Ms. Paula Harris, superintendent of Allendale, continued her testimony today, stating that money matters, especially when it comes to hiring teachers. She expressed particular concern about the quality of instruction, noting that some vocational programs had to be cancelled due to low student success rates. Although Ms. Harris outlined efforts such as professional development and the use of teacher specialists that often improve teacher quality, she maintained that the frequent change in leadership and teaching staff that happens despite this has a devastating effect. Ms. Harris also detailed the condition of Allendale's facilities. She explained that a severe lack of space has led to the conversion of a stage and locker rooms into classrooms. Instruction was further hampered by poor facilities, she said, when last winter the middle school was forced to shut down for a few days because the boilers would not work. In some areas facilities act as a draw, in Allendale they act as a disincentive, Ms. Harris said, looking at slides of water damage.
When questioned about Allendale's troubled history, Ms. Harris explored some of the factors that led to the State Department of Education's takeover of the district in 1999. She explained that while remedial programs have been instituted in Allendale, they rely heavily on grant money that is running out, and her ability to hire qualified teachers hasn't improved. Ms. Harris testified that substantial progress has been made since the takeover, but was resolute that close doesn't count.
Cross-examination of Ms. Harris will continue tomorrow. Following her testimony, the plaintiff expects to call Mrs. Judy Franchini, Principal of Allendale Elementary School, to the stand.