School administrators should have known they wouldn't win, for a second time, a five-year federal grant that paid for free after-school care for needy families, the School Board chairman said Tuesday.
John Dick noted that the district had scant after-school attendance at schools such as Glynn Archer Elementary, where about 40 percent of students showed up for the free programs last year.
The 21st Century Community Learning Center Program expects an 80 percent attendance rate of eligible children.
Grants Manager Nancy Romain said that Monroe County schools overall did have good attendance for the program. She said that the application this year even omitted the two Marathon schools, since their after-school program drew few kids.
The federal money is available to Florida school districts that show a need, as well as for and nonprofits.
"It's highly competitive," Romain told the board, adding that the federal program targets poor-performing schools, which Monroe lacks, being an A-rated district for six years running.
"There was $15 million on the table," said Dick, seemingly skeptical of the district's handling of the whole matter. "They did move $5 million for 'D' and 'F' schools."
Dick said the board should have been told immediately of the rejected grant application. He also lamented the fact that the grant, which infused Monroe with $1.2 million the first year and $800,000 in the last, is meant to be seed money, and the district didn't prepare for the possibility of losing it.
"All this time we were supposed to be setting it up so it's sustainable," Dick said.
The School District will apply again next year for the five-year federal grant, along with free after-school care for needy families, Superintendent Mark Porter said Tuesday.
Next time, Porter said, the schools will partner with a nonprofit.
Board member Ron Martin, a former high school principal, questioned an item on the agenda that promises $39,000 for 26 days of work by a Florida psychologist to review the district's special needs program.
Timothy Vollmer, a behavior analyst, will consult with special needs students and their teachers throughout Monroe County.
The board unanimously approved the contract, but added a requirement that Vollmer make a report explaining his work.
"Fifteen hundred dollars a day for up to 21 days?" Martin asked, addressing Catherine Kanagy, the district's Exceptional Student Education specialist. "One hundred and fifty dollars an hour to talk on the phone?"
The item had been on the consent agenda, a list of items on which the board votes in one move, without discussion.
Martin apologized to Kanagy, but compared Vollmer's contract to "teachers that don't have $50 to spend on supplies for one year."
The contract drew a few sarcastic smirks in the room.
"He is one of the top behavior analysts in the nation," Kanagy said. "The difference he has made in some of the lives of our children is remarkable."
Vollmer, a professor at the University of Florida at Gainesville, observes the district's Exceptional Student Education program and provides written recommendations and reports for the staff to use year-round, the contract states.
Martin pointed out that the contract has the district paying Vollmer for five days of paperwork, at $150 an hour, for a total of $5,250.
Vollmer will also do 15 hours of consulting work over the phone at $150 an hour, for a total of $2,250.
Kanagy said that Vollmer hasn't raised his rates since he got hired.
"My God, I hope not," Martin said.
"That's a virtue?" asked Ed Davidson, a regular spectator at the board meetings, who is running for the District 3 seat on the nonpartisan panel, from the seating gallery.
Davidson, who faces former Principal John Welsh in the Nov. 6 general election, also said, "Don't apologize," to Martin, for airing out the contract.
Board settles up
Also last night, the board approved a settlement with special needs teacher Janet Faber.
The district says Faber is resigning, even though she successfully fought a push to fire her over an allegation she spanked a 5-year-old girl in a Sugarloaf classroom last year.
She will receive $23,213, the back pay and benefits she lost while suspended from February until July after a kindergarten teacher accused her of twice spanking the girl, who has a form of autism.
Faber denied touching the student, and this year agreed to transfer to Glynn Archer Elementary in Key West.
Dick questioned why the district tried to fire her based on the word of one teacher. Attorney Theron Simmons, who represents the board, told Dick that teacher Charity King was found to be a "sincere witness" by a state administrative law judge, who also found her testimony vague.
The judge simply didn't believe King over Faber after reviewing the evidence, Simmons said.
Faber, of Ramrod Key, most recently earned $49,791 a year and was hired by the district in July 2005.