Testimony of Lynda Rubin to the BOE, February 27,2020

Opposition to Items 15 & 16 (TFA/Relay) and 5 & 6 – New Charter Applications

I’m here to talk against Items 15 and 16 – but first I want to assert loud and clear that this Board should deny the new applications of High School for Health and Sciences Leadership and String Theory’s Joan Myers Brown Academy on 1) the gross deficiencies of their applications, but also, 2) because this School District cannot afford to allow any more charters to bleed us dry and in the case of Health and Sciences, cannibalize one of our own CTE schools, the community-supported Kensington Health Sciences Academy (KHSA). Health and Sciences, in concert with PSP, hasn’t provided any concrete plans for their program besides being in meetings with “enthusiastic” heads of universities that impress Mr. Matheney so much. String Theory wants us to believe that String Theory Schools is only hired management, not actually in charge of this school, because you and the media have already caught them flat-footed with among other things, using District money from students to support their risky expansion of a real estate empire to-be. I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know. JUST DON’T DO IT!

District schools have a right to live, too.

Not only do our District schools have a right to live, but our District students have a right to be educated by teachers actually versed in educational principles and pedagogy. TFA and Relay may be populating charter schools because they are businesses and want employees on the cheap. Charters believe that teachers are just the vessel, because that’s the job of their packaged curricular programs. Now I’m not saying all TFA and/or Relay teachers don’t care and don’t have talents. I’m saying that they aren’t provided with the depth of an instructional program based on child developmental stages, both academic and behavioral, and how they impact learning.

I’m also frustrated because so many of us have been here so many times before saying the same things. We’ve been told it’s a temporary stop-gap measure – but it’s one that never stops.

The SRC said they had to make cuts in salaries, programs, instructional supports, and, yes, on-going building maintenance, because of fiscal constraints. How’d that work out for you?

But these were all supposed to come back, because everyone knows our students need them and deserve to have them. With the advent of the Board, we had hope. But, you can’t keep hiring temporary instructional staff from Plan B and expect better long-term teaching and learning. You say TFA and Relay supply more teachers of color and teachers who’d stay longer. But at the last Student Achievement meeting we learned that for 2 years the numbers are up, but by 5 years the number of TFA/Relay retentions drop precipitously, more than other recruited teachers. And you’re still not building long-term core instructional staff in schools and knowledgeable in-house systems to support them and help them grow.

You want to know what will keep teachers in this system? Being valued and supported on a daily basis, not feeling like they’re on a treadmill being watched by administrators because teachers are the problem, instead of being a respected part of a team.