Parents in the Binghampton district in Tennessee are furious that the state took over their school, changed the name and colors, brought in an inexperienced staff, and no one thought to consult them.
Tennessee created the “Achievement School District” and put charter founder Chris Barbic in charge. Barbic, a graduate of the unaccredited Broad Superintendents Academy, has promised to take the schools scoring in the bottom 5% and put them in the state’s top 25% in five years. He has the authority to take control of low-performing schools to turn them around.
One of them is Lester School, now renamed Cornerstone Preparatory School and turned into a charter.
At the community meeting, feelings ran high:
“Parents resent an outside group coming in and taking over, particularly, they say, when there is scant evidence teachers and staff are experienced enough to know what they are doing.
“They are furious that the school’s name and colors were changed without input. And they question why the principal has never led an inner-city school and earned her education degree only two years ago.
“And you think you and this gentleman here know what African-American children need?” radio show host Thaddeus Matthews asked Wednesday, pressing Settle to explain why more than half the teachers in the school are in the process of being licensed to teach, but not yet certified.
“It is disrespectful to this community that you are going to come in and make a decision about the lives of children in this community and get no community input. The people in this community have a right to be represented,” he said.”
Barbic promised to work with the community to try to “work out the issues.”
It won’t be easy. Apparently the Cornerstone staff is applying “no excuses” behavior policies, and the parents call it child abuse. “Anger first boiled over in a meeting Dec. 19 at the Lester Community Center. One little girl told the crowd of 120-plus people in a three-hour meeting that her teacher refused to let her use the restroom or get her fresh clothes when she wet her pants. She also said the teacher took her shoes, apparently because she was slow tying her laces. Other parents said teachers twisted their children’s arms or took their shoes as punishment.”
The school is trying to calm the situation: “Cornerstone called more than 100 parents during the holiday break, sent letters to each family and scheduled grade-level meetings with parents, starting last week, to talk over their concerns.”
Let me add that I like Barbic’s pledge. It is concrete and it has a five-year deadline. He can be held accountable in five years. It is not clear what happens if he doesn’t meet his goal. Will he be fired? If he accomplishes it, he can then go to work on the next group of schools in the bottom 5%. Statistically, there is always a bottom 5%.