Whose School Is It?
Dr. Hite and School Reform Members:
As you may know, I have intensively studied the school reform movement since its inception and have been involved with many school reform efforts over the course of my now 40 years of service to our school community. Through my experience and research, which includes both academic and legal research, I have gained much love and respect for the principles of Democracy as set forth in our Constitution.
As a result I have come to understand the Imperative of Democracy in the governance and leadership of Our Schools. I have concluded that the essential question of school governance is Whose School Is It?
I have seen the turmoil which always rears its ugly head when democracy and the voice of the stakeholders of schools is circumvented. I have also learned that the solution is often the right of the stakeholders to vote. In the past in our district we have often used the “one family one vote” scenario to determine the true voice of the parents of a school.
Tonight I advise you to vote “No” to the takeovers of both Wister and Cooke schools, and to revise your policy, procedures and practices concerning school takeovers. When a school is recommended to be turned over to a charter operator, it requires the highest rung of participatory due process in the decision-making. A vote of its parents is essential to gauge their true voice.
You know well that it is my position that any school can be improved by providing it with the necessary resources, leadership and highly qualified teachers and support staff.
A prime example of what I have learned is what we see happening at Wister and Cooke schools. At Wister I have most often heard that the tactics of Mastery are “outrageous.” It is a hostile takeover attempt by a platoon of corporate raiders orchestrated by people who most often do not have children at the school and want to put their self serving interests above the common good of the school community. Last night, like a bunch of sore losers, they disrupted the Wistar meeting.
As to Cooke, the imposition of the Great Oaks Foundation Inc. is particularly offensive and raises the appearance of impropriety. They are the progeny of the failed Victory Schools effort to profitize schools in Philadelphia, and are therefore a suspect organization with no track record of success anywhere they have been. Their, not so secret, previous connections raises another red flag which raises the need to face transparency and public scrutiny before that organization is chosen to do anything in our district. Exactly who is our “Opportunity Network” giving opportunity to?
The Core Value of the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment is the free and unhindered public debate on matters of public importance. That should occur before any final decisions are made to turn public schools over to private entities.
Democracy works best – it is the best practice.