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

Monday, April 30, 2012

Nashville's Mayor Dean Commits Almost 10% of 4-Year School Improvement Budget to One KIPP

In Nashville, as in many metropolitan areas, capital improvement funds are short and the need is large.  Nashville Metro has identified needed school improvements that amount to $185 million. Mayor Dean has committed $16 million, or almost 10 percent of Nashville Metro’s 4-year school capital improvement budget, for a new segregated KIPP, Inc. corporate charter school, even as the Fisher, Gates, Broad, and Walton Foundations, along with other wealthy patrons, pour in hundreds of millions of dollars into this charter chain that has just over a hundred schools nationwide.  

Meanwhile, Nashville's public school teachers that serve the poor use garbage cans to collect water from leaky roofs and do their best in overcrowded and damaged classrooms.  At Hume-Fogg Academic Magnet, a high-performing integrated public school, kids eat lunch in the hallways and do not have a functioning gym. 

KIPP's urban penal pedagogy model has the backing of Wall Street and plutocrats that Diane Ravitch calls the Billionaire Boys’ Club, which translates to support by both Republican or Democratic politicians on both sides of the aisle of the corporate jet.  These folks like to tout the testing accomplishments of KIPP, while ignoring the fact that KIPP children are subjected to punishing behavioral techniques that no middle class parent would allow. 

These same supporters of KIPP ignore the fact that KIPP educates fewer special education students, fewer English language learners, and fewer students whose behaviors threaten the KIPP total compliance model.  KIPP also enjoys extra resources from the bottomless well of tax-sheltered dollars from venture philanthropists.  With these advantages plus 40 percent extra time in the classroom spent in test prep, their test scores are, indeed, high.  How could they not be?  

The sad fact is that the high test scores are then used by politicians and their patrons of the Business Roundtable to 1) demonize the public schools for having lower test scores, thus opening up the path to more charters, and 2) to pretend that zero tolerance and no excuses provide the educational solutions for children suffering the ravages of poverty.  Sadly, the citizens of Metro Nashville must now bear the financial and moral burden of this corporate charade.

By Julie Hubbard| The Tennessean
The vintage 1930s Highland Heights school used by KIPP Academy charter students will keep its facade, but the rest of the building will be torn down and replaced with new construction.
The plan for the East Nashville landmark is a compromise between city officials, who last year suggested razing the building, and neighbors and members of the school board and historic commission, who noisily objected.
The new plan will cost $16 million, city officials said Thursday.
The 350 KIPP students soon will move to another vacant school, Ewing Park near Dickerson Pike, for two years during construction. The new school will open in 2014.
“This is the best compromise,” said District 5 Metro Councilman Scott Davis, who represents that East Nashville area. “You keep our historical style there, and it’s also less expensive than remodeling that whole building.
“At the same time, it gives the kids a great place to go to school.”
Since 2005, when KIPP started leasing the building on Douglas Avenue, students have made giant academic gains inside a subpar building, Davis said. He said their performance could improve even more in a modern building.
Two years ago, Mayor Karl Dean asked the Metro school board to deed the building to the city in exchange for a $10 million pledge to renovate it. Public charter schools weren’t supported enough by the city, Dean said at the time.
High school on wayOnly a quarter of the building is functional for students of KIPP Academy, which now plans to add on a high school.
“The biggest thing is … we will have the entire middle school and entire college prep high school in one building,” said Randy Dowell, executive director of KIPP Academy Nashville. “It’s something we can’t do now because of the condition of the parts we don’t occupy.”
There’s no wiring for new technology, such as Smartboards. The radiator heating is half functional, plumbing fair to poor, basement moldy and attic infested with bats, a condition report revealed.
That’s why most of the building needs to come down, and costs are projected to be higher than the $10 million originally set aside by the city, said Dominique Gobbell Arrieta, project manager for the Gobbell Hays Partners architectural firm, hired to design the new school.
“We met with the historical commission and are very comfortable about that,” she said. “We will demolish the 1970s (addition) and old gym and build new onto the backside of the property.”
Construction will be awarded this fall for an 18-month build.

The new facility aims to have wrap-around traffic and separate entrances for the middle and high schools. A curtain or wall in the new cafeteria would separate the middle and high schools but could be opened up for a large community space.
The 91,000-square-foot, three-level school will include a walking path, community meeting space and a parklike feel.
“We are going forward with a capital budget request of right over $6 million, since we already have the $10 million approved,” said Director of Metro General Services Nancy Whittemore.
Traditional Metro public schools, with an estimated $185 million in repair needs, may get help this budget season as well.
During a budget work session with Metro public school officials and Dean this month, he said Stratford High desperately needed help, as did Hume-Fogg Academic Magnet, which has no gym.
“He has indicated in budget hearings there hasn’t been a real capital outlay budget for a while,” said Senior Education Adviser Wendy Tucker. “He’s aware of the conditions and expressed his concerns.”

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