Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Merger of Rawlings and Metcalfe Elementary Schools

A call came into the NAACP about a possible proposal that would come before the School Board of Alachua County (SBAC) to merge Metcalfe Elementary School and Rawlings Elementary School. The Executive Committee Meeting was suspended on February 16, 2010 and instead the members attended the SBAC meeting. President Michael Bowie inquired about the proposal and was informed that a proposal would be presented to the School Board at the March 2, 2010 meeting and that a public forum would take place on March 16, 2010. On February 26, Dr. Bowie met with NAACP lawyers and went over a copy of the PowerPoint entitled from that he drafted a response to the proposal entitled School Consolidation Proposal Metcalfe and Rawlings.

At the School Board meeting on March 2, 2010, the following request was to made to the School Board:

“Today, I come before you, on behalf of the Alachua County Branch of the NAACP and the many parents that I have spoken with, to request information that may be pertinent to the merger of Metcalfe and Rawlings elementary schools. As you contemplate the merger of these two institutions, please provide the community with the following information:

• Please provide me with the data of children living in the zoned areas for Rawlings and Metcalfe elementary schools that receive zoning exemptions and please include race, reason for exemption, and school that the student was exempted to.
• On the School Board website, there is a PowerPoint that is entitled “School Consolidation Proposal Metcalfe and Rawlings.” What does transitional support mean? How long would transitional support be in place?
• In the same document, it is listed that there will be a savings of $700,000. Please provide us with an itemized list of those savings.
• How will you address the class-size amendment in reference to the number of children in each classroom at the merged schools? What will be the student teacher ratio?
• What support will be provided to the students in the area of counseling? What is the current demand? Will there be a need for more than one counselor at the merged school due to the overwhelming needs of the children?
• Currently, you have two schools that are educationally insufficient, possibly due to the lack of adequate resources. What is the plan that you have made to ensure that the children at the merged school will be successful?
• What type of appropriate evaluation and assessment will you provide to ensure that students at the new merged school will succeed?
• What promises have you made to Beth LeClear and Felecia Moss, the current principals of the merged schools?
• What will become of the faculty hired by each principal to aid the school in succeeding?
• How can you ensure the community that the future of Rawlings is not similar to the fate of Prairie View Elementary School, especially since it is following the same pattern? With the closing of Rawlings Elementary School as an academic institution, that will mean two schools in East Gainesville have been closed in the last eight years.
• Can you provide the community with information on the possible sale of Prairie View Elementary School and the impact that will have on that community? Also can you provide the community with the projected use of the funds received from the sale?
• Will children currently living in the Rawlings area be bussed to Metcalfe Elementary School?
• What after-school support will children living currently in the area zoned for Rawlings receive? Will after-school bussing be provided?

Because there is a push to resolve this with minimal community input, i.e. the rush to make a decision on April 20, 2010, please provide the community with the answers to these questions within a week’s time. Also I am requesting a community meeting at Rawlings and/or Metcalfe so that the Board can get the full perspective of the community and parents prior to any decision about closure. Please send your response to naacpacb1@yahoo.com. Thank you.”

The School Board added the NAACP questions and their responses to the PowerPoint and made it available on the SBAC Homepage.

On March 15, 2010, the NAACP met with several concerned individuals to prepare for the Public Forum on March 16, 2010. At that time, it was discovered that the Superintendent was no longer recommending the consolidation of the two schools because an opportunity arose that could result in one of the schools (Rawlings Elementary School) receiving $1.5 million in grant funds over the next three years. Those members in attendance decided to join together to support the public schools on the Eastside; the new organization would be named the Eastside Coalition for Student Achievement. Several points were put together and on March 16th, President Bowie read the following:

“Dear Chairwoman Childs, School Board Members, and Superintendent Daniel Boyd,

We thank you for making the decision to revise the proposal presented at the previous Board Meeting to merge the student populations of Rawlings Elementary School and Metcalfe Elementary School. The funds that Rawlings, Duval and Hawthorne Middle/High are eligible for will hopefully help in boosting the academic performance of the students attending those institutions. In addition, continued support of Metcalfe Elementary School by the School Board, the district and the community will ensure that it will thrive as an institution for learning and development for years to come. It is the desire of many people here today that the School Board will continue to place children first in their decisions and continue to provide the two individual schools, Metcalfe and Rawlings, with additional support over the next year and for years to come.

One excellent result of this issue was that it brought many different organizations, businesses, institutions and individuals together to address the future of not just the two schools that were threatened by the merger, but also all public institutions in Alachua County. After meeting to discuss the original proposal, many of us would like to commit to ensuring that all schools, but more importantly schools on the eastside receive the necessary support to be successful in their learning environments. To that end, the Eastside Coalition for Student Achievement was formed, which is supported by parents, educators, businesses, organizations, and concerned citizens. We think that we can utilize the resources and energy of this coalition to be an asset in the Eastside community and to support the work you do as a School Board for the success of every child.

As a member of the coalition, I’d like to ask the parents who came out tonight to take this time to share their vision for excellence for their children as well as any longstanding concerns or issues that they feel should be addressed in order for their child to have the best education possible. We would like to be a part of that solution. We would also like to ask school board members to establish a commission that is willing to work with this coalition for the benefit of Eastside schools. We are asking that the make up of this commission be selected by agreement of both the School Board and this newly formed coalition.

I look forward to your response on this proposal and to working with you to provide Alachua County’s children with a high quality education and the necessary support. Thank you.”

Although no response as of yet has been made by the School Board of Alachua County in reference to the commission, the Coalition will be meeting to develop goals.

Dr. Bowie

Dr. Michael V. Bowie, President
Alachua County Branch
National Association for the
Advancement of Colored People
PO Box 593
Gainesville, FL 32602
E-mail: naacpacb1@yahoo.com

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Biomass Plant

The NAACP sent a letter drafted by Josh Dickinson to the City Commission addressing concerns over the building of a 100 MW Biomass Plant in 2013 for energy (see attached) and requested a meeting to discuss this development as soon as possible. A meeting took place on March 15, 2010 with Kathy Viehe (GRU Assistant General Manager, Customer Support Services), J. Lewis Walton (GRU Marketing Manager, Utilities), Robert Hunzinger (GRU General Manager), Nona C. Jones (GRU Community Relations), Dr. Michael V. Bowie (NAACP President), NKwanda Jah (NAACP Executive Committee Member), Josh Dickinson (NAACP Executive Committee Member), and City Commissioner Scherwin Henry (District 1).

We discussed the impact that a 100 MW Biomass plant that would cost $500 million would have on the low income populations of Gainesville who often live in energy inefficient rental properties and use high energy appliances. The company (GRE, LLC) that would sell the energy to GRU would place its cost (of building the plant and producing the energy) in the price and the cost to GRU would be passed on to the customer. We also discussed the need for a Biomass Plant so soon, as opposed to the development of conservation strategies that will extend the deadline (of 2023) for the need of this new plant. Finally, the size of the plant was discussed since a 100 MW plant would require more wood. GRU presented the NAACP with a cost analysis of building different size plants.

During this conversation, several things came to light including a 3-tier structure for paying for electricity. The numbers although they may not be accurate, provide an idea of what the cost currently is:
  • 2.8 cents when the usage is less than or equal to 250 kilowatt hours.
  • 6.0 cents when the usage is between 250 and 750 kilowatt hours
  • 10.2 cents when the usage is greater than 750 kilowatt hours
(Note: the average GRU customer uses 813 kilowatt hours.)

Finally, we discussed the development of an ordinance that would require landlords to ensure that their property was energy efficient. Commissioner Henry commented that the city could not stipulate specific conditions for the property of landlords. They would have to require it for all homeowners. A concern that was presented to those in attendance was that the letter was sent to the City Commission and yet GRU was addressing the concerns.

Josh wrote the follow-up letter to Robert Hunzinger (General Manager):


Yesterday's meeting was useful and informative. I believe GRU has initiated a number of programs with the potential for significantly benefiting our lower income population. It is up to our City Commission to authorize and facilitate a scaling up of the most effective efforts by GRU. Perhaps NAACP, 4As and other groups could support GRU in its educational outreach efforts.

Some areas are outside the purview of GRU, such as dealing with rental unit landlords. However, GRU via its network of contacts with other utilities might be able to identify innovative strategies that could be brought to the attention of our Commission.

I agree that "Doing nothing is not an option". I maintain that there are other options than a 100 MW biomass plant that could positively change both the size of the energy consumption pie and the relative sizes of the pieces of the pie (see Page 7 of your "The Future of Energy Production in Gainesville"). Aggressive expansion of existing and new conservation, efficiency and education programs represent obvious options that would benefit our lower income population while reducing GRU's need for additional generation capacity.

Outside the box..........GRU's progressive rate structure under which those using more energy pay more per KWh is a step in the right direction. An unintended consequence is that those who are profligate energy users by choice pay the same higher rate as the low income home owner/renter with poor insulation, old/faulty appliances, and incandescent lighting. How might this inequity be corrected?

With best regards,

Josh Dickinson"

I am asking that Josh and NKwanda add any additional information in reference to this matter.

Dr. Bowie

Dr. Michael V. Bowie, President
Alachua County Branch
National Association for the
Advancement of Colored People
PO Box 593
Gainesville, FL 32602
E-mail: naacpacb1@yahoo.com