MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

March 24, 2011

State: Boynton must close

Troubled area school had lowest Academic Performance Index score in state by large margin

By Wendy Burton
Phoenix Staff Writer

— Boynton-Moton Public Schools had the lowest Academic Performance Index score in the state — by 100 points, according to a report by the Oklahoma State Department of Education.

The API score, based on student assessments in mathematics, reading and science, is one reason the State Board of Education decided to close the school district, effective June 30.

Boynton-Moton Superintendent Shelbie Williams had no comment about the school closing.

Boynton-Moton has a total API of 335 for 2009-2010, according to the SDE.

The scale for API scores ranges from 0-1500 with 1092 as the current state average for regular education students.

At Thursday’s meeting, SDE workers who had visited Boynton-Moton several weeks ago reported to the school board on their findings, said Damon Gardenhire, communications director for Superintendent Janet Barresi.

Assistant State Superintendent Jack Herron told the board that recent audits showed a pattern of problems in the district.

Additionally, several points of non-compliance with state guidelines were found during that visit, Gardenhire said.

Non-compliance also was found in the child nutrition program, Gardenhire said. The district reportedly owes the state $17,000 for meals that weren’t actually served.

Boynton-Moton has had financial problems for a number of years. In 2009-2010, the community raised funds to pay utility costs and keep the school running.

The high school was closed in fall 2010 because of a lack of funding.

The school was sued by attorneys for $35,000 in legal fees recently and by a former employee alleging wrongful termination. Neither of those suits have been settled.

Williams requested a feasibility study in February that resulted in the SDE recommending the district apply for annexation by Midway and Haskell Public Schools.

At a Feb. 28 Boynton-Moton board meeting, the decision on annexation was tabled.

The most recent API scores at Haskell are 873, and are 959 for Midway, according to state records.

Because the State Board of Education voted unanimously to remove accreditation from the district effective June 30, the district could be divided between Haskell and Midway Public Schools.

Midway schools are seven miles from the town of Boynton, and Haskell schools are 13 miles away.

Buses from both districts already pick up students in city limits for high school.

Once the school district is consolidated into Haskell and/or Midway districts, it is unlikely that the Boynton-Moton district can come back in the future, Gardenhire said.

Additionally, any assets and/or debt the Boynton-Moton district has at the time of annexation will be divided up between the districts with which it consolidates, Gardenhire said.

Any assets that are deemed unnecessary may be sold by the district to which they are annexed.

The debts could include outstanding utility bills and any settlements of pending lawsuits, he said.

If the State Board of Education votes to annex to Midway and Haskell, the SDE will notify parents within 10 days.

The issue will be on the next State Board of Education meeting agenda in April.

Parents will apply for transfers to the school of their choice.

Once that is completed, the state will split the district and its assets and liabilities accordingly.

Issues

Past Boynton-Moton Public Schools compliance issues presented to the State Board of Education at the regular board meeting Thursday:

• Lack of proper teaching credential.

• 38 units of credit courses not offered at the secondary level, grades 9-12.

• Local school board did not approve mathematics and science courses offered by Career Technology Center.

• College remediation report not presented to the board.

• American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds not repaid.

• Mandated reports not submitted in a timely manner.



Present compliance issues presented to the State Board of Education:

• Mandated reports not submitted in a timely manner.

• Accreditation application, high school.

• Dropout reports.

• No Comprehensive Local Education Plan found.

• Teaching certificate not on file.

• College transcripts not on file.

• Signed Loyalty Oath not on file.

• No documentation that Standards of Performance and Conduct for Teachers distributed.  

• Contracts for employment of teachers or administrators do not have required information.  

• No health services program on file.

• The district does not have specific procedures in place regarding medicines, accidents, emergencies and disasters.  

• Insufficient library expenditures for 2008-2009 and 2009-2010.

• Lack of compliance with “School Laws of Oklahoma Local board responsibilities/staff relationships” — “Lack of harmony in the teaching staff, board, or community, when such conditions affect the quality and effectiveness of instruction and climate of the school, shall be considered sufficient cause for not accrediting a school. Political and special interest groups or individuals shall not interfere in the operation of the schools.”

Reach Wendy Burton at (918) 684-2926 or wburton@muskogeephoenix.com.