Blankenburg Elementary Priority School Community Meeting Report


Rodolph Blankenburg Elementary is a K-8 school at 4600 W. Girard Avenue in Neighborhood Network 2. The initial meeting was held at 11 AM Tuesday, October 25. In addition to school and district administrators, the meeting was attended by approximately 5 parents, 2 members of the Blankenburg staff, and 3 APPS members—Karel Kilimnik, Lynda Rubin, and Lisa Haver. Cambridge was represented by Chris Finn.

Anthony Singleton, President/CEO of Educators 4 Education was also present although he did not speak publicly. He told Karel Kilimnik that Cambridge has hired his company to “help out”. Singleton, who previously worked with the district’s SW Regional Office of Family Involvement, said that his company provides “non-judgmental” professional development. When pressed as to what that means, he said that they come into schools but are not part of the school relationships, so teachers respond better to their help. The SRC resolution which approved the contract with Cambridge didn’t specify that they would be sub-contracting out any of the work.

District superintendent Rahshene Davis-Bowie opened the meeting, giving the generic presentation for all eleven Priority Schools. She showed the “Pockets of Excellence” map and said that Dr. Hite wanted to target resources in certain schools and areas. She showed the SPR rating for the years in question: 2012-13, 2013-14, 2014-15. She told the audience that the district wanted to hear our “high-impact ideas”, and that Cambridge was brought in to give an “outside perspective” on the schools in question.

Finn said that the formal written report will be produced 4 to 6 days after interviewing the principal and doing the site visits. The report then goes to Dr. Hite. He admitted that other parents and community members will not be able to know anything said at the meetings because they won’t be posting any of the reports from the meetings.

Davis-Bowie said that “there is no guarantee that this school will not be touched after this change is made.” That is, the school may be closed or given to a charter company the following year or soon after.

I asked what investments Dr. Hite was referring to when he said that “despite investments made in the schools”, they had failed to perform. Ms. Davis-Bowie replied that not enough investments had been made in the school compared to others, but now the district wanted to change that. That is not the same explanation that was given at other school presentations.

Chris Finn told us that the School Quality Review would be conducted by Cambridge, that they would be doing site visits and “looking at instruction” to see how student achievement is being limited or supported. He did not say how many classrooms they would be visiting or what subjects they would be focusing on. Finn said that Hite would be announcing his decision in January 2017.

A slide with the 5 basic options was shown. The District Superintendent said that merging would not be an option for Blankenburg as there were no “high-achieving” schools nearby.

Karel asked whether their report would be posted or distributed to the public. Finn said the report would not be made public before it went to Hite.

The parents who attended were strong supporters of Principal Kelley Parker, who is in his second year at Blankenburg. Parker told us in conversation after the meeting that the school was struggling for a number of reasons. Blannkenburg has been a receiving school for three nearby schools after they were closed, but received no additional resources from the district. The school had no counselor for the previous two years. The principal told us that he still feels bad that he didn’t have time to do the paperwork for the students who should have gotten into special-admit high schools. Last year, the school had two vacancies that were never filled; he had to teach Reading to one class. The school saw very few substitutes last year. Just across Girard Avenue is Global Leadership Academy charter.

One of the parents told us that there were a significant number of students living in shelters; she didn’t know how the district was able to communicate with those families, or with any family that didn’t have internet access. She told us that she was part of a small group of committed parents who thought of the school as their family. The fact that many families can’t show up on short notice to a morning meeting doesn’t reflect a lack of commitment on the part of parents.

Submitted by Lisa Haver
November 3, 2016

Note the President and CEO of Educators4Excellence was at the meeting.
Look at this article to see who is funding them.
Educators4Excellence because teachers NEED their own education reform front group | Wait What?