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According to Amato, LINC never had such a contract.
"My first month here, they said, 'Here's a bill,'" Amato says. "So I say, 'OK, no problem.' I look in last year's budget for the $1.2 million LINC allegedly said we had to pay them and, lo and behold, I don't find it. Turns out there's no contract. It's not in dispute. They can't produce it."
Hobbs argues that the contract was a 1999 agreement with an automatic-renewal clause, but LINC officials were unable to supply the Pitch with a copy of the document as of press time. In any case, LINC ended its programs and pulled its computers and other equipment out of the district's rooms.
Also a mystery to some: LINC's accomplishments with its programs.
Consultant Christopher Henrich, an associate professor of psychology at Georgia State University, was hired during the 2004-05 school year to evaluate LINC for the federal 21st Century grant program, which funded some of LINC's work. He says he was never able to gather enough data to determine whether students in LINC programs improved academically; the review was stopped this year because of problems with the district. However, he says there was some evidence that middle-school students who attended regularly might have raised their test scores slightly.
What LINC clearly did do, Henrich claims, was establish bridges to other community organizations such as the YMCA, the Boys & Girls Clubs of America and the Boy Scouts. "What they were doing," he says, "was helping kids connect to their communities and to adults, something they need to do in a friendly setting."
Besides, he adds, "there weren't many families who needed the services and didn't get them. At Garfield Elementary alone, you've got a lot of underprivileged kids, and you'd be hard-pressed to find someone there who needed a LINC service they didn't get."
But some parents doubted the value of LINC's after-school programs. After a recent school board meeting, one mother complained that her son's involvement was only "sitting around watching movies, doing nothing."
Amato says he offered LINC a chance to continue working with the district. But he proposed an entirely different role for the organization, one that would have focused on LINC's ability to raise state and federal grant money. Amato says the two parties went back and forth on deals that were agreed upon, only to have LINC renege days later. LINC officials say they never agreed to anything.
Meanwhile, several surrounding districts have contacted LINC for programs now that its resources are available. Hobbs says the organization won't make any commitments until the end of this month.
Amato has one word for LINC's complaints: "BS."
Amato says he told LINC that it could maintain its attendance rolls by reporting every kid in Power Hour as a LINC program participant, even if those students never actually went to a LINC program.
"I told them we were having Power Hour, and, as far as I was concerned, they could still count the kids in that on their tallies. I don't care, as long as we get to prepare. They could keep being the baby sitter."
In other words, according to Amato, it's OK to fudge numbers that get used in grant applications.
Step 3: Get the Kids in Line
Once you've neutralized one powerful outside interest, you'll need everyone in the district to support your vision. A quick way to do this is impose a curriculum that'll get every kid moving in lockstep.