Slouching Towards Cape May?

The Philadephia Daily News has a piece today describing a consolidation threat in the Cape May County school district of Wildwood City. Apparently the mayor of Wildwood, Ernest Troiano Jr., has written a letter to the local school board “suggesting” that the district close Wildwood High to lower taxes. He has, of course, no authority over the district and says himself that he doesn’t know if the closure would be cheaper than tuition payments to another district. No matter:

“Everyone is bitching about taxes,” Troiano told the Daily News

The town’s reaction? Not sanguine. Said City Commissioner Gary De Marzon,

He might as well [have] asked for, and sent a letter demanding a lasting peace in the Gaza Strip or the revolution to end in Sierra Leone.

Let’s take a closer look at Wildwood High. (All data from DOE: see here.) For starters, it’s the smallest high school in the state and trending downward: 276 kids in the 2006-2007 school year, compared to 302 kids in 2003-2004. A surprisingly large number of children, 24.4%, have IEP’s, which deem them eligible for special education services. The mobility rate is 21%, compared with the State average of 10%.

Wildwood is tagged with the lowest possible District Factor Group (DFG), an “A,” which is the lowest socio-economic level possible on the State scale of A through J. In 2006-2007 36.5% of kids failed the Language Arts HSPA and 54% failed the Math portion, typical for their DFG. Only 75% of their kids graduate, compared to the State average of 92.3%. And for all this ignominy they spend $19,449 per pupil, about $6,000 more per kid than the State average.

No, they’re not an Abbott district, though arguably they should be. If they were, the State would pick up the bulk of the cost and Mayor Troiano would be spared the bitching of taxpayers, poor dear.

For comparison’s sake, let’s look at a district we profiled on Saturday. (See below.) Princeton Township Regional School District, DFG I, is scrabbling madly to avoid the State’s push for standardization and consolidation, which they deem a “forced march to mediocrity.” Translation? We don’t want to be like Wildwood. And who can blame them? Princeton offers 28 AP courses to their privileged population. Wildwood High offers 4, a startling dichotomy in spite of the much higher number of kids in Princeton High. A minuscule 4.6% of kids in Princeton failed the Language Arts HSPA and 9.5% failed the Math portion. 99.4% of their kids graduate, compared to 75% in Wildwood.

Astonishingly, these two cohorts of teenagers attend school in the same State.

Should Wildwood High close? Would those 276 kids benefit by going to, say, Ocean City High School with a DFG of DE, 18 AP courses, and above-average test scores? Or even Lower Cape May County High School, which only has a DFG of B but offers 8 AP courses, has a graduation rate of 84.4%, and lists LA and Math HSPA failure rates of, respectively, 14% and 30.5%?

It’s not all about numbers. But it is about kids (and we challenge anyone to find a reference to the welfare of children in the Philly Daily News article). Forget about Wildwood’s thoughtless government officials. Wildwood High School should close. Heck, send them to Princeton.

What do you think?

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