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

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

After Cornerstone Charter Abuse Scandal Deepens in Memphis, NAACP Demands Accountability from State and Charter Operators

Cornerstone CEO Sippel
What began last fall in Memphis as the corporate reform schoolers' grand experiment to turn over public schools to white charter operators with no accountability for how children are treated, has turned into a nightmare for parents of children at Cornerstone Prep and other less publicized charter chain gangs for black and poor children in Memphis.

What began as a charter school abuse story that the local media in Memphis tried to ignore has erupted into deep rage among parents who previously were sweet-talked into sending their children to the total compliance charter schools where children are treated like dangerous inmates.  See latest accounts here on former mayor's call for Governor to intervene.

This from local ABC affiliate:
A child's words can be powerful.

"I started to urinate on myself and I started crying,” said 7-year old Cornerstone student as she addressed the crowd at the podium. 

That power is multiplied when repeated by other children.

"One time I urinated on myself and I had to go really bad,” said another elementary student.

"I soiled on myself because I tried to raise my hand and he (my teacher) said no,” said another student.

Parents are outraged at Cornerstone teachers. The state took over low performing Lester Elementary this year. Since then, student grades are up and they're making the honor roll. That's not the problem. It's teachers not allowing enough bathroom breaks. The school says they've corrected the issue and the kids are allowed 5 bathroom breaks. Parents say that's not true.

"It's going beyond saying no, they’re getting physical,” said a parent Lashanna Rogers. “They (teachers) physically stopped her (my daughter) instead of walking with her to the restroom."

All of this is taking place as a result of years of Business Roundtable efforts to turn poor public schools over to corporate interests, and today in urban America test scores are used to shut down public schools so they be run for the benefit of corporate welfare artists who are free to operate schools like private prisons, with no accountability to the public.

Clips below from the Commercial Appeal four days ago. Note that parents must now provide their own transportation if they decide that they do want their children to attend this chain gang school:

After weeks of complaints about Cornerstone Preparatory Academy in Binghamton, the state NAACP will ask legislators to pass a law allowing charter schools to be closed for more than financial instability and poor academic performance.

"There needs to be some other options for the ways we hold charters accountable," said Rev. Keith Norman, president of the Memphis branch of the NAACP.

The issue is on the state NAACP agenda and will be presented to lawmakers in February, Norman said. "You can't allow charters to exist in our community, to come in and set up shop and not be accountable beyond fiscal and performance-related issues."

Cornerstone Prep, a ministry of Christ United Methodist Church, opened this fall in Lester School in Binghamton under the authority of the state-run Achievement School District. It serves children in pre-K through third grade. Next year, it will take over the fourth, fifth and sixth grades. In 2014-2015, it will run the entire pre-K-8 school.

In the last month, Binghamton parents have cited instances of children wetting their pants because they were not allowed to use the restroom. Others have said teachers took children's shoes as punishment.

The most recent incident happened Thursday, according to mother LaShanna Rogers. "My daughter said one teacher said yes, she could use the restroom, but the other teacher in the room stopped her. She physically grabbed her. That is when she urinated on herself. She was scared. And then, she was so embarrassed, she was crying hysterically."

Rogers and unified Shelby County Schools board member Sara Lewis met Friday with Cornerstone executive director Drew Sippel. Lewis said she is "deeply concerned" about the lack of "cultural competency" among the staff and "in the routine kinds of things that should be done and are not."

"The administration and the school operators should be humane and focused, respectful and humane. From things I have been told, it is neither, simply because the people in charge don't know. They have no clue."

Sippel did not respond to e-mail questions about the latest incidents Friday.

. . . .
School boards have authority to close charters after two years of poor test scores, for insolvency and for violating conditions of their charter. The law says nothing about what happens when school leaders clash with the community.

Until the Achievement School District started assigning charters to run schools last fall, parents had the option to send their children to them. Under ASD rules, Cornerstone is now the neighborhood school in Binghamton. If parents wish to transfer, they can expect to drive their students to a new school.

Charter schools also do not have publicly elected boards, an issue for Norman, pastor of First Baptist Church in Binghamton. "We don't just want to make allegations and throw stones. We want a clear pathway for healing."

"When you reach out to help and serve, it helps not to send the signal that we are giving because they are broken. Our dignity is not to be exchanged for your dollars. Our dignity is for not for sale."

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