Monday, June 27, 2011

Just imagine if this were a charter school

One prime reason to support charter schools is that the bad ones can be shut down. We can allow some experimentation, but if it is a failure, the school will close and no more children will have to suffer there. Whenever I've been with students meeting with Democratic NC legislators and the students have asked about expanding the number of charter schools, we always hear some boilerplate rhetoric that, while they love our charter school, they still have worries about schools that are not as successful. The politicians never have an answer for the inevitable follow-up question about why, since a failed charter school can be closed, don't they support closing failed public schools.

Here is a perfect example from New York City of an atrocious school whose leadership allowed an environment of violence to block any hope of an education.
Books and supplies fly out the windows. Mouse droppings are everywhere, even on the computers.

MS 344, the Academy of Collaborative Education in Harlem, is a hellhole where teachers should get combat pay -- they are cursed, assaulted and sometimes groped.

"It was literally war," said a teacher who once found a sticky used condom in her purse. "I was pushed, shoved, scratched, thrown against the wall, spit on and pickpocketed. I just wanted peace."The Department of Education has tried twice since last year to shut MS 344, the city's worst-performing middle school. MS 344 has made the state's list of "persistently dangerous" schools, and just two of 88 eighth-graders last year passed the state math or reading exams....

Letters from its staff to ex-Chancellor Joel Klein begged for Principal Rashaunda Shaw's removal. They complain she's a tyrant who does nothing to impose discipline and respect. They charge she's always late, barely leaves her office "except for the bathroom," and hired a sister-in-law and her boyfriend's ex-wife, among other cronies.

Shaw, 35, also hired former Staten Island Assistant Principal Odufuyi Jackson, a friend who was busted in 2009 on felony charges that he conspired to steal more than $100,000 in Social Security benefits.

He pleaded guilty last year to attempted fabrication of business records. The DOE demoted Jackson to teacher, but Shaw has him doubling as a dean.... "It needs to be closed, closed, closed, because it's an unsafe place for children," a teacher said of the school. "It's heartbreaking that the small percentage who want to learn don't get the education they deserve."

Insiders gave The Post a sampling of the crime and lack of punishment.

* A teacher was transferred after a student threatened to rape his wife.

* A math teacher who tried to stop a student from hitting him was accused by Shaw of using "corporal punishment."

* A scrawny boy pulled out his wallet while surrounded by tough kids in the hall. A teacher learned the kid was robbed by the same gang every day for a month. Shaw reprimanded the teacher for phoning the victim's mom.

A UFT spokesman said the union has met with MS 344 staff in the past year on their safety, health and classroom woes, including "the lack of administrative support" and alleged harassment by Shaw. But the union could cite no results from its effort.
To its credit, the Department of Education has tried to close this hellhole of a school. Guess who has been blocking such action.
But the United Federation of Teachers and the NAACP went to court to block the closure and 21 others, arguing the DOE did nothing to fix the ailing schools. A Manhattan judge heard arguments last week and is expected to rule soon.
Hmm. I wonder if the union protected this principal from being fired. Even if they didn't directly defend her, their policies that make it so hard to fire anyone have created the system that kept her in place.

If this had been a charter school with the allegations of violence and financial corruption, the principal would have been replaced or it would have already been shut down. Or its reputation would have prevented it from getting sufficient applicants to keep its doors open. Instead, the neighborhood students are consigned to this travesty of a school. They're the ones who are being punished but the NAACP and union don't seem to be as exercised on their behalf.