Yesterday, RCSD superintendent, Dr. Vargas unveiled a proposal for colleges and universities to essentially take over individual city schools. If a take-over were to happen, the college would essentially replace the role of superintendent and be the decision maker for the school. Teachers would remain district employees, but new contracts would be negotiated.
The proposal still needs state approval to go forward, and would also require an 80% approval rating among its teachers for it to pass in a certain location.
New York State has been allowing these types of take-overs to happen as a part of the Race To The Top initiative. There have been schools in NYC and Buffalo that have done the same. The process is still fairly new.
Vargas says, “This is our last chance to improve this district.” As a parent that statement is scary. Is he admitting defeat? That the only way to save us is to turn the keys over? Are we essentially hopeless? Select locations haven’t been determined yet, but it seems like he’s going to target troubled locations first.
The news of the proposed take-overs is quite a bombshell in our district right now. I have so many unanswered questions and trepidations, and honestly haven’t really decided if this is a good thing or bad?
It’s no surprise our district is failing. Not only that, but we’re ranked dead last in the state. We can only move up from here, right? I still don’t like the fact that my children’s education seems to be completely experimental. A college take-over could spell innovation and great opportunity for our students. It could also mean colleges get to turn our elementary and high schools into little recruitment mills for their campuses. The feeling of uncertainty and instability is frightening. It’s scary to not know if your child’s school will participate in some experimental new strategy because they feel like they are lost or out of options. It’s daunting to not know if our school will shut down, move it’s location, adopt extended hours, or be taken over by an outside entity at any given time. I have three kids coming up through the system and I have no clue if our neighborhood school could be yanked out from under us at any moment because our superintendent feels like throwing his hands up in defeat- because he’s out of solutions. And on top of all that, who says that the people who are in the business of running colleges know anything about elementary or high school educations? Knowing what is good for students in college is something very different than knowing what is good for tiny little kindergarteners and so forth. Is this just a way to develop all kids to be college ready from the day they enter grade school to the day they walk across the stage at graduation? Which is something I take issue with as being problematic. college is not really a realistic, ideal, nor wise choice for all; let’s not be dishonest about that, nor forget that college tuition is on the rise while employment is not.
And then what if it does go through and it’s very successful? Is it going to be like local charter schools that require applications and a lottery process to be enrolled where there’s waiting lists that are hundreds of kids long and only a few coveted spots to fill? I’d love to see high school kids get an opportunity at accelerated courses, which our city schools have trouble funding and offering. But it’s not fair if some locations get that chance and others do not. As it stands, we have many failing schools and a handful of nice locations. I hear so much about locations like School of The Arts, but am disappointed that not all schools can brag about how great their programs are. Fixing one location doesn’t solve the district’s problems, because there’s still dozens of places that need help too. So even within our district, that is leagues behind our suburban neighbors, there is and potentially will be even more inequality in the quality of education depending on which building your kids are in.