I will protect your pensions. Nothing about your pension is going to change when I am governor. - Chris Christie, "An Open Letter to the Teachers of NJ" October, 2009

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

NJDOE to Camden: "Who Cares What You Think?"

When will the people of Camden understand that the state knows what their children need better than they do? When will they stop demanding a say in how their city is run? [all emphases mine]
Changes imposed by the state midway through the school district’s review of urban Hope Act school proposals have “tainted the process” and created “a process that’s a sham,” according to one of four school board members in open revolt against Department of Education edicts. 
“The process is not good, not credible,” board member Raymond L. Lamboy said after the revisions were disclosed last week. “They are constantly changing the process, which gives the impression that this is being done to arrive at a foregone conclusion.” 
Not only was the board caught off guard, so were the three current school proposers — Benjamin Franklin Academy, Universal Companies and Cooper Norcross KIPP Lanning Square. 
They found out about the state-imposed changes either through news accounts or calls from the media.
Well, of course: it's far more important to keep the media in the loop than the locals.
With the latest change, a new request for proposal is being issued to potential school operators. The original request was not aligned with the wording of recently released regulations, especially the years of experience expected of school proposers.
The state had been criticized for rushing the RFP review by the school board without first writing internal regulations for Hope schools. The regulations were released a little over a week ago, long after the RFP response date closed.
But we have to be urgent! Even if we don't know what we're doing! Because there's no better role model for running a school than a chicken with its head cut off! Which is why we need  get the community out of our schools and put the bureaucrats back in charge:
The school board’s role also is diminished under changes imposed Thursday by Education Commissioner Christopher Cerf.
Originally, the board was tasked with reviewing and scoring plans for Hope school proposals, which is consistent with the language of the law. But under Cerf’s plan, state-appointed fiscal monitor Michael Azzara and Interim Superintendent Reuben Mills would do the evaluation and make recommendations to the board.
You know, if they really don't think the BOE is up to the job, they could try something really crazy: they could have elections in Camden and have a real school board accountable to the people. You know, like folks have in 'burbs, where the schools are some of the best in the nation.

Unless we don't trust people in Camden to look out for their own kids...
Cerf told the board it must move forward “successfully” with the Hope proposals as part of a set of stipulations meant to improve the city’s failing schools. 
Failure to comply with the edicts raises the prospect of a state takeover of the district. 
I guess we don't; instead, we trust unelected bureaucrats backed by the money of a California billionaire.
David Sciarra of the Education Law Center, an advocate for the state’s low-income school districts, said Azzara’s involvement is “a blatant conflict of interest” because the monitor reports to Cerf.
He also blamed the state for “putting the cart before the horse” and creating the problem by pushing the RFP prior to writing its regulations.
Like they did by pushing a change to tenure without coming up with a workable evaluation system. But hey, don't sweat the small stuff, am I right? We have to do something, even it makes no sense and disenfranchises the community! Full speed ahead!

We may be lost, but we're making great time!

ADDING: Is this the awesome management that the good people of Camden can expect from the NJDOE?
With 2 1/2 weeks until school starts, at least five Camden district principals don’t yet know their placements.
Under a state Department of Education accountability plan created when New Jersey was granted a waiver to federal No Child Left Behind requirements this year, the principal of a "priority school" who cannot produce improved student achievement after three years will be replaced. Seventy-five of the state's worst-performing public schools were labeled "priority schools." Twenty-three of Camden’s 26 schools received the designation.
In a letter sent to the district in June, State Education Commissioner Christopher Cerf ordered the principals at Woodrow Wilson High School, Charles Sumner Elementary, East Camden Middle School, and Henry L. Bonsall Elementary replaced by the start of the school year because of consistently low performance.
Those administrators don’t know yet where they will be reassigned in the district and no one has said what principals at other city schools will replace them, potentially causing a chain reaction, said Calvin Gunning, president of the Camden principal’s union.
What did anyone expect? There's barely anyone left at the NJDOE who actually has experience running a school, let alone a district. They wouldn't think this was a problem because they don't know what actually happens within schools.

Lord, save us from the tyranny of the incompetent.

(h/t @EdLawCenter)

1 comment:

Deb said...

Today a few brave Camden parents filed a lawsuit demanding that long promised and overdue Lanning Square public school be built. These parents are courageous and deserve our support. Their fight is all of our fight - protecting public education in this state. Together we can.