Twelve applications from parents wanting to move their child out of Kenwood Elementary have been received by Bowling Green City Schools.
Eight of those are for kindergarteners who haven’t yet stepped foot inside the building.
That is the immediate fallout from Kenwood being named an EdChoice school earlier this year.
The designation means parents can apply for scholarship money to attend a private school of their choice.
Superintendent Francis Scruci on Tuesday addressed what he called misunderstandings that have occurred since announcing Kenwood was designated an EdChoice School.
“Kenwood is not a failing school and staff at that building are working extremely hard to offer a quality education for our students,” he said at the board of education meeting.
He said the “flawed system” that is the State Report Card led to this designation.
“Regardless, these are the rules and we have to play by those rules,” Scruci said.
This past year, the district has enjoyed many successes, including in October being notified it had earned its way out of the Ohio improvement Process, he said. Bowling Green was named the 2018 Outstanding District by the Ohio Leadership Advisory Council and each building has been designated and independent building meaning they met and exceeded requirements set by the state for growth and achievement.
However, the state uses data from past K-3 Literacy results on the State Report Card to place schools in EdChoice.
Results from 2012-13, 2013-14 and 2017-18 were used, and if a school receives a “D” or “F” in two of those three years, it becomes an EdChoice School.
“Do we have struggling readers at Kenwood? Absolutely. Are we addressing the issues? Absolutely,” Scruci said.
The school is doing focused reading groups, reading improvement plans, concentrated assessments and progress monitoring to address the issue, he said.
“I would not be embarrassed for my children to go to that school,” Scruci said.
Poverty in the community is exacerbating the issue, he said, adding that the demographics at Kenwood have changed.
“It is a tough and uphill battle when many of these students are coming from low-income families and are not at the same level as many of our other students,” he said.
But “every kid can learn, and every kid has the right to an education.”
“We’re not pleased with where we are. We will dig our way out of that. It is going to take some time, in three-year increments,” Scruci said.
The scores from 2018-19 will force 2012-13 to fall off; scores from 2020-21 will knock 2013-14 scores off, he said. Scores from 2017-18 were good, he added.
Students must first be accepted into a parochial or private school before applying for a scholarship. The EdChoice scholarship amount is $4,650 for grades K-8 and pays for tuition only.
Resident Grant Chamberlain said he had a parent approach him, and he provided information to two of the local parochial schools.
“If there’s one that came all the way to me … there’s more than one,” he said.
Chamberlain asked what the district is going to do to make sure parents know their choices.
“Those people have options and they have to be made aware of those options,” he said.
Scruci said a letter was sent to every family at Kenwood, via email.
Chamberlain, in a later email to the board, pointed out that nowhere in that letter was a course of action for parents, since it listed no phone number to call, no website to visit, and no list of schools that will accept applications.
The first application period ends April 30.
“Your initial delay cost these parents a month,” Chamberlain wrote. “Now you have parents searching in every direction. Get it together and help these people.”
Richard Strow said it is disingenuous to blame state laws for what has happened.
“All the other districts in the state have the same rules that we are under. Unfortunately, we failed in this circumstance,” he said.
Strow asked, if the correct steps are taken, how long will it be before this issue is solved.
The minimum is two years, Scruci said.
Strow asked the board to tell the public exactly what it will do to solve this issue.
“It’s a terrible embarrassment to be on the list,” he said.
Board President Ginny Stewart said she has been in classrooms at Kenwood, and that “it’s heartbreaking that we are valuing this on such a flawed system.”
She invited anyone to spend a day at Kenwood, assuring them they would be as appalled as she is about this designation.
Kathleen Daney, principal at Kenwood, asked everyone to reach out to local legislators.
Flaws in the report card are under discussion, she said.
“It isn’t a good system, knowing that this school – this district – will be losing money based on a very small piece of the paper. It makes no sense,” she said.