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Charter school resolution, common wage hearing prompt debate at FWCS board meeting

Tuesday, February 26, 2013 - 12:01 am

Looks like Glenna Jehl can count on at least one vote, should she decide to seek re-election to the Fort Wayne Community Schools District 2 board seat she currently holds.

During Monday's board meeting, Jehl was the lone member to vote against a resolution that would mean the board "opposes the granting of a charter to conduct a school on the campus of the former Taylor University property or elsewhere in the FWCS district," as worded in the resolution.

That would mean that while each member of the board is entitled to his or her personal opinion – and though the resolution itself has no legal meaning since charter schools and their authorizing process are defined and controlled by state law – when speaking on behalf of the board, the collective opinion is to oppose any new charters in FWCS territory. The measure passed 6-1, with Mark GiaQuinta, Steve Corona, Julie Hollingsworth, Becky Hill, Jordan Lebamoff and Lisa Olinger voting in favor.

Jehl said she opposed the resolution because her position is that charter schools empower parents to make choices about where and how they want their children to be educated, adding "I don't believe that every charter is going to fail."

Three charter schools in Fort Wayne – both Imagine schools, as well as the Timothy L. Johnson Academy – have been informed by Ball State University that their charters are being revoked.

"The charter schools are also public schools. Competition is healthy," Jehl added.

GiaQuinta, the board president, expressed disappointment in Jehl's choice not to support the resolution, refuting Jehl's assertion that 100 or so students are not necessarily impactful to the district by offering examples of how students lost to FWCS cost the district a measure of funding – an answer that appeared to prompt a response during the public address of the meeting.

A speaker actually thanked Jehl for her stance, saying that he was glad to have voted for her while reminding the rest of the board that "It's still my money," with regard to the tax dollars collected from residents that fund public education, adding that he believed that he has the right to choose where his child would attend school.

While Olinger supported the resolution, she questioned why the board would even vote on such a measure, preferring instead that the board address "things that we can do something about."

GiaQuinta also responded there, saying that the resolution was meant to show support to the teachers and professionals in the district, so all are aware of where the board stands.

Resolutions weren't the only area of disagreement during Monday's meeting, as Olinger said she was "dismayed at our common wage hearing" – that meeting took place Feb. 12, where projects totaling $23.7 million were approved at a higher, union-wage level than bids submitted by non-union contractors.

Olinger said that it appeared that the board had "no problem spending someone else's dime," as well as that the board had a responsibility to be as frugal as possible – and that while wasteful spending may just be a perception in the community, "it's a perception that we don't want."

GiaQuinta responded that the responsibility is not to choose the lowest wage, but the common wage, and that more information needs to be submitted by non-union contractors that will help establish what the common wage is.

Also: The board unanimously approved construction contracts for Current Mechanical ($1,035,900), Fetters Construction ($786,375) and Esco Communications ($221,850) for various projects in the district, including the replacement of the fire alarm system at Wayne High School. Another $1,333,691 was approved for window replacement and masonry restoration at Adams, Abbett and Shambaugh elementaries. Forest Park Elementary's 7th-place finish in the Indiana Association of School Principals' Science Bowl was recognized, as was Holland Elementary's Gold Award of Distinction for being a healthier school.