"A child's learning is the funtion more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Friday, March 07, 2008

Parents and Teachers Fear Retaliation from Charter School Corporation

Here's a case of what happens when civic responsibility gets shifted to corporate control in the corporate town of Pingree Grove, the fiefdom of Wyman "Clint" Carey. From the Daily Herald, for Cambridge Lake, IL:
If you feel you haven't had a say in what happens at the Cambridge Lakes Charter School, Pingree Grove will give you a chance to offer your input and ask questions next week.

A town hall meeting will be held at 7:30 p.m. March 14 in the Cambridge Lakes community center, 1125 Wester Blvd., Pingree Grove.

Village President Wyman "Clint" Carey announced the meeting Tuesday. On Monday, the Pingree Grove village board named him village liaison to the Northern Kane Educational Corp., the nonprofit organization that runs the charter school.

The announcement comes a week after Carey met with Larry Fuhrer, executive director of Northern Kane, and Jerry Conrad, chairman of the Northern Kane board, to discuss his concerns.

Carey said parents have expressed concerns about the charter school to village trustees. One of the main complaints is a lack of communication between the charter school and parents.

"There's a feeling that there's a frustration that they aren't being heard," Carey said. The village president said he hopes "to get the parents together (to) voice their concerns or their support."

"The village just wants to see a successful charter school," Carey said.

Fuhrer addressed parents' complaints about communication on Monday.

"I don't think it's valid," Fuhrer said. "Will it be addressed? Of course."

Carey has invited Fuhrer and Conrad, who is also vice president of Cambridge Homes, to the town hall meeting. Fuhrer said he'd probably attend, and Conrad was not sure if he would.

Cambridge Homes, which developed the surrounding Cambridge Lakes subdivision, also developed the charter school. Most of the more than 500 students who attend the school live in Cambridge Lakes. Charter school teachers and parents have said they fear charter school officials will retaliate against them or their children if they express their concerns openly. At a staff meeting last week, charter school officials threatened to take action against employees who had been involved in "the recently publicized acts against the interests of Northern Kane Educational Corp." Union officials, labor officials and teachers understood the "recently publicized acts" to be a barely veiled reference to employees' recent efforts to form a union.

Carey said he understands how parents and teachers feel and may try to allay their concerns by allowing them to ask questions anonymously.

Fuhrer said parents would not face retaliation for speaking out.

"I don't know of any parent that's ever suffered any repercussion, so why would it start this week?" Fuhrer said.

Carey said he hopes his appointment as liaison to the charter school will improve communication between the village and Northern Kane officials.

"I can bring concerns directly to the (charter school) board … and also listen and hear what's going on," Carey said.

Fuhrer said the village has always had a seat at the table.

"We've welcomed that relationship from the very first day," Fuhrer said.

Carey also addressed communication at his meeting with Fuhrer and Conrad last week.

"What I was trying to stress is to reopen the lines of communication between the village and the charter and to try to promote more open lines of communication between the parents and the charter," Carey said.

Fuhrer said his discussion with Carey and Conrad was productive.

"Was it a useful meeting? And were we able to look at some things and think through them? Yes, we were," Fuhrer said.

Conrad said Monday it's important for parents, teachers and officials from the village and Northern Kane to meet to discuss solutions.

"It's got some bugs and problems that need to be worked out, and the more people get together and talk, the better chance that has to happen," Conrad said.

Northern Kane is also under contract to run Pingree Grove's parks and recreation program until the village is able to start its own program, Carey said.

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