Monday, July 23, 2012

You see, equity is what creates balance. And balance is what propels our world - by Bill Lacey

When I first launched the Facebook page, "I Already have a Small Autonomous
School, it's called My Classroom", back in the cooler days of February
vacation, I did so to illuminate what I perceived as a threat by outside
forces, vying to gain a foothold, and therefore control, of our New Bedford
Public School system. Gosh, that was a while ago, wasn't it? In the
intervening days we've watched as a long-serving member of our NBPS family
was thrown into the sacrificial fire to begin the purging process that, at
some level, is a necessity. At this writing, one of our three middle schools
has had its leadership changed, though whether or not that change can be
directly attributed to the vocal dissent of its staff is a question for the
ages. What is clear is that there IS a change process occurring.

That change process, however, can be directly attributed to an agreed upon
process that already exists in our system by virtue of negotiated contracts.
The negotiated process is key here. And I'm going to step away from those
other things that keep me busy in the summer months to elaborate on that.

This past Monday evening, July 16, at a meeting organized by the United
Interfaith Action group, two proposals for the creation of Small Autonomous
Schools were presented. Now, here's the interesting part.

I would support EITHER of these two proposals but for one, overwhelmingly
mitigating, point.

There is no equity in either of them.

You see, equity is what creates balance. And balance is what propels our

Let me explain.

I could completely support the formation of a multilingual school or
(another) school for the visual and performing arts (our system already has
repurposed the Pulaski elementary school as a Magnet school with the theme
of "the Arts") IF they had no connectivity to my purposeful school system. I
cannot find an argument with Our Sister's School or Nativity Prep. They are
schools whose populations are serviced by staff members whose autonomy is
directly linked to private funding. They set their hours, their school
year's length and the duties of the staff who work there. No problems. I'm
good, thanks. Parochial schools? Again, no problems. Carry on. But the very
thought of a population within a public school who have a different
educational experience than the child in the classroom next door??? Well,
that's gonna need some investigation.

Let's take the Renaissance Community Arts school's desires as an example of
problematic inequity~ By the descriptive: students who were selected for
acceptance would receive art and music instruction "almost daily" (S-T; July
15, 2012). As a teacher who has made a career out of the deliverance of
music education you would think I'd be thrilled to read this, right?


In order to deliver a proper music or art education to a child, and
certainly ANY child who is enrolled at a school for the Arts, you must first
guarantee that instruction is at the hands of a Highly Qualified arts
instructor. While that alone might be a lesser problem to overcome by way of
staffing, what it really creates is an immediate inequity of both
educational experiences, even within the same environment, BUT. and here's
the real crux of this. it suggests that classroom instructors who are
teaching under the banner of the Renaissance Community school would receive
an unfair amount of preparatory time as compared to their colleagues who are
not an autonomous school instructor. Remember, our contract with the New
Bedford School Committee states that elementary instructors may use the time
their children are studying art, music and physical education for
preparatory purposes.

Am I starting to interest MORE of you now..?

This is one of those often hinted about inequities that comes and goes in
flights of whispers. Public education is first, and foremost, about offering
the same education to every child regardless of his or her race,
nationality, gender or religious affiliation. It's a basic tenant of
Roosevelt's Second Bill of Rights which he penned in 1944. The point being,
a child whose instructor is less prepared than another child's instructor,
based on inconsistencies and employment practice, has received an unfair
share of education, and that, my friends is wrong. And there isn't a thing
that the UIA could support in that statement.


Anonymous said...

Did anyone hear Justin Braga on WBSM Monday afternoon? He was pushing the small autonomous schools agenda. He said opponents "distort" the facts. Mr. Braga and his colleagues also said middle school students are not prepared for high school work. Are they blaming the teachers? Justin is a gifted politician who is using the NBPS and its students to launch his political career.

Anonymous said...

I am really amazed that an 18 year old is directing the course of conversation regarding the NBPS system. Sure he attended New Bedford schools, and he is obviously a bright young man, but he has absolutely NO experience working in this district. He attended school here - period. Therefore, his views are one-sided, and lack a certain level of understanding. AND, not all of the information that he is disseminating is accurate. Even the school committee needed to correct some of his statements at their last meeting. I'm also curious...what will be Mr. Braga's major at the Ivy League school he will be attending? Education or Politics?

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