The Caesar Rodney Board of Education unanimously approved its school choice plan for next year, but one board member expressed frustration that the vote represented little more than an administrative approval of a plan dictated to the district by the state.
Melody Heavner, who in November said she didn’t feel the state gave the board enough time to consider the choice rules, spoke out again at the Dec. 17 meeting.
“It bothers me that this is put out by the state and we can read it over and make our little changes but… really this is going to stay intact for the state,” Heavner said. “We’re reading it and were doing all the right things, but really it’s cast in stone.”
The board unanimously approved the first reading of its school choice plan, which has been aligned with House Bill 90, passed by legislators to ensure more fairness in the choice process.
The Board did review one of the sections of choice policy they do control, the section that establishes what criteria the district can use to give prioritize student acceptance.
Under the new policy, students given a priority to attend district schools before it is opened up to new choice students from outside the district include: returning students, students whose parents live within the district’s feeder pattern, siblings of students who already attend school in the district, students who live in the district but wish to choice into another district school, active military dependents seeking to attend a district school per the contract with Dover Air Force Base and students with extenuating circumstances per superintendent approval.
The first three priority criteria are laid out in Delaware code regarding school choice. Caesar Rodney added the criteria for intra district choice and military students.
After accounting for all those students, priority would be given to those who listed a Caesar Rodney school as the first-, second- or third-ranked school on their list of schools to choice into. Finally, priority would be given to the children of school employees. Following admission of those priority students, the district would create a ranked waiting list based on a lottery system.
The district can prevent a choice student from returning to a district school if that pupil has failing grades, more than nine absences or a major disciplinary incident such as a suspension or expulsion. In order for the student to be removed from the Caesar Rodney district, however, their home district would have to accept them back.
The proposed policy will go through two more readings before becoming official policy. It must be in place before the district begins accepting school choice applications for next school year, said Tamara Toles-Torain, administrative assistant to the superintendent. Under Delaware code, the new policy is supposed to be in place by Jan. 8, but the district is not aware of any penalty for a delay in implementation, Toles-Torain said.
Page 2 of 2 - “State law trumps school board policy anyway,” she said. “What’s already in effect will continue to apply. State law will apply until the official policy is in place.”
A vote on the Fiscal Year 2014 budget was postponed until the Jan. 21 Board meeting because Dr. Ada Carter, director of business and finance, could not attend the Dec. 17 meeting.