Saturday, May 10, 2014

NJ Ed Truth Squad Call to Action Part 2: When bad things happen to good schools

UPDATE! I have it from a reliable source in Newark that closing Hawthorne or turning it over to a 'charter launch' is a violation of the NCLB waiver process for priority schools, so Cami had to back down on that. However, it appears that Hawthorne's progress, which qualified it as a K-8 school on the move, may have helped her earn a merit pay bonus. So, she wanted to close a school that helped line her pockets. 


In Part 1 I wrote about the recent Congressional vote on a charter school bill. Part 2 is about Newark Superintendent Cami Anderson's plans to convert Hawthorne Avenue School, a successful and beloved neighborhood public school, into a charter.

A Newark teacher sent me this heartfelt post written in April by Hawthorne Ave PTSO President Grace Sergio about the successes this school has had under Principal H. Grady James. You may remember that along with three other principals, James was briefly suspended earlier this year for speaking at a parent/community forum (something Anderson no longer does) on the fate of their school in light of her One Newark plan. Read Bob Braun's excellent coverage of this here

Originally under One Newark this school was destined to be converted to a charter, but I guess after reviewing the school's data here and here, she had no choice but to back down—sorta.

See, the school is improving under James' leadership. Even though 94% of its students are free and reduced lunch eligible, and 89% are African American (both numbers higher than the district average), many of its numbers are heading in the right direction: 

True, their language arts proficiency trend numbers are a little erratic, but I defer to Jersey Jazzman and Dr. Bruce Baker for explanations. They are the numbers guys.

Despite all these obstacles, and the fact that the building quality is rated as 'Very Poor' (something that's far too common in our urban school districts), Hawthorne's numbers are going up and the parents and community support it. Maybe that's why Cami wanted to co-opt it—so she could somehow prove that a charter school serving a mostly minority, low-income population really could outperform a traditional public school. #SMH!

I guess the public outcry got to her because a report this week in NJ Spotlight had this to say:

Anderson has since backed off on some of the details, instead saying Hawthorne Avenue would remain a district school, just under outside management.

Either way, a third of its students are to be moved elsewhere, and with enrollment decisions due to be announced within the week, the change for the school continues to blow back on Anderson in increasingly public ways.

Yesterday, the extra attention came by way of the Randi Weingarten, the national president of the American Federation of Teachers, visiting the school to voice her support for it remaining as it is.

Identifying Anderson as part of a nationwide reform movement of “privatizers” and “profiteers,” Weingarten said Hawthorne was an example of the superintendent’s plans gone awry.

“They don’t want schools doing well the old-fashioned way,” she said. “They are so craven here that instead of celebrating the success, and instead of seeing what is growing and nurturing that, why would you stop that?”

According to the district's and state's own beloved data, Hawthorne Avenue School is headed in the right direction. If anything, it needs to be supported, nurtured, studied and replicated—not dismantledWhat the heck is 'outside management' anyway? And why does this school need it? Why can't the Newark School District continue to manage it? As we've seen time and again with all things ed 'reform', all roads lead to one place: the bank. My guess is there's some sort of profit to be made by somebody, somewhere. 

So, #NJEdTruthSquad, here's what we need to do: Contact Rep. Donald Payne, Jr., who wrote a letter to Cami demanding answers about One Newark. I wrote about that letter in a previous post, but interestingly the link is no longer available. Odd technical glitch? Or could it be because he has endorsed Shavar Jeffries in the Newark Mayoral race? Not sure.

But in any event, click on the Congressional delegation contact info link on the right side of this page and send Rep. Payne an email or call and leave a message telling him to help stop the dismantling of Hawthorne Avenue School, and demand that he push Anderson for proof her 'reforms' really are in the best interests of the children of Newark.