Know For Yourself (Lest You Be Enabled)
A church going man sought a clean life so that he can get into heaven. Feeling concerned about getting drunk he went to his Pastor to confess. His Pastor told him, don’t worry about it, a little spirit never hurt anybody. Later the man returned to confess another failing. Again he Pastor made him feel good about the slip up stating, “even King David had multiple wives.” Heading home that very day the man was killed in a car accident, standing before God to atone for his sins he learned that he was condemned for hell. The man asked, but Lord, why didn’t my Pastor tell me I’d end up in this state? To that God replied, ask him the next time you see him.
Like faith, we need to know some things for ourselves. Getting understanding is key to good decision making and as much as we can we should listen to or read for ourselves direct sources for information. For Georgians, both the Presidential Election and the Charter School Referendum puts much at stake. The latter is as murky as the former as we consider ways to step towards shoring up secondary education. Many people sending out information about the November ballot question are tied to powerful stakeholders shaping their thinking and confusing the facts. The reality of challenges in our education system, and the effects on the future of children is too often lost in the equation.
An Issue of Power and Trust
Three years ago Lindley Middle School in Mableton was a nightmare. In an August article in South Cobb Patch, editor Kiri Walton wrote that the NEA ranked the school one of the most violent in the state. It had been in “Needs Improvement” status for six years until Sandra Ervin, the principal who was part of a failed effort to bring Teach for America assistance to South Cobb took the helm. With her leadership the violence all but disappeared from Lindley and the school became a Title 1 Distinguished School. As reported in an August South Cobb Patch article, then teacher and newly appointed assistant principal Sabrina Richardson stated, “Her passion for these kids cannot be denied. She made a difference in the lives of our three sons,” Robinson said. “I think she had a lot of heart and a lot of drive. She had a vision. She shared her vision and then she did it. She should start her own school.” Perhaps she could, but not likely without a charter school amendment. Cobb County School Board has been slow to approve charter schools. Many would argue that the teachers like the Coach Carters, Michelle Rhees and Sandra Ervins of the world are the reasons we need to allow teachers to lead in classroom learning reforms. We already know that teacher directed classrooms work, but are hampered by excessive testing, stagnant administrative systems, and improperly prioritized funding. One Question is: Which locally controlling group would you most trust to give teachers the wings to teach; a district wide school board, or a school specific governing board?
Parents to the Rescue?
Parents are the controlling force in petitioning for a charter. One argument that continually surfaces from opponents of the measure is that charter schools are not locally controlled. South Cobb State House Representative David Wilkerson, who voted against HR1162 held an event last night at Trinity Tabernacle Church. He was accompanied by two professional teacher associations who openly advocated against the amendment. The message from the panel was that charter schools are run and controlled by state bureaucracies and profit focused management companies. Wilkerson told the small gathering that independent public charter schools don’t have parental control as touted. That sentiment doesn’t pass the fact check. The International Academy of Smyrna, the lone charter school in Smyrna, was once managed by a company. Not liking the results they were getting from Imagine, the school’s self directed Board of Governors took upon themselves to fire Imagine. This fact flies in the face of the argument that charter schools operate without parental involvement in running the school. The growing charter school’s Governing board has 3 parents and 4 community members including a former Smyrna City Councilman and the Assistant City Manager. Pro-independent charter school parents Claudia and Javier Vietti point to naysayers like Representative David Wilkerson with puzzlement. “How can a politician claim to care about schools in his own district, while misleading parents to believe that charter schools will be run by the state with a management company having ultimate power? Smyrna’s charter school is a perfect example of the exact opposite of what he is asserting. At the surface it seems that Wilkerson is pandering to union like pro teacher associations. It is unfortunate that teachers are being manipulated into thinking charter schools are a threat to teachers.” Representative Wilkerson said that he is supportive of charter schools, just not the commission. Wilkerson and the teacher association spokespeople were openly invited to a non-partisan forum and informative session on charter schools that will take place on Thursday October 4th 7:00 - 8:00 p.m. in Smyrna. A short movie will precede the presentation at 6:15 p.m. Panelists and location will be announced here in future blog posts.