Parents and Board Clash over Chalkboard Management

Kumquat Falls (API) In a heated school board meeting here Tuesday night, opponents and supporters squared off over whether to continue to allow a private, for-profit company to run Kumquat Falls High School. The company, Chalkboard Management Inc., has run Kumquat Falls High School for three years.

Although Chalkboard Management has yet to earn a profit from running the school, the company president, David Ross, believes those profits "are just around the corner."

"We are making cost saving moves that should eventually allow us to meet all of our fixed and variable costs," he said.

Those cost saving moves were just what ignited the controversy. A group of parents addressed the board Tuesday night, complaining that the cost saving measures were ruining programs that had once been important parts of the school.

"My son can't play football this year because the company has discontinued the football program," said City Councilman Hector Gomez.

"Only forty boys were out for football, but with coaches, equipment, facilities, transportation and insurance it costs over $1000 per player to field a team," replied Ross. "We are offering boys intramural volleyball to take the place of football, at a much lower cost per player."

"Let the boys pay their own $1000 if they want to play," said Kathleen O'Brien, a retired banker, and leader of group of citizens who support Chalkboard Management. "It's too expensive and it doesn't include enough kids."

"But we all enjoyed going to the games," said Latesha Welby, Student Senate President. "It was fun to do, and the success of the team gave us all a sense of community pride."

Maria Red Cloud complained of large class sizes. "My daughter is in an advanced calculus class with forty-one students. Is this right?"

"We have a special situation here, Ms. Red Cloud," said Ross. "We have forty-one students who have qualified for this class, and we can't turn them away. But it is difficult to find qualified calculus teachers who will work at the base salary we are offering, or who will only work part-time. Besides, the number of students who are staying in school has increased over the last three years. Students are not dropping out like they used to since we started offering the $500 graduation bonus to seniors. With more students staying in school, there are going to be more students in all the classrooms."

At the end of the meeting, twenty requests to transfer out of Kumquat Falls were submitted to the board. More than half came from boys who wanted to play football at other schools.

The board then went into closed session to discuss a possible tax increase for next year.

Chalkboard Management Inc. is not associated with the company bidding to run the high school in Stephens County. That company, Educational Management Systems Inc., will be meeting with the Stephens County Board of Education and interested citizens tonight.

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