Dear Knox County School Board,
SPEAK is concerned that you were not fully informed about the model proposed in the Strategic Plan 20/20 Goal: “Establish a regional support structure.”
Last night at the BoEd work session Ms. Kincannon and Ms. Carson asked the Superintendent pointed questions about the explicit meaning of “Establish a regional support structure.” The superintendent talked vaguely about vertical structures, adding a new layer of administration, and finally, said the model would be like that of Charlotte-Mecklenburg, NC.
Our research shows that such a structure begins by setting up a separate “District Turn-Around Office” with an independent group of administrators who manage these schools outside of the democratic oversight and governance of Knox County School Board. This private, third-party “Turn Around Office” will be accountable solely to the superintendent of Knox County Schools.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg’s model was designed by Mass Insight Education. Their business plan is to incrementally scale up the number of schools managed by private operators. This privatized school structure could be organized into clusters of schools deemed “low performing” within a large geographic region, including schools outside of Knox County.
According to Mass Insight’s Power Point (available here: http://www.massinsight.org/publications/stg-resources/114/file/1/pubs/2010/09/01/STG_District_Turnaround_Office_August_2010.pdf ), the Turn-Around Office is tasked with turning around schools. “Turn-around” is a euphemism for closing a school with zero parent or community input and agreement. The schools selected for turn-around are deemed “low performing” based on the district’s distribution of standardized test scores. Since every school year there will be low performers, there is guaranteed, a yearly group of schools to be removed from BOE oversight and handed to private operators.
They call mass firing of teachers and principals, secretaries, TA’s, custodians, cafeteria workers, and hiring new staff “managing human capital.” We call it inhumane. This unaccountable third-party partners with Teach for America & The New Teacher Project to fast-track and churn staff.
You should note that the schools in Charlotte-Mecklenburg that follow this turn around model showed no improvement in student achievement, as promised. Instead, no schools left the privatized district and 6 more schools were added. Once a school gets in they never get out.
Charlotte is not the only system burdened by ‘District Turn Around Offices’. Chicago, New York, Washington, DC, & Los Angeles are all victims of these immoral practices. Partial funding came from venture philanthropists The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation & The Carnegie Foundation. The guidebook for mass school closings originated from the controversial Broad Academy, School Closure Guide 2009. http://failingschools.files.wordpress.com/2011/01/school-closure-guide1.pdf
What happened to these systems as a direct result of the Turn Around Office? Every system was thrown into turmoil, achievement dropped, and no money was saved. Pamela Grundy of Charlotte, NC and founding member of Parents Across America reported that local mass school closing in 2010 resulted in school overcrowding and increased student suspensions. According to Grundy “the closings disrupted already fragile communities and deepened distrust of the school system, especially among African Americans.” Privately managed charter schools sprung up to replace the closed public schools.
These charters displaced children who did not meet their entry requirements, or children in SPED; these charterized districts send parents running from school to school trying to find a place to enroll their child; in the first week of school parents were turned away at charter school doorsteps, parents do not know if their school will remain open or be shut down or what school their child will attend year after year after year; and major corruption scandals are multiplying in every charterized districts. Who would want their own child subjected to these actions?
The Superintendent needs to be honest and transparent with the Knoxville Community about the implications for OUR schools and OUR children. This regional support structure is not an education plan (it’s not even supportive) – it’s a business plan. The beneficiaries are private investors whose profits depend on growth of the charter sector. Profitability and growth is embedded in this model. The losers are students, teachers, parents, and our community.
There is no evidence this plan will improve learning opportunities for our children. SPEAK was not supportive initially because the goal was opaque. It’s a slap in the face to citizens that this was hidden from public view behind nice sounding words. Now, we are firmly opposed to Knox County Board of Education approval for establishing a “regional support structure” in Knox County. We urge you to delay a vote on the Strategic Plan until this goal is removed.
Students, Parents, Educators Across Knox County