conference, set for February 20, 2015, though it is unclear whether the conference will be via telephone, in the Judge’s chambers, or held in the courtroom where the public can attend.

This document outlines the general process for school districts seeking “unitary status”, meaning they have eliminated their dual system (one for white students, one for African-American students) of education.

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Bus Fees – The Numbers

The Board of Education unanimously approved the following schedule of bus fees “for planning purposes” at their April 17, 2014, Regular meeting.

Bus Fees Approved April 17 2014

At the meeting, it was believed the fee schedule would go into effect, pending U.S. Department of Justice approval, during the 2014-2015 school year.

On May 6, 2014, the Superintendent announced implementation would be delayed until the 2015-2016 school year.

We NEED a New Board of Education Member! Here’s Your Chance!

DEADLINE FOR APPLICATION IS MARCH 21st!! For more information, contact Hoover City Clerk Margie Handley via email at handleym@ci.hoover.al.us or by phone at 444-7557.

You witnessed the decision of the Hoover Board of Education (BOE) to eliminate buses in a 4-1 vote last July.

You witnessed the community uprising as a result.

You witnessed the BOE approve a budget with a $17 million deficit.

You witnessed the U.S. Department of Justice step in as a result of our BOE’s decision.

You witnessed the BOE rescind the vote to eliminate buses last December.

You witnessed the loss of our bus drivers and the inability of the BOE to replace them.

You witnessed the BOE bow down and obey board attorney Donald Sweeney’s order not to answer the public’s questions.

You witnessed the BOE call in a state-level education official rather than deal with its own personnel matter.

You witnessed this. And this. And this. And this.

All of it being the responsibility of the five members of our Hoover Board of Education.

We still don’t know if the BOE will decide to charge a fee (nor how much that fee might be) for families dependent upon bus transportation to and from school.

We still don’t know what programs or how many teachers may be cut due to budget problems.

We still don’t know what type of rezoning plan may be constructed during upcoming strategic planning sessions.

The current president of the BOE, Paulette Pearson, is not seeking reappointment.

That means there’s ROOM FOR YOU to apply for the BOE position. It costs nothing to apply.

Will You Serve

YOU can help make those decisions by serving on the Hoover BOE.

Our elected Hoover City Council is responsible for appointing the BOE. One member every year. For a five-year term. The appointment is made in April and the term begins in June.

Yes, you would serve with three BOE members who originally voted to eliminate buses. But they did ultimately change their mind (thanks, DOJ!).

The BOE meets once a month, the first Monday of the month (except for March, when it will be the third Monday – NEXT MONDAY, the 17th).

If you believe you are capable of looking out for the best interests of all children in Hoover, please apply. We desperately need good people to serve on our BOE.

In years past (except last year when Earl Cooper was reappointed without any opposition), the application process consists of filling out the application and being interviewed by the full Council in a public meeting (the questions are the same for every applicant). No word yet on when interviews will be conducted, though in 2012, the interviews took place the second week of April.

Here’s an al.com article with a little more info.

If you’d like to know a little about what is expected of school board members in Alabama, read this from the Alabama Association of School Boards. Training is mandatory and paid for by local taxpayers.

The main responsibilities of a board member are to (1) hire and fire the superintendent, (2) hire and fire the Chief School Financial Officer, (3) approve the budget, and (4) create policies. The budget and policies provide the framework within which the school system and its employees operate.

HOW TO APPLY

In years past, the application was made available online, but it is not available online this year. No word on why the application was removed.

Contact City Clerk Margie Handley via email at handleym@ci.hoover.al.us or by phone at 444-7557.

Free the Hoover Buses!

The Facebook page has a new name: Free the Hoover Buses!

And now, our new logo:

Free Our School BusPlease share far and wide! We believe our school buses should continue transporting children to and from school at no charge to the riders. If that fee gets passed on to our students, there will be no end to the types of user fees that Hoover and other school districts can push off on parents and families who depend on our public schools to educate their children.

Let’s get this right. Let’s solve this!

 

The Reaction and the Reality – Next Steps

SavedHere’s a wrap up of how the past week unfolded, told through Twitter.

That’s the Reaction. Here’s the Reality: even though we saved our buses,  the problem of a $12 million operating deficit looms large. And now they’re threatening to charge children who depend on the bus a fee for riding the bus. The board couldn’t tell us what that fee might be nor when they’ll know.

Which means our work is not even close to being over. We need everyone to stay in this effort.

Let’s be extraordinary. School communities are criticized for showing up when they’re about to lose something, and once they get what they want, they go back home and ignore the rest of the problem. Let’s not be that community. We can’t afford to be that community.

Cause the folks in charge of making the decisions haven’t changed. And they’re still charged with making big decisions.

The board who reinstated our buses is the same board that eliminated them.

The superintendent who thought this was the right way to deal with money troubles is still the superintendent.

The central office people who went along with this decision are still working in the central office.

The City Council who agreed with the decision to eliminate buses are still our city leaders.

The Mayor who thought we’d be fine without buses is still the Mayor.

The PTA and PTO leaders who said not a single word in support of reinstating the buses are still the same people.

The Chamber of Commerce, the civic groups, the teachers, the principals…all of the people who stood by and said absolutely nothing in support of reinstating buses are still here.

In short: nothing has changed. The people in charge of making this decision, the people who made this decision and supported this decision are still the ones in charge of making decisions.

Without the Department of Justice’s involvement and the current desegregation order, there would have been no immediate consequence to the board’s decision to eliminate buses.

We must remain vigilant. We must stay informed. We must continue to attend meetings, share information, and step up when the time comes to lend our voice to the discussion of how our community’s tax dollars are best allocated to educate the children in our Hoover community.

There will be many opportunities to share your gifts and talents in the battle to right the financial ship.

Thank you for your efforts. Through collective, collaborative efforts, we made this happen. The Department of Justice made this happen.

Celebrate. Re-energize. There is a long long road ahead.

We need each other. 

We will meet on Sunday at the Hoover Public Library (check the facebook page for the exact location) at 4:00 p.m. We will be making plans for the coming weeks. Sorry for the short notice. We just this moment decided to meet. Please join us.

We Got Our Buses Back! But…..

At Monday’s Board of Education meeting, the Board rescinded their decision to eliminate buses. Which means the children of Hoover got their buses back!

But.

Superintendent Andy Craig stated that the model that has emerged is one where students would pay a user fee to ride the bus. It was unclear whether this meant that those fees would only apply to transportation to and from school or whether that would be the case any time a student boarded a bus (as in field trips, athletic or other extracurricular trips).

The fee would be based on whatever the difference is in what the state provides for transportation and what the remaining unfunded portion is. Craig said that he is working with Alabama State Department of Education Chief of Staff Dr. Craig Pouncey to determine exactly what the unfunded cost of providing transportation actually is.

Certainly any amounts for transportation or employees that were not directly related to transporting students to and from school would be removed from the equation. Right?

Craig has said all along that the unfunded amount of student transportation was $2.5 million for FY13. However, state Student Transportation Director Joe Lightsey told al.com that the amount is only $1.5 million.

[You may remember that we calculated the actual savings if non-special-education student transportation was eliminated to be only $850,000. Our calculation did not determine the current unfunded amount, only what the savings would be if general education transportation was eliminated but special education transportation was continued. Apples and oranges. Just want to keep the numbers clear.]

Al.com’s Jon Anderson calculated the cost per rider, on a sheer TOTAL UNFUNDED AMOUNT/NUMBER OF RIDERS to be

  • $380 a year per student if the unfunded amount is $2.5 million, or
  • $228 a year per student if the unfunded amount is $1.5 million.

However, the amount is actually unknown. And getting to that Actual Unfunded Amount is the key for Hoover’s families who depend on bus transportation.

But.

The U.S. Attorney’s office has gone on the record here, and the Department of Justice (DOJ) has gone on the record here to say that any plan would have to be cleared to ensure that access to public schools would not be impeded by charging that fee.

But.

State Department Chief of Staff Craig Pouncey said the state department is open to allowing city districts to charge user fees for buses.

But.

State Department Transportation Director Lightsey said that any fee would have to accommodate children eligible for free or reduced lunch prices.

Bottom line: we must stay vigilant.

We are just getting started.

Stay tuned for meeting announcements.