Roy Exum: Moving The Goal Posts

Tuesday, May 16, 2017 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

A federal judge in Birmingham has just ruled the mostly-white community of Gardendale can break away from the mostly-black Jefferson County Department of Education. Judge Madeline Haikala admitted in her 190-page decision “race was a motivating factor” but she granted “secession plans” that will take three years and urged the new Gardendale School Board to “see this as an opportunity to demonstrate good faith.”

For example, the first thing the judge suggested was for the Gardendale School Board to include just one black representative. Well, that’s a thought! If the case is not appealed, Gardendale will become the eighth in-county secession in Alabama since 2000 and every one of them is where a wealthier and whiter community has formed its own school system. Nationally, there have been 36 secessions in the last 17 years and – believe you this – a bunch more are on the way.

“All this stuff is happening really quietly,” says Rebecca Sibilia, the founder of EdBuild, told a US News & Report writer. “You’re talking about students who are left behind and who are further disadvantaged by the fact that their neighbors are able to move the goal posts on them.”

Today there is a growing belief that Signal Mountain will leave the floundering Hamilton County in the months to come and, with the state of Tennessee determined to take over 4-6 inner-city schools, there is a desperate need for stability as well as leadership in the county’s Department of Education. State Education Commissioner Candice McQueen is scheduled to further explain her most-puzzling (yet skillfully orchestrated) “partnership” plan to the Hamilton County School Board on Thursday (4 p.m.) but some believe the visit may be to ask the school board to authorize “a letter of intent.”

It seems the “partnership” will have its own superintendent, its own school board and will operate totally independent of the county’s elected school board. The majority of the new school board will be chosen by the state and carefully selected, just as a firm from Massachusetts was hand-picked in Nashville with apparently no input from Chattanooga. In short, any mention of a “partnership” is a ruse.

The consultants, Empower Schools, are from Boston and tout successes in Massachusetts and Colorado, both a far cry from our Orchard Knob. To date no one in Chattanooga has seen any financial analysis of what this experiment will cost each of the stakeholders but to call it foolish, an unfair burden on the taxpayers, a waste of state resources, and a guaranteed failure can be illustrated in Memphis where a $500 million “Race to the Top” grant accomplished virtually nothing.

Instead, the skeleton of what was once the Shelby County Department of Education has quite literally out-performed the state’s Achievement School District and now, with federal money dried up, about half of the ASD administration has been terminated. Imagine that?

A scathing state audit of the ruinous financial efforts by the ASD last fall showed a gross lack of oversight and mismanagement and now a number of Memphis schools are closing this spring. Shelby County and the ASD are literally recruiting children because each represents a financial unit. Do you get that? A child becomes a unit?

McQueen is using the schools in Chattanooga that she demands be in the partnership as pawns on a chess board. She is literally blackmailing Hamilton County. Since she’s “guv-ment” I guess it is legal but it is still wrong! Here’s how: If Hamilton County’s School Board doesn’t agree to the partnership – and to stay out of the way -- she will completely seize the buildings and their children the same way she did in Memphis. Either way Hamilton County will have no say but with a partnership, it is our fault too when this most assuredly crashes on the sharp rocks of life. Unbelievable!

The only thing different will be in Memphis she promised to take the worst five percent and move each into the top 25 percent of Memphis schools. There was absolutely no way when Memphis is ranked as one of the Top Ten Worst Cities for Crime in the United States. She may not be quite as delusional but she’s still Candice. “I’m here to help.” Please.

* * *

In DeKalb County, Ga., nine principals at failing schools were fired this week. Superintendent Steve Green didn’t balk at the reason, either. “There’s an accountability element here that we’re not shying away from,” Green said. “We developed a rubric that we would need to see certain evidence of progress in areas and, if we saw that, we would continue with the leadership at that school. If we didn’t, we would be honest ... that perhaps it’s better to give the school a chance to reboot and also reassign the leadership in that area.”

Green was totally honest. “We tried as much as we could to look at where progress was being made,” he said. “In one way or another, notice was given if you’re not making progress, it’s imminent that something’s going to happen,” he told reporters from the Atlanta Constitution-Journal.

“There was a clear communication that there be growth … or progress in some way or another.”

royexum@aol.com


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