by Karel Kilimnik
October 8, 2015
Let me start by saying we now have more confirmation that this District is being led by snake oil salespeople. Wister is one of the three schools slated to be turned into Renaissance Charter Schools by the School Reform Commission. Wednesday night, October 7th was the first “Meeting with Wister Families”. It should have been “First sales pitch to Wister families”. District staff were there to sell, not listen.
Wister parents and school staff were informed that the meeting would be held at a location in the 6700 block of Germantown Avenue. I arrived to find parents, children, and school staff milling around waiting for District personnel to arrive. One of the District Charter School staff ambled up just as we learned that the meeting was being held at another location. He brushed me off when I asked if he knew about this bait and switch. People ran to their cars and took off.
We walked into a small meeting room that barely held everyone. Leading the sales pitch for the evening was Karen Kolsky, Assistant Superintendent of Neighborhood Network 6. Audience members allowed Kolsky to drone on until she introduced a parent from Mastery Cleveland Charter School. Exhibit Number One in the selling of Why Wister Parents Should Be Drooling Over The Possibility of Becoming A Renaissance Charter.
Parents were respectful to the speaker and then the frustration and anger spilled over. The Wister principal stepped up to say that her own children attended Cleveland way before it was taken over by Mastery. They had a great education. Her daughter is a doctor and her son works as a long-distance trucker.
Kolsky was peppered with concerns about special needs students, preschool children, loss of teachers, loss of their beloved Wister community. Questions about lack of transparency, lack of any real choice, the list went on. These parents were articulate, well informed, and had valid concerns that were brushed aside by Kolsky and her team.
At one point SRC spokesperson Evelyn Sample-Oates rose from the back to say that, “The recommendation is from the superintendent for what should happen to this school.” My eyes were rolling around in my head. Parents pushed back saying why are we here as the decision has already been made. The Charter School staff member tried to allay fears about continuation of Wister’s regional special education programs by saying that “they would be taken into consideration”. Someone pointed out that his statement was meaningless so he added that it would “be written into the contract”.
Principal Smith was totally amazing. She talked about how Wister made AYP from 2008-2011 when she had the resources. She encouraged parents to use their voices and be heard. She and others raised the issue of charter operators getting more money that should be put into their school now!
Parents and Grandparents at the meeting spoke lovingly about teachers and other parents and how much love, care, and respect there was for their children. One parent said charter school teachers are all about the money. Our Wister teachers don’t make that much and they’re all about loving our children.
Kendra Brooks, who led the organizing at Steele School to defeat turning their school over to a charter operator, spoke briefly about how they’ve changed the rules this time around so that parents do not have a choice.
Kolsky reminded parents that they would be there (I asked in this same place or are you going to change it?) for weekly meetings until Nov. 24th. Charter management companies can apply for Request for Qualifications on Oct. 15th. The District is offering visits to other Renaissance charters starting the week of Oct. 12th. Parents were handed a schedule of visits that included – Birney Prep Academy (Oct. 13 ,20, 27 & 28) Mastery Pastorius (Oct. 14), Mastery Harrity (Oct. 16); Hite will announce the proposed school/charter provider on Dec. 14th and the SRC votes on Jan. 21.
I can’t write anymore. They are too disgusting. Sounds like Cooke parents had a similar experience and have pushed back and seems like Wister is pushing back too. They have a really solid principal who wants to fight back and keep their school. We shall see.
The next Wister Community Meeting is Wed. Oct. 14 at 6 to 7:30 at Center In The Park. Please come out and support the Wister School Community as they fight for their school.
The same games are being played at Jay Cooke Elementary: