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Is the Renaissance Schools Plan Designed to Exclude Local Educators and Community Members?

By Eric Braxton on Mar 19, 2009 02:08 PM
Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/its_our_city

Will community members have input at 440?

I went to the meeting at School of the Future last week to learn more about the District’s strategic plan, Imagine 2014. The most controversial part of the plan is the part about Renaissance Schools. The Renaissance Schools plan calls for the transformation of some of the city’s lowest performing schools. This is to be achieved through a request for proposals (RFP) that will go out to organizations with a proven track record of turning schools around.  According to the District, both outside organizations (charter managers and EMOs) and internal groups (teachers and principals) are encouraged to apply. 

There are a few problems with this. Are regular teachers and principals expected to compete with multi-million-dollar organizations in an RFP process? Other districts that have transformed schools by putting an RFP out to teachers and principals have provided extensive training and planning grants to the applicants, but there does not seem to be any plan to do that here. Without these supports in place, the offer for teachers and principals to enter the process is kind of hollow. 

In Oakland, design teams consisting of teachers, students, parents, community members, and the principal spend more than a year planning their new school and get support from the Bay Area Coalition of Equitable Schools throughout the process.  

In New York, design teams of educators and community members respond to an RFP with a concept paper. Those that have a strong plan get a planning grant and extensive support from New Vision for Public Schools to develop a full proposal.

In Boston, educators that are selected through an RFP process get a planning grant from the Boston Foundation and ongoing support and training from the Center for Collaborative Education

All three of these districts used outside organizations for training and technical support, but actually had school district teachers and principals design and run the schools. The schools also remained public schools, accountable to their district. This kind of process builds the capacity within the district to change schools itself, rather than always relying on outside organizations to do it for them. 

Another problem with the proposed plan for the Renaissance Schools is that the RFP process will go out before the schools are selected. This means that if educators or community members from a particular school find out that their school is selected and want to apply, it will be too late or that they would have to apply in advance just in case their school is selected. This is totally ridiculous if the district is serious about having the community involved in this process. 

Overall, while the District keeps saying that local educators and community members are encouraged to participate in this process, it seems that the process is set up to make that very difficult. The process seems to be designed for large charter management organizations (like Mastery and KIPP) and Educational Management Organizations (like Edison). Shouldn’t we have an option that allows local educators and community groups to participate in transforming their schools? Other districts have done it and it has worked, maybe we should learn from them.

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Comments (13)

Submitted by Helen Gym on March 20, 2009 1:48 pm

"Another problem with the proposed plan for the Renaissance Schools is that the RFP process will go out before the schools are selected."

If true, this is one of the most serious problems with the plan because it bases the choice on the provider and not the needs of specific school communities. Althugh the District has asked for input on Imagine 2014, is it your sense that there is no separate process or analysis of the Renaissance Schools proposal?

Submitted by Eric Braxton on March 20, 2009 4:41 pm

I do not think that there will be a separate community engagement process on the Renaissance Schools. The forums on the strategic plan are the only opportunities I know of to give feedback. I have raised the issue if this timeline a few times, but I have not gotten any response other than that they heard me.

At each of the meetings I have been to District officials have said that this process will not be like the one in 2001 and that the community will be involved, but I haven't seen any evidence that the District is listening to what it hears from the community.

Submitted by Dale Mezzacappa on March 20, 2009 2:00 pm

Eric brings up several good points. At a meeting on Imagine 2014 with Project U-Turn participants on March 19, Tomas Hanna and Jennie Wu indicated that the District plans to stick to its timetable of issuing RFPs this spring, and choosing the 10 schools and matching them up with the new providers over the summer. Many questions were raised at the meeting about how the process will play out.
For instance, the district is still not sure on what basis the schools will be chosen, or whether it will be policy to include at least some elementary, middle and high schools. Dolores Shaw raised the issue of whether parents who don't want to send their children to a newly-designated Renaissance school will have the option to go elsewhere. No answer to that yet. What if teachers ask for mass transfers during the planning year? How will the school function? Still an open questions. Asked whether the RFP itself will be asked to focus on a particular type of school, elementary, middle or high, or be targeted to a particular school or neighborhood, Hanna said all that was still being worked out. I wonder whether such a fast-tracked system with so much undecided so late in the game will give potential internal partners like successful principals a chance to fairly compete, and what the next year will really be like in the designated schools. Not to mention that the providers will be self-selected, so community choice is limited from the start.

Submitted by Anonymous on March 30, 2009 10:22 am

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Submitted by Eric Braxton on March 30, 2009 12:13 pm

Thank you. Care to share your blog?

Submitted by c custalow (not verified) on February 11, 2010 1:11 pm

Thank goodness for whomever is responsibe for this change. My son attends Samuel Daroff and has been injured at least for times. He is an great student with no behavior issues. He has had two serious injuries to his head because of other children with behavior problems. No incident reports were ever written and it is not even on file in the nurses office there was also injury to his right ear and he had his mouth busted also by troubled children...again no incident report was written. This has made it impossible to request a transfer because I have no proof. We need new leadership Mrs Bonnie Berman is the school principal has done a poor job in managing Daroff. Childrens safety has been compromised and its scary to think she will remain at Daroff. In the beginning of the school year for several months children who were coming to breakfast were being sent out of the building after breakfast back out into the street to walk 11/2 blocks to enter the school yard instead of allowing them to enter the yard safely from within the building. Some of these children were in just the 1st grade. I am so grateful to whomever is responsible for for the change thats coming. Because of the change I am no longer interested in having my child removed from Daroff. I have faith that under new leadership my child will get the education he deserves. Thank You. Thank You. Thank You

Submitted by Danny Weil (not verified) on February 12, 2010 12:35 am

Please read some of my work at Daily Censored.com and Countrpunch.com and dissidentvoice.com. My name is Danny Weil and I am a former K-2 teacher in South Central LA.

This comment I noted:

Thank goodness for whomever is responsibe for this change. My son attends Samuel Daroff and has been injured at least for times. He is an great student with no behavior issues. He has had two serious injuries to his head because of other children with behavior problems. No incident reports were ever written and it is not even on file in the nurses office there was also injury to his right ear and he had his mouth busted also by troubled children...again no incident report was written. This has made it impossible to request a transfer because I have no proof. We need new leadership Mrs Bonnie Berman is the school principal has done a poor job in managing Daroff. Childrens safety has been compromised and its scary to think she will remain at Daroff. In the beginning of the school year for several months children who were coming to breakfast were being sent out of the building after breakfast back out into the street to walk 11/2 blocks to enter the school yard instead of allowing them to enter the yard safely from within the building. Some of these children were in just the 1st grade. I am so grateful to whomever is responsible for for the change thats coming. Because of the change I am no longer interested in having my child removed from Daroff. I have faith that under new leadership my child will get the education he deserves. Thank You. Thank You. Thank You".

Having safe schools is imperative but the reason schools are not safe is the same reason all of us are not safe -- the material conditions of our society have left us with a broken 'free market' fundamentalist system. Cities are broke, the public coffers are empty, the parents are concerned as above, for their kid's safety.

However the answer cannot be Race to the Top and giving dour public schools over to the 'new turnaround' artists who are really 'trunover' artists who wish to bench our children in privately run for profit schools. Even the word 'provider' shows the deadly scheme.

Of course now that tax breaks for the rich and cuts in public schools have forced the cities into bankruptcy, it is time for the disaster politics. It is the power of what Naomi Klein called 'the shock doctrine' and what Milton Friedman so clearly stated over forty years ago:

"Only a crisis actual or perceived produces real change. When that crisis occurs, the actions that are taken depend on the ideas that are around. That, I believe, is our basis function: to develop alternatives to existing policies, to keep them alive and available until the politically impossible becomes politically inevitable" (Friedman 1962, 2). Capitalism and Freedom, 1962, p. 2 Rprint Chicago: University of Chicago Press in 1982)

This is where we are, teachers, from D.C. to LA, from Detroit to Philly. It's the same and the plutocrats and billionaire philanthro-capitalists use the same language to 'manage percpetions'. It either a 'Renaissance' as in Chicago where Duncan left bloody fingerpints or it is "Imagine Schools" it is all the same -- privatization of education, meaning no democratic decision making, no transparency in government, centralized control for decison making, bankrolled by 'investors' or billionaires who now have all the money, cuts in public education for the two-tierd system like that created in New Orleans the model for it all, and of course merit pay, less salries and benefits, no job security and teachers divorced from the conception of lesson plans as corporate canned curriculum is invited into schools.

This is the Wal-Mart model of education and why the Walton Family Fund is one of the big players along with Bill Gates (who wishes to abolish HS -- see Tough Choices or Tough Times), Eli Broad and The Fisher Family (owners of the Gap) to name a few. the Department of Education under Duncan i a wholly owned subsidiary of the billionaires and coin operated politicians that put the game into play. That is why Gates gave $4.1 million to NY to assure mayoral control.

This is called neo-liberalism, a stage of economics we are in now and have been for more than thirty years. It is when everything is privatized from prisons to schools. And the government is then used as a collection agency to fund the privatizers.

In this disaster phase of capitalism there is no future for children and thus the 'war on youth'. They must now be contained, militarized, regimented and otherwise controlled for there is no future for them in a country that makes nothing, is broke and owned and operated as an enterprise. No public playgrounds, no public schools, no public libraries -- no public realm. Tethered to the carpet loom of NCLB children will learn quickly that child wonderment has been replaced with adult bewilderment. They will either then go into gangs, drop out of school, go to prison or be swallowed up by the military for the next resource war.

We have a responsibility to assure this does not happen and it will not come from capitulating to the new 'turnaround' artist, the social engineers and social darwinists -- it will come from organization and direct action. If you want to nurture children and provide them with decent community schools then we don't turn them over to the auctioneers do we?

You can see all my posts at the sites above but here is one now:

Best and in struggle

Dr. Danny Weil

http://dailycensored.com/2010/02/08/is-arne-duncan-clinically-a-paranoid...

Submitted by c custalow (not verified) on February 11, 2010 1:31 pm

i also believe that this new team of educators will be able to deal with the children who have behavior problems. im sick and tired of my son missing out on education. im tired of him telling me he had detention at recess or had a written assignment as a punishment because two or three children in the class who are behavior problems. these children the teacher can't identify so the whole class is held responsible. thats not fair at all. if you ask me that type of discipline after awhile will frustrate a child who does the right thing. maybe even frustrate him so deeply that he will feel that if he's going to be punished he should be punished for doing something. so than begans to act out. that would be enough to make me angry if i was in the third grade. this is how some of the teacher at samuel daroff deals with troubled children. i feel my child should'nt have to suffer missing out on his education or recess. his grades and his report card speak for what kind of child he is. he deserves better than what daroff has offered him. i believe if daroff becomes renaissance the children will benefit greatly and under new leadership we all will benefit.

Submitted by 2690 mobile games (not verified) on June 7, 2014 10:45 am
Very good post. I am going through some of these issues as well..
Submitted by Keith Newman (not verified) on February 11, 2010 7:15 pm

I've heard of no local teachers or respected principlas recruited for a turnaround team.
Nice blog Eric. You are apparently right on the money.

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