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

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Imagine's "Demonstrably Bad" Application in PA

Imagine's attempt to expand in Pittsburg continues to progress (or regress?), this time with Pittsburg Public Schools superintendent Mark Roosevelt chiming in. After calling the charter application "demonstrably bad," Roosevelt added this (via Karamagi Rujumba at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette):
"They did not have a plan for developing a curriculum or how they would hire experienced teachers or a principal. They simply did not pass the standard of what it takes to operate a school," Mr. Roosevelt said.
But there's a bit more to this story, too. Part of this stems from real estate developer Sam Glasser's attempt to purchase real estate for the school (remember, Glasser has a history with Imagine), and part of this stems from a very legitimate concern for improving the education of communities not served by public schools:

After 43 years as a teacher and administrator in the Pittsburgh Public Schools, Sarah Martin says the school system in which she spent her professional life still does a bad job of educating many low-income African-Americans.

Ms. Martin, 69, who retired from the district as a curriculum and instruction supervisor in 2007, contends that to deal with that reality, the school system ought to embrace alternative methods of teaching students who face significant social, economic and cultural hurdles in their education.

So Ms. Martin is pushing for the creation of a charter school in Hazelwood, she said, because the neighborhood that lost Burgwin Elementary School -- the last school left in the neighborhood when the district closed it in 2006 -- is just the kind of place where children of the less fortunate often are left behind.

But her proposal for a K-8 Community Service and Leadership Development Charter School has been rejected twice by the Pittsburgh school board, which cited a lack of a curriculum or a plan that meets the needs of students with disabilities as well as poor financial planning by her group of charter school proponents, among other reasons.

Sarah Martin's desire to improve the education for kids in her community is commendable, but she would be wise to take a very close look at what she's getting into with Imagine. Remember: Dennis Bakke doesn't play nice, and there's no guarantee kids will get a better education at his school (there is, however, a guarantee that Sam Glasser and Imagine would profit from opening new schools and their real estate deals).

In fact, Martin and other folks concerned about education should read this before thinking about getting married to Imagine, and then read the infamous Bakke memo:

I suggest that Imagine boards and board members have two significant roles. The first is to "affirm" (vote FOR if legally required) significant items like our selection of the Principal and the budget (if you "need" to give them veto power over our proposed principal, then that would be okay although I don't think in most cases it is essential that they be given that power (check the State law).

Legally, I believe "affirming" is the same as voting "yes". The difference is the assumption that we have made a "recommendation" or decision and want the board to agree formally with that decision. Before selecting board members we need to go over the voting process and our expectations that they will go along with Imagine unless the board member is convinced that we are doing something illegal. Of course, we want the board member to vote "no" on any proposal that the board member believes is illegal. However, in non legal issues of judgment , we expect them to argue the issue vigorously, but if they can't convince us to change our position, we expect them to vote for our proposal. It is our school, our money and our risk, not theirs.

Remember: you can only vote "yes".

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