Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The infallibility of the school board

Now ms. Frisco is telling the Elmhurst supporters to get over it because the courts shouldn't be able to reverse the decision of elected school board members (like in Brown vs. the Board of Education). You voted them into office so you should accept their wisdom. As if having the courts overrule elected officials is unheard of (didn't GiaQuinta sue the mayor a while back?). Wendy's rubber stamps are sort of like the Pope and his cardinals. They're infallible between elections. To the JG, FWCS is infallible for eternity.

The reason for keeping Elmhurst open is that it's still a viable alternative to the other three failed high schools south of Coliseum. Unfortunately, even if it stays open, that won't be true much longer under a management on Clinton Street that's determined to close it.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Suit's on

Yesterday the Vegeler Law Office officially filed suit on behalf of Elmhurst parents to keep the school open. How this will all play out is any one's guess, and the most urgent question at the moment is whether the school will at least be open this fall. The constitutional question about access to education to me boils down to whether someone with a child at Elmhurst should be forced to send them to Wayne. If it were me, the answer would be a resounding "NO WAY!".

A more interesting point of discovery will come in examining the district's finances to see whether there's another way to find the money needed to keep Elmhurst open. My guess is that there's enough deadwood in the "fiefdoms" in the Grile Center and the schools to pay for that and for the additional 8 million they will have to cut next year. Just finding out what FWCS has squirreled away should be worth the cost of the lawsuit. They are "Our Schools" after all.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Cambridge consultants' assessment of SSHS spot on

South Side High School got mediocre (poor to fair) ratings in the recent follow-up by the Cambridge group on behalf of the IDOE. Krista Stockman's comment was "we knew most... of this already" (but we just didn't do anything about it until the state came in with a hammer). That's right. In fact I sent Wendy a letter eight years ago after subbing at South Side, describing much of what Cambridge said. I sent Mark GiaQuinta a similar letter after he was elected to the board. (wonder what happened to those letters.) Steve Brace criticized Cambridge for denigrating the staff after spending so little time and effort. Well, Steve, after spending a year at South as a volunteer tutor in freshman math classes, I can say that the consultant has a remarkably good grasp of the situation. But you know that, don't you, Steve?

The report is available on line as a PDF file
http://www.journalgazette.net/assets/pdf/JG71687413.PDF in last week's JG article. Much of the criticism falls on principal Thomas Smith who's strength is discipline and creation of an orderly environment. His weakness is lack of vision and management skill in carrying out an academic improvement strategy. He is also hampered by a top down administration on Clinton Street, which allows no discretion in devising different strategies or administering personnel. The straitjacket of a union contract was, of course, not explicitly mentioned. But now Mr. Smith is going to Wayne to straighten them out. Good luck with that.

I don't have anything against Mr. Smith. If the middle schools weren't dumping unprepared kids into South Side (as ordered by the top down administration on Clinton Street) he would probably do just fine. To expect anyone to succeed pulling up an anchor at the end of a broken chain is unrealistic, and I personally told him so. But he knew what he was getting into. And it will be worse at Wayne.

Friday, April 9, 2010

It ain't over 'till it's over

As Yogi Berra said a long time ago, back when FWCS was a great school district instead of another failing urban mess. Judging by Angie Hayden Sutton's letter which appeared in the JG this morning, apparently several weeks after it was written, FWCS never had any intention of doing anything but closing the school. The "fluff" JG editorial she mentions about kids adjusting to their new schools was written before the vote was taken, so even Karen Frisco knew it was a done deal. What Angie says is right on target and it would be a shame if the "Save Elmhurst" group accepts this decision without a challenge, in the courts if necessary.

But it's up to Elmhurst parents and alumni to take up the challenge, not just with words but with their wallets. There's still one high school on the south side of Fort Wayne that works and is worth saving as long as it can remain academically viable. Send a few dollars to the cause (Paypal, credit card, whatever, .... on their website http://sosehs.com/) and give Elmhurst a chance. You never know what you can do until you try.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Wayne HS officially a failure, Elmhurst parents threaten to sue

The state DOE has officially added Wayne HS to its list of failing schools. It was already unofficially included, being on the district's list of "LEAD" schools. But being on the official list has triggered more anger from Elmhurst parents, many of who's kids have been slated to go to Wayne. Somehow they have awakened to the fact that three high schools which will take in most of the former Elmhurst students are all in the bottom 5% in the state's academic rankings and are all in danger of being taken over by the DOE. None have a realistic chance of improving, so they may soon be at the mercy of Tony Bennett and the governor whom the FWCS administration has taken great pains to vilify.

So the Elmhurst parents group that tried to save the school announced on Channel 21 news last night that they want to sue FWCS because forcing their kids into failing high schools violates their constitutional right to an equal education. Here's hoping they go ahead. There are plenty of other places to find the $2 million saved by closing Elmhurst and Pleasant Center that won't compromise academic achievement. They're just more uncomfortable for the administration to confront.