The good news for South Columbia Elementary School is that their Spanish program is finally getting $50,000 promised last year.
The bad news is the school has become a pawn in a political game.
It was last December that State School Superintendent Linda Schrenko, a Columbia County resident, rode into town to make a dramatic rescue. The countys participation in the states elementary foreign language model program was endangered because of changes in curriculum that rigidly structured the school day. Schrenko was a big supporter of the limited state program, and was rightly concerned that her home county could drop out at a time when initial studies proved its success.
Carrying a $50,000 check for Stevens Creek Elementary - the school whose parents were fighting hardest to keep the program - Schrenko used money from federal contract funds to help rescue elementary foreign language.
But the questions immediately arose: What about South Colum-bia? Didnt their program deserve support, too? With the disparity becoming glaringly obvious, Schrenko - a former South Colum-bia principal - in March promised the school a matching $50,000 gift.
Already waiting since December, South Columbia waited some more.
early nine months after the gift to Stevens Creek, South Columbia parents were understandably upset: I am very frustrated that we havent gotten the money, says Dell Oliver, the mother of a South Columbia fourth-grader. It is totally unfair for her to give it to one school.
State School Board Chairman Cathy Henson agrees. She has been giving away grants of federal funds on a very partial basis, Henson says of Schrenko. One of the things that we want to be concerned with is that grants are available to all schools on an equal footing. And when you have a superintendent who gives away little pots of money for whatever reason or no reason, I think other schools rightly feel that theyre being slighted. Thats the whole reason for having an objective grant process.
Its no surprise that Henson would take shots at Schrenko. She chairs an openly antagonistic board appointed by Gov. Roy Barnes, replacing previous members who had worked out a truce with Schrenko.
Thats part of Schrenkos explanation for the delay in the South Columbia grant. She says the state board interferes with her handling of the Department of Educations funding, and South Columbia is caught in the middle as the board played political power games.
Those games may not be over. Though South Columbia now has its check, the state school board is challenging the source of the money. Schrenko says the funds came from bits and pieces gleaned from the Department of Education budget; Henson doubts such bits exist at a time when the department is getting hit with budget cuts.
But please, whoever is right: Let South Columbia keep the money and move on. Quit making the school a punching bag for a political disagreement.
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