Privatizing Education Costs More


On January 5th, when selling the privatization of our educational system to the Huntsville City Board of Education, Dr. Wardynski claimed that The Pinnacle Schools could provide more and better services than The Seldon Center at a savings of $7,000 per student.

In other words, farming out the work that The Seldon Center did made perfect sense. Dr. Wardynski told us that the Seldon Center cost $18,000 per student, and that The Pinnacle Schools would only cost $11,000 per student.

And yet on Sunday, May 27th, the Huntsville Times reported, “The most expensive contract, as of May 16, ran about $778,000. That was with Pinnacle Schools, the Huntsville-based treatment center that is replacing the district’s Seldon Center in working with serious discipline problems.”

That’s three quarters of a million dollars for four months of work.

Bonvillian then quotes Mr. Frank Spinelli the CSFO of the district as claiming that the switch “cuts the district’s cost of educating its most troubled students nearly in half.”

This matches up well with the figures that Dr. Wardynski shared with the board back in January.

The only problem is that it doesn’t match up with reality.

Bonvillian reports that shutting down The Seldon Center will save the district “$525,500 per school year.”

She goes on to say that the contract for The Pinnacle Schools for the 2012-2013 school year will cost $1.2 million.

You know, I’m an English major, so math isn’t my strong suit. Math Sucks. I know that saying math sucks to a city full of engineers is akin to saying to a new mom, “You know, there are ugly babies,” but there you go.

Mr. Spinelli, however, has chosen math as his career, and supposedly he’s worth the $130,000 a year we’re paying him, but I’m not sure I understand how paying $1.2 million a year to The Pinnacle Schools cuts our annual expenses of $525,500 a year in half?

Please, correct me if I’m wrong, but $1.2 million a year is actually more than twice what we were paying before to operate the Seldon Center. Right?

You know, I often get dividing things by two and multiplying things by two backwards. I’m sure that’s what happened this time to Mr. Spinelli. Maybe he meant to say that it would cost twice as much rather than half as much?

That’s an easy mistake to make.

I should probably cut Mr. Spinelli some slack here. After all, I’m fairly certain that he’s received a suggestion or two about the importance of making sure these numbers look good to the public. Otherwise, people might have an issue with privatizing things like services to some of the neediest kids in the district.

Of course balancing the budget on the backs of our neediest kids is old hat to Wardynski.

Oh, and just in case you couldn’t put two and two together, this problem that the district has with math should raise questions about the “630% return on consultant fees” that they claimed as fact at the last board meeting.

They seem to have a habit of over estimating things they think will make them look good.

"Children see magic because they look for it." --Christopher Moore, Lamb: The Gospel according to Biff, Jesus' childhood pal.


  1. ” Otherwise, people might have an issue with privatizing things like services to some of the neediest kids in the district.”

    They would have a problem with the Seldon Center being closed and their children being sent to a private drug treatment facility IF THEY KNEW ABOUT IT. Ask any parent/tax payer if they know the Seldon Center is closed and children are being sent to Pinnacle and they say Heck No, then they ask where is Pinnacle.

    The school board changed the rules in the middle of the night, I mean school year and didn’t inform the parents/taxpayers.

    More on this at RedEye’s page.

  2. Thank you, Russell! I think I did a spit-take when I read those numbers (a sad waste of coffee,) and my gut instinct said, “Let me see your work.” I studied English only because I wasn’t “in love” with math. Silly me. But I’m willing to guess that this “630%” return includes much future speculation.

    “Future speculation with large returns.” Isn’t that what tanked Enron and set this whole economic down-trend in motion? People betting on imaginary things? Ask any math major, “i” is an answer only in a theoretical world.

    (Ah, that’s the other reason I liked English. We acknowledged BS when we wrote it. Or at least read it.)

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