In Philadelphia many teachers, students, and parents in the school district have experienced utter frustration and disrespect. Dr. Ackerman, our new CEO experienced this herself on the Friday before her tenure began. An employee who did not recognize her responded to a request by Dr Ackerman in the following manner: “that’s not my job.” It so important that Arlene Ackerman experiences success in Philadelphia.
We are poised for a positive change. The previous School Reform Commission (SRC) employed no one with experience, knowledge, or expertise in dealing with inner city schools. This lack of demonstrated ability did not interfere with their ego. They set goals and made bold promises. In school language, as we have seen, their performance was below basic.
We now have a new Mayor who gets it when it comes to education. We have a new union President who is a class act. We have a new CEO who has made mistakes in the past, but also has created some successes. If she can build on one and learn from the other we all have an opportunity here. Last but not least, we have a new SRC Board Chairwomen in Sandra Dungee Glenn and a new SRC member in Dr. Ramirez. Dungee Glenn was the hardest working most committed member of the SRC. She has seen what works and what doesn’t. I hope and believe she has the guts to eliminate these Educational Management Organizations, which have demonstrably wasted over $100 million. As for Dr. Ramirez, well she is definitely a change of face for the SRC. She actually attends public meetings, listens and talks. Importantly, she actually knows something about education.
The last pieces of the puzzle are parents and students. Students have been showing up in the form of Youth United for Change and the Student Union, but we need more students from more schools. Students need to start snitching. Yeah they’ve been known to snitch when there is a weapon in the building, but how about snitching when teachers are being abused: when student educational time is being stolen by others to whom discipline is as foreign as an alien life form.
The parents are getting it together. Parents United has done a great job in activating parents and this movement is spreading. I see more parent activism in my own school. We need parents. Principals have been known to refuse to discipline students. Regional superintendents have been known to tell principals not to suspend any more children. They can deny it all they want, but we know it has happened and only parents can change this by demanding a safe environment for their children. Have we in Philadelphia already forgotten the brouhaha resulting from the school violence report issued in 2006? And why is the report issued May 10th of this year, http://www.philly.com/inquirer/home_top_left_story/18825929.html so eerily similar to the one issued in 2006. I hope Dr. Ackerman gets to read these because they represent the source of our frustration and failure. Our schools, a microcosm of society are unsafe. They are a cesspool of disrespect.
In business they say 80% of your business comes from 20% of your customers. The same is true in school discipline. So why can’t we develop effective plans/programs for the 20% of children who repetitively require too much time for discipline, a plan which also will truly benefit the 80%?
If Philadelphia is to have a future as a great city, we must educate our children. We have witnessed what happens when we fail to do so. Let’s hope that we all learn from our mistakes and that we are all poised for success. More importantly, let us act to make our hope a reality.