Challenger Learning Center

Dear JCPS – The Challenger Center Issues

@Dear_JCPS Representatives were present at Monday night’s board meeting to speak about Challenger Learning Center prior to the board’s vote. Gay Adelmann and Erin Korbylo brought up concerns they hope KSC’s Proposal (and related KSC Cost Schedule Form) — which were not available for public viewing until after approved Monday night — take into account.

keep calm

Here are a couple of stories that were posted after Monday night’s meeting.

JCPS Board Approves KSC’s Proposal (WDRB)

JCPS, Science Center Team Up on Challenger (Courier Journal)

The proposal contained some errors, incorrect assumptions and outdated information.

One glaring error in the KSC proposal that we noticed right away (once we were finally allowed to look at it Tuesday morning) was the statement that the Center had only conducted 30 missions for the year 2014-2015. In fact, the Center conducted 150 missions in 2014-2015, their best year ever. The KSC proposal states:

“Increasing the number of missions served per year from its current (approximately 30) to 150 and maximizing reach to supplementary student, family and corporate audiences will depend upon an active and widespread advertising campaign.”

With misinformation like that, no wonder JCPS thought they needed another plan.

One board member we spoke to after the meeting Monday night said he had thoroughly reviewed the proposal, however when pressed for what the $75,000 would be used for, he indicated it would be used to cover the $16,000 annual franchise fee, among other operational costs. However, according to the RFP, the franchise fee is tacked on as an additional expense to JCPS. And the proposal itself makes no reference to what the money goes toward, so we’re not sure where he got that idea. It appears to simply be a fee JCPS is paying KSC to run the center, regardless of how many missions they conduct or revenue they bring in. In addition, none of the board members we talked to knew how much JCPS students would be charged for each mission. So another concern we have is that since under the former arrangement, JCPS students came through at no cost, (their fees were covered by grants). If JCPS now has to pay $500 per mission, and sends 150 missions through, they just added another $75,000 to their overall cost allocations, they just moved it to a different column in the budget.  So, let’s see, we’re at $75,000 fee to KSC, $75,000 for JCPS students to come through, $16,000 for franchise fee. That’s $166,000. And once they bring in the anticipated $5,000 – $8,000 that KSC expects to pay JCPS based on their 10% mission revenue, the district will be on the hook for about $158,000.

Compare and contrast the supposed $250,000 was costing them (because it included a teacher’s and the acting director’s salary) we were unable to verify this is an apples to apples number), and subtract the $54,000 in grants they brought in as revenue, and adjust for the 3000 students who came through for free (a $75,000 value), and we’re at $121,000. Sounds like we just went in the wrong direction. And that doesn’t account for the estimated $250,000 to $500,000 in donations they were anticipating they could receive from the work they had done with a fundraising firm they engaged in the spring.

This is a STEM teaching program, not just a field trip, so another slippery slope that this brings up in our opinion is that they considered the teacher “an expense that was not paying for itself,” so they decided to eliminate it. Teachers are not here to bring profit to JCPS, as far as we’re aware. They’re here to teach, and that is what this seasoned science teacher was doing. In fact, she rewrote the mission curriculum to integrate with Kentucky Next Generation standards. And developed a hugely popular and successful Micronaut mission for the younger grades, which KSC does not plan to continue, according to their proposal.

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