Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Milk musings

Some have argued that charter schools "skim the cream" of student populations because students have to apply to get in, rather than simply being geographically zoned in.

Our school tends to get students whom traditional schools have expelled and sent our way. So we're not starting out with the cream, if that exists.

At the same time, this year alone we "moved along" something like seven students, out of a total student body of 85, for offenses like repeated stealing, repeated bullying, and drug dealing. What are we left with: the students who don't steal, don't bully, and don't deal drugs. The cream.

You can argue that we are skimming the cream and leaving the chaff (am I mixing my metaphors?) for someone else to deal with - or worse. Of those who leave, most end up at online school (another charter) or district-run ALC's (Area Learning Centers). A few don't go back to school at all - they are dropouts.

But what are we supposed to do with someone who deals drugs, or repeatedly steals from or bullies other students after multiple disciplinary measures are tried? According to the NYC Department of Ed's discipline code, selling drugs is a Level 5 infraction (the highest it goes); bullying and persistent stealing are Level 4 infractions. We don't have a "Suspension Center" to send kids to.

I'm not defending these decisions. Just discussing.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Pig Out

In two years in Minneota I have not had a single snow day, but yesterday we all got sent home at 9:30 a.m. because of a suspected swine flu outbreak.  There was a sudden run on the nurse's office with high fevers and other H1N1 symptoms.  Half the school was already out sick, so they just decided to send everyone home.  However, when the sick kids went to the doctor and got tested, it turned out to be a regular non-swine virus.

In other pig news, Chris, the other School-of-Blogger, is in Austin, MN today interviewing workers in the pork industry about working conditions.  He's been down there before as part of a larger workers' rights project.  (Austin, I'll remind you, is where workers were contracting the weird neurological disorder after being exposed to aerosolized pig brains. There's also a great documentary about a union drive at the Austin Hormel plant.)

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Stricter charter oversight in MN

As a charter school board member in Minnesota, I have to say, it's about time.  

According to a story in today's StarTrib,
Legislative changes affecting the special breed of public schools will increase oversight, close loopholes and clean up unclear language that had made it easier for some schools to get away with sloppy management or outright theft. Charter school sponsors will have stricter guidelines -- which could drive some away -- and the state will have more power to withhold taxpayer money or to shut down a school that breaks the law.
The minutes of our board meetings are public record, so I don't feel guilty about saying that I think we could use a lot more oversight, or at least training, in our financial decision-making. We don't have anything illegal going on like the charter school director who walked away with $1.4 million, but it just sort of feels like the blind leading the blind. Apparently our authorizer has barely come around to check on us except to make token yearly visits - that is until we got audited this year and the state had to get involved.

In New York this never would have happened, because the system is much more centralized.  There are only two charter authorizers in the state of New York, and their standards are very rigorous.  I've heard terrible stories about some of the many Minnesota charter authorizers.  

So apparently the state is putting pressure on authorizers: 
Some authorizers have gone "above and beyond the law" watching over the finances and operation of their charter schools, but others rarely even visit schools, said Chas Anderson, state Education Department deputy commissioner. "Without a strong authorizer, it's really hit or miss whether a charter school is going to be successful."
Now, all of a sudden, our authorizer has started to pay attention.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Mental Health Day, Redux

I had a comp day coming, so I decided to take it today when all the kids were busy testing.  How did I spend it?
1. Knitting
2.  Reading
3.  Going to the gym
4.  Sleeping
5.  Not grading.  

I am lucky to be at my current school in many ways.  The flexibility to call at 6:30 a.m. and tell my boss I'm not coming in is a big one. 

Monday, June 01, 2009

Hope springs ... not at all


I got two pieces of news today:

One: My co-worker, next-door neighbor, carpool buddy, and best friend in Minneapolis (other than my co-School-of-Blogger) got an offer at another school.  

Two: The job I'd applied for (at a similar type of school but likely without the racial issues I've been dealing with all year) is no longer available; that school is "sticking with their current staff" next year.

The sum of One plus Two is me not looking forward to next year very much.