Search results for: "Normandy"

When the state of Misaouri took control of the struggling, segregated school district of Normandy, it allowed students to escape to other districts and promised to transform what was left of the Normandy district. The takeover has been a flop.

 

 

Cameron Hensley is an honors student at Normandy High School with plans for college. But this year his school quit offering honors courses. His physics teacher hasn’t planned a lesson since January. His AP English class is taught by an instructor not certified to teach it.

 

The first-period English class is held in a science lab because the room across the hall smells like mildew and lacks adequate air conditioning. Stools sit upside down on the lab tables.

 

On a recent day, Hensley looked at an assigned worksheet. He wrote “positive” or “negative” beside 15 statements, depending on their connotation. “This is pretty easy,” he mumbled.

 

When Missouri education officials took over the troubled Normandy School District last summer, they vowed to help its 3,600 students become more college- and career-ready. About a quarter of the enrollment had already left for better schools under the controversial Missouri school transfer law, extracting millions of dollars from Normandy in the form of tuition payments to more affluent districts.

 

Even so, state education officials promised a new dawn in the district, with new leaders, better faculty and an unprecedented degree of attention from their department in Jefferson City.

 

But Hensley’s experience suggests things have gotten worse for many students who remain in Normandy schools.

 

Hensley, 18, began his senior year to find his favorite teachers gone. Electives such as business classes and personal finance were no longer offered.

 

He has written no papers or essays since fall, he said, aside from scholarship applications. He started reading a novel that the class never finished. Partly because of a lack of electives, he ended up taking fashion design first semester. He has no books to take home. He’s rarely assigned homework.

 

His one challenging class is precalculus.

 

“Last school year I was learning, progressing,” Hensley said. “This school year, I can honestly say I haven’t learned much of anything.”

[I am reposting this because the original post earlier today seems to have disappeared.]

Sixty years after the landmark Brown decision, school segregation is on the rise. The nation marks the anniversary of the decision every ten years but neglects its promise to end racial segregation. One of the most egregious examples of malign neglect occurred recently in the Normandy school district in Missouri. That district had been a high-achieving all-white district in the 1950s. After years of white flight, the district became all-African-American. As its test scores fell, the state of Missouri put the district on provisional accreditation. Help was definitely not on the way. After 18 years of provisional accreditation, the state merged the struggling Normandy district with another struggling, all-black district that had been under state supervision for five years. After the merger, the new district was stripped of accreditation.

Dr. Stanton Lawrence, who wrote the post below, was appointed superintendent of the Normandy school district in 2008. At that time, it was the second lowest-performing district in the state of Missouri (98% African American students/94.5% poverty) and had been provisionally accredited for 15 years. Two years later, the State Board of Education merged Normandy with the only lower performing school district (100% African American students/98% poverty) in the state, Wellston School District and stripped Normandy of its accreditation two years later. Dr. Lawrence wrote me to say, “My understanding is that this has never happened anywhere else in the country. There was a much higher performing district adjoining Wellston, but there would have been an atomic explosion if the African American students had been sent to University City School District.” The new district, like the old one, will be nearly 100% African American.

Stanton Lawrence asks in this post, “Has the Brown v. Board of Education Decision Been Institutionally Annulled?” He describes the actions of the state of Missouri as “punitive disparity.” Did any civil rights organization sue the state of Missouri? No. Did the U.S. Department of Education intervene? No. Did Secretary of Education Arne Duncan use his bully pulpit to demand desegregation and support for the children in the Normandy School District? No. The children in this district were essentially written off by the state of Missouri, and no one cares. Where is the Gates Foundation, the Broad Foundation, Democrats for Education Reform, StudentsFirst, and Students Matter? Why aren’t the billionaires saving these children?

Stanton Lawrence writes:

On May 17, 1954, the United State Supreme Court handed down its historic decision in the Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, lawsuit. This landmark ruling stipulated that “de jure” segregation, racial separation that is required by law, could no longer exist in public schools. Further, the high court ruled that “separate educational facilities are inherently unequal”. The reluctance of many southern school districts to enforce this new law resulted in many school districts receiving federal desegregation court orders mandating that they desegregate their schools. In recent years, despite Brown v. Board, many of these school districts have once again become more segregated than they were prior to 1965.

Nearly fifty-eight and one-half years later, on September 18, 2012, the Missouri State Board of Education decided to reclassify the Normandy School District as unaccredited. On its face, there was nothing unusual about the decision. The school district had been provisionally accredited for nearly eighteen years, and the dismal academic performance of its students was largely to blame. One could certainly make a strong case that the time had arrived for the state board of education to take meaningful action and send a clear message that a change was imperative if Normandy students were indeed deserving of a high quality educational experience.

But what was kept strangely quiet during the two hours of deliberations preceding the Missouri State Board of Education’s vote was the fact that only two years earlier, this same Board decided to merge a failed school district into the Normandy School District. That fact was never mentioned even once, almost as though it had never happened. The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education had exercised oversight of the Wellston School District for five years. When the state determined that there was insufficient progress in Wellston, they decided to lapse the school district and merge it into the similarly struggling Normandy School District.

Again, the decision would have been considered unremarkable, however, with a couple of critical exceptions. Every student in the Wellston School District was African American, and ninety-eight percent of those students received free or reduced price lunch, the federal threshold for determining poverty. In fact, Wellston was the only school district in the state of Missouri that was 100% African-American. Ninety-eight percent of Normandy’s students were African-American, and ninety-four and one-half percent of those students were from impoverished families. In essence, both communities were experiencing concentrated poverty and racial segregation. Was this decision made to effectively segregate the students in both school districts?

Not surprisingly, a trend line of longitudinal academic data of all school districts in the state of Missouri, when juxtaposed on a trend line reflecting the percentage of African American students from impoverished families in each school district, offers some distressing reflections. There is a near perfect match which reflects that the school districts with the highest percentage of impoverished African American students were performing least well on the state assessment. One can easily make a relatively compelling argument that the state could have easily projected that the Normandy-Wellston merger would, in essence, be disastrous from the outset and that it would not turn out well for any of the students involved.

The decision of the Missouri State Board of Education becomes problematic at best when one considers that no state board of education in any state has ever made a decision to attach two failing school districts (both characterized by concentrated poverty) as a remedy for poor performance. Routinely, such a decision would involve merging the failed school district with one that is performing quite well academically and, at the same time, a school district that is fiscally viable. A fitting example is the recent merger of the North Forest Independent School District (Texas) into the Houston Independent School District. In September, 2013, the Houston system received the $1 million Broad Prize for Urban Education, which implies that it is the best urban school district in the nation. It would have been nearly impossible for the poor academic performance of 5,500 students from North Forest to adversely impact the progress of Houston’s 203,000 students.

In essence, what has occurred is indeed a disturbing political precedent. In the 1950s, Normandy School District was one of the preeminent school districts in the state of Missouri. Concentrated poverty was not on the horizon, and not one African American learner attended school in the district. However, the white flight trend that occurred in the seventies in suburban communities across the country signaled dramatic residential shifts in the racial makeup of the school district. Normandy alumni who graduated prior to the 1950s have an extremely difficult time identifying with the circumstances that prevail in the district today. A front page headline in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on May 5, 2013 proclaimed in two inch-high letters, Normandy High: The Most Dangerous School in the Area. The school reform of punitive disparity in the form of the Missouri State Board of Education proclaimed that the Normandy School District would be closed, effective June 30, 2014.

Up until now, the only districts with charters in Missouri were St. Louis and Kansas City, the state’s two biggest districts. But the state board just granted a charter for a new school in the Normandy district, one of the state’s poorest and lowest performing.

The state board of education approved the charter with six votes in favor, one against, and one abstention.

Normandy lost its state accreditation in 2012, triggering a student transfer law that bled it of funding and students. The state school board bumped the district up to provisional accreditation in 2017. Academics have improved in recent years but the district still struggles. Less than half of third-graders passed state math and reading assessments in 2019. Its high school graduation rate in May was 69%.

Because of the district’s obstacles, state board member Pamela Westbrooks-Hodge, who previously served on Normandy’s governing board, voted against the charter.

“You can’t morally advance options and choice for one group by taking away the rights and choice of another,” she said...

Some elected leaders who represent the towns that make up the Normandy school district oppose this new charter, arguing all available resources should be poured into improving the district’s struggling schools.

Normandy’s school board is also skeptical of the encroaching school. Townsend went before the board Monday to offer partnership opportunities, but board member Ronald Roberts said the school’s track record doesn’t give him confidence for the future.

“It sounds like the community engagement process was disjointed, for lack of a better term, and there were missed opportunities for collaboration,” he said.

Other members called Townsend an outsider because she grew up in Chicago. She’s lived and taught in the St. Louis area for 18 years, including some in Normandy. She met with area parents and held virtual sessions this year to promote the new school.

Normandy educates children from 24 municipalities in near-north St. Louis County. Its enrollment has been dwindling for the past two decades, down to about 3,000 students from nearly 5,900 in 1991.

The Leadership School will start with 125 children in kindergarten through second grade with plans to grow a grade each year until hitting 450 students through eighth grade. The location of the school has not been determined. The Special School District will provide special education services, as it does for all public schools in St. Louis County.

No one suggests that the charter will somehow improve the education available for the 3,000 students in the district. The logic is that providing a charter for 450 students while abandoning the other 2,550 students is a good deal.

Elected officials in St. Louis County, which has no charter schools, are upset that the state legislature has voted to give them a new charter school, against their wishes. Their efforts to improve the struggling Normandy district will be undermined by the charter school. If you recall, Michael Brown (the teen who was shot and killed in Ferguson, leading to national protests), went to school in the Normandy district.

The possibility of the first public charter school opening in north St. Louis County, within the struggling Normandy school district’s borders, is being met with opposition from some local government leaders.

If approved by the Missouri State Board of Education, the Leadership School will launch in fall 2021 as the first charter school to open outside of either St. Louis or Kansas City in the two decades of the program’s existence.

Several mayors of the small towns that make up the Normandy Schools Collaborative held a press conference Thursday afternoon to voice their opposition to the new school, saying elected representation should be involved in improving the district.

“We say to anyone who wants to come into our community to help in that fight, we welcome you,” said Brian Jackson, the mayor of Beverly Hills. “But we have to say to you, not without us.”

The officials argued Normandy is turning its school system around despite inadequate resources. A charter school opening nearby will further starve the district of funding, they said.

Charter schools — which are publicly funded but run independently from elected local school boards — have opened only in St. Louis and Kansas City since their 1999 creation. They’re allowed by current state law to open outside those two cities if the school district is not fully accredited.

In another story on the same event:

 A charter school is coming to the Normandy school district next fall, despite the most organized opposition since the taxpayer-funded schools first opened 20 years ago in St. Louis.

“We reject the idea of experimenting with our educational system with our children,” said Joyce McRath, a former Normandy School Board member. “The push for charter schools rarely happens in rural communities or communities that don’t look like ours.”

Unfortunately, the Legislature is moving forward without listening to local elected officials. They will open a charter school without considering the damage it will do to the Normandy schools.

 

This appeared today in Garrison Keillor’s “The Writers’ Almanac”:

 

J.D. Salinger‘s novel The Catcher in the Rye was published on this date in 1951 (books by this author). The novel begins, “If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don’t feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth.”

Salinger had thought about Holden Caulfield for years. He carried six Caulfield stories with him when he went off to fight in World War II. The stories were with Salinger on the beach at Normandy and in the hours he spent with Ernest Hemingway in Paris. By the time Salinger began to assemble the novel The Catcher in the Rye, he had nine stories about Holden and his family.

When he finished the manuscript, Salinger sent it to publisher Robert Giroux at Harcourt, Brace. Giroux was impressed with the book, and was pleased to be its editor, but he never thought it would be a best-seller. Giroux sent the book to his boss, Eugene Reynal. Reynal didn’t really get it, and sent it to a textbook editor for his opinion, since it was about a prep-school boy. The textbook editor didn’t like it, so Harcourt, Brace would not publish it. Rival house Little, Brown picked it up right away, and Robert Giroux quit his job and went to work for Farrar, Strauss instead.

Reviewers called the book “brilliant,” “funny,” and “meaningful.” Salinger couldn’t cope with the amount of publicity and celebrity the book gave him. He moved to a hilltop home in New Hampshire and lived the rest of his life in seclusion. Many directors approached Salinger over the years, hoping to obtain the movie rights, and Salinger turned them all down.

The full statement by General James Mattis, who was Trump’s Secretary of Defense.

James Mattis full statement

In Union There Is Strength

I have watched this week’s unfolding events, angry and appalled. The words “Equal Justice Under Law” are carved in the pediment of the United States Supreme Court. This is precisely what protesters are rightly demanding. It is a wholesome and unifying demand—one that all of us should be able to get behind. We must not be distracted by a small number of lawbreakers. The protests are defined by tens of thousands of people of conscience who are insisting that we live up to our values—our values as people and our values as a nation.

When I joined the military, some 50 years ago, I swore an oath to support and defend the Constitution. Never did I dream that troops taking that same oath would be ordered under any circumstance to violate the Constitutional rights of their fellow citizens—much less to provide a bizarre photo op for the elected commander-in-chief, with military leadership standing alongside.

We must reject any thinking of our cities as a “battlespace” that our uniformed military is called upon to “dominate.” At home, we should use our military only when requested to do so, on very rare occasions, by state governors. Militarizing our response, as we witnessed in Washington, D.C., sets up a conflict—a false conflict— between the military and civilian society. It erodes the moral ground that ensures a trusted bond between men and women in uniform and the society they are sworn to protect, and of which they themselves are a part.

Keeping public order rests with civilian state and local leaders who best understand their communities and are answerable to them.

James Madison wrote in Federalist 14 that “America united with a handful of troops, or without a single soldier, exhibits a more
forbidding posture to foreign ambition than America disunited, with a hundred thousand veterans ready for combat.” We do not need to militarize our response to protests. We need to unite around a common purpose. And it starts by guaranteeing that all of us are equal before the law.

Instructions given by the military departments to our troops before the Normandy invasion reminded soldiers that “The Nazi slogan for destroying us…was ‘Divide and Conquer.’ Our American answer is ‘In Union there is Strength.'” We must summon that unity to surmount this crisis—confident that we are better than our politics.

Donald Trump is the first president in my lifetime who does not try to unite the American people—does not even pretend to try. Instead he tries to divide us. We are witnessing the consequences of three years of this deliberate effort. We are witnessing the consequences of three years without mature leadership. We can unite without him, drawing on the strengths inherent in our civil society. This will not be easy, as the past few days have shown, but we owe it to our fellow citizens; to past generations that bled to defend our promise; and to our children.

We can come through this trying time stronger, and with a renewed sense of purpose and respect for one another. The pandemic has shown us that it is not only our troops who are willing to offer the ultimate sacrifice for the safety of the community. Americans in hospitals, grocery stores, post offices, and elsewhere have put their lives on the line in order to serve their fellow citizens and their country. We know that we are better than the abuse of executive authority that we witnessed in Lafayette Square. We must reject and hold accountable those in office who would make a mockery of our Constitution. At the same time, we must remember Lincoln’s “better angels,” and listen to them, as we work to unite.

Only by adopting a new path—which means, in truth, returning to the original path of our founding ideals—will we again be a country admired and respected at home and abroad.
James Mattis

 

This is a story about a high school in Missouri that should have been on the U.S. News list of the best high schools in America. The teachers are dedicated. Many of the kids are beating the odds against them. They are hard-working. They have grit and perseverance. They will make great contributions to society.

Ray Hartmann of the Riverfront Times tells an inspiring story of students, teachers, and administrators at Normandy High School who are succeeding despite the mainstream narrative that writes them off.

Ninety-seven percent of its students are black, and a stunning 92 percent of the 3,100 kids residing in the district’s 23 municipalities are poor enough to qualify for free and reduced student lunches. The median household income in the district is $30,100, and the median home value is $69,700.

Perhaps even more daunting…the district has a 40 percent “mobility rate.” That means, unlike your Claytons and Ladues, nearly half of the kids in the district are either homeless or moving between homes in the school year.

Many people look at these numbers, writes Hartmann, and think “failing school.” But when he visited, he saw a different story.

He saw teachers who care about students, and students who are proud of their school.

He attended graduation ceremonies and wrote about two students.

Meet Kayvion Calvert, one of the privileged few. Thanks to his own initiative — and to the fact that he went to a high school that cared about him and afforded him the chance to make the most of his abilities — Kayvion is off to Alabama A&M University to major in political science and minor in secondary education, with a résumé that’s almost ridiculously impressive.

He was class president as a senior, serving all four years in student government. He was also a four-year member of the school choir, a passion he pursued while singing in both the choir at his church and another one in the community, as well as acting in drama club productions.

Obviously, Kayvion Calvert is not your average kid. And, admittedly, maybe it helped that he didn’t come from just any public school district.

Then there’s Gabrielle Brown, Kayvion’s classmate. She was class valedictorian, with a GPA of 3.96. But, in fairness, she too was a bit privileged: Not only did her high school launch her to a college scholarship in computer science at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, but it provided an opportunity to supplement her high school studies in an associate degree program at St. Louis Community College-Florissant Valley.

So, in addition to graduating as class valedictorian, Gabrielle is already a member of the Phi Theta Kappa college honor society, which honors students at two-year colleges. She was also a member of the high school band. And she had an internship at Centene.

You could forgive Gabrielle if she were a little boastful about all this. But she’s not, deflecting credit to the fact that she was one of the fortunate ones who attended a high school that, in an email, she termed “a critical factor” in her success.

“At my school, you establish so many connections and develop so many relationships, you meet people from so many diverse backgrounds it’s honestly astonishing,” she wrote. “The people you meet don’t just fade out of your life, either. They are present and encourage you [to] continue on your road of success.

“When I was little, going to my elementary school as a child, they had programs to help children succeed. Whether the child was advanced or a little behind, they are capable of supporting children on a more personal level and really connect with them. They influenced me to become the person I am today, and I intend to continue giving back.”

That’s not your everyday loyalty from a high school student. But kids like Gabrielle and Kayvion didn’t go to your everyday privileged high school.

No, they graduated from Normandy. Yes, the same Normandy Schools Collaborative often presented as the symbol of all that’s wrong with public education in St. Louis and the nation.

Why isn’t this heroic school on the U.S. News list as one of the best high schools in the nation, instead of all those public schools in affluent neighborhoods and charter schools that cherrypick their students?

 

I was impressed by Brett Stephens’ column in the New York Times today. I read this in conjunction with a news article that described the schizophrenia of the Trump administration about Russia. Trump is eager to be Putin’s friend. Trump admires Putin. Trump will do nothing to offend Putin. But the rest of his administration treats Putin and Russia as the greatest threat to American security. Trump treat the Mueller indictment, still, as a “rigged witch hunt,” but Dan Coats, the conservative Director of National Intelligence, and James Mattis, Secretary of Defense, take it seriously.

All of this confirms my sense that Trump is either a loose cannon, a fool, or Putin’s puppet. Whatever it is, it frightens me for the future of the world, the future of democracy, the future of our nation, and the world my grandchildren will live in. I’m sorry to devote so much space to this foul man who somehow became president, despite the fact that he did not win a majority of the vote. I’m worried. Education issues pale in comparison to the future of the world.

This is what Stephens wrote today.

“Some near-forgotten anniversaries are worth commemorating. One hundred years ago — Bastille Day, 1918 — Theodore Roosevelt’s youngest son, Quentin, was killed in aerial combat at the Second Battle of the Marne. Twenty-six years later, Quentin’s oldest brother, Ted, also died in France, after landing at Utah Beach on D-Day.

“Quentin and Ted are buried side-by-side at the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial in Colleville-sur-Mer. It’s a moving sight for everyone who still believes in the cause for which they and their brothers in arms fought and died — above all, the idea, possibility and preservation of a free world, anchored and inspired by America but not subservient to it.

“In other words, the things that Donald Trump has spent his presidency trashing under the historically sordid banner of “America First.”

“That trashing reached some sort of climax this week with the president’s excruciating tantrum against Germany at the NATO summit in Brussels, followed by his gratuitous humiliation of British Prime Minister Theresa May via an interview in a Murdoch tabloid. Maybe next he’ll propose that Vladimir Putin rejoin the Group of 7 — except he already did that in Canada more than a month ago, right around the time he launched a trade war with Canada, Mexico and the European Union.

“What does all this achieve?

“No doubt just what Trump intends: the collapse of the liberal international order, both in its animating commitment to open societies as well as its defining international institutions — the G-7, NATO, the European Union, the World Trade Organization. Seen in this light, the president’s wretched behavior isn’t — or isn’t merely — the product of a defective personality. It’s the result of a willful ideology.

“So much should be clear by the president’s negotiating style, guaranteed as it is to elicit “no” for an answer.

“It’s fair to expect that other NATO members should spend more of their gross domestic product on defense; and fair to expect, too, that they should reach the 2 percent benchmark sometime sooner than 2024. It isn’t fair to demand, as Trump does, that they reach the 2 percent mark by January, and then increase it to 4 percent.

“It’s fair to say that the U.S. could use its leverage to negotiate more advantageous trade deals. It isn’t fair to insist on politically untenable trade concessions he knows other countries won’t make — a sunset clause for Nafta, for example — in order to destroy these agreements permanently while blaming the other side.

“It’s fair to say that it will be difficult for Britain to negotiate an independent trade agreement with the U.S. if it maintains E.U. rules on trade in goods. But Trump’s goal isn’t to help steer May through Brexit. It’s to bring her government down and replace her with Boris Johnson, because the former foreign secretary “obviously likes me and says very good things about me.”

“Above all, it’s fair to prod and cajole and quarrel with our core allies — in private. But Trump is out to embarrass them in public, putting them to the choice of becoming enemies or toadies, breaking up or sucking up. That’s no doubt fine with him: America First is America Feared. But it is also America hated, and hated with justification. Where’s the upside in that?

“For Trump, the upside is the substitution of a liberal order with an illiberal one, based on conceits about sovereignty, nationality, religion and ethnicity. These are the same conceits that Vladimir Putin has long made his own, which helps explain Trump’s affinity for his Russian counterpart and his distress that Robert Mueller’s investigation “really hurts our relationship with Russia,” as he remarked Friday.

“It also explains his undisguised contempt for contemporary European democracy and his efforts to replace it with something more Trumpian: xenophobic, protectionist and truculent. This is the Europe of Germany’s Alexander Gauland, France’s Marine Le Pen, Britain’s Nigel Farage, Hungary’s Viktor Orban, Poland’s Jaroslaw Kaczynski, and Italy’s Matteo Salvini. Note that the last three are already in power.

“All this must be gratifying to Trump’s sense of his historical importance. For America, it’s a historical disaster. The United States can only lead a world that’s prepared to follow.

“But follow what? Not the rules of trade that America once set but now claims are rigged against it. Not the democratic ideals that America once embodied but now treats with disdain. Not the example of fighting bullies, after it has now become one.

“This will suit Americans for whom the idea of a free world always seemed like a distant abstraction. It will suit Europeans whose anti-Americanism predates Trump’s arrival by decades. And it will especially suit Putin, who knows that an America that stands for its own interests first also stands, and falls, alone. Surely the dead at Colleville-sur-Mer fought for something greater than that.”

Garrison Keillor wrote about his reactions to the election. As always, what he has to say is insightful, poignant, and funny.

Here is a soupçon:

“So he won. The nation takes a deep breath. Raw ego and proud illiteracy have won out and a severely learning-disabled man with a real character problem will be president. We are so exhausted from thinking about this election, millions of people will take up leaf-raking and garage cleaning with intense pleasure. We liberal elitists are wrecks. The Trumpers had a whale of a good time, waving their signs, jeering at the media, beating up protesters, chanting “Lock her up” — we elitists just stood and clapped. Nobody chanted “Stronger Together.” It just doesn’t chant.

“The Trumpers never expected their guy to actually win the thing, and that’s their problem now. They only wanted to whoop and yell, boo at the H-word, wear profane T-shirts, maybe grab a crotch or two, jump in the RV with a couple six-packs and go out and shoot some spotted owls. It was pleasure enough for them just to know that they were driving us wild with dismay — by “us,” I mean librarians, children’s authors, yoga practitioners, Unitarians, birdwatchers, people who make their own pasta, opera goers, the grammar police, people who keep books on their shelves, that bunch. The Trumpers exulted in knowing we were tearing our hair out. They had our number, like a bratty kid who knows exactly how to make you grit your teeth and froth at the mouth.

“Alas for the Trump voters, the disasters he will bring on this country will fall more heavily on them than anyone else. The uneducated white males who elected him are the vulnerable ones and they will not like what happens next….

“We liberal elitists are now completely in the clear. The government is in Republican hands. Let them deal with him. Democrats can spend four years raising heirloom tomatoes, meditating, reading Jane Austen, traveling around the country, tasting artisan beers, and let the Republicans build the wall and carry on the trade war with China and deport the undocumented and deal with opioids and we Democrats can go for a long brisk walk and smell the roses….

“Back to real life. I went up to my hometown the other day and ran into my gym teacher, Stan Nelson, looking good at 96. He commanded a landing craft at Normandy on June 6, 1944, and never said a word about it back then, just made us do chin-ups whether we wanted to or not. I saw my biology teacher Lyle Bradley, a Marine pilot in the Korean War, still going birdwatching in his 90s. I was not a good student then, but I am studying both of them now. They have seen it all and are still optimistic. The past year of politics has taught us absolutely nothing. Zilch. Zero. Nada. The future is scary. Let the uneducated have their day. I am now going to pay more attention to teachers.”

When most of his peers were silent about the governor’s dreadful plan for state takeovers, one school superintendent Steve Green of DeKalb County spoke out. He is a hero of public education. He joins the honor roll of this blog.

Governor Nathan Deal of Georgia is working hard to promote his constitutional amendment to allow the state to take over public schools with low test scores and turn them into charter schools. He calls this an “Opportunity School District,” modeled on the Achievement School District in Tennesssee, which failed to meet its goals. The OSD is an ALEC-inspired ploy to privatize public schools and gut local control.

Do you believe that right wing politicians like Nathan Deal can be trusted with the lives of Georgia’s most vulnerable children? If you do, I have a bridge in Brooklyn I would like to sell you.

One superintendent has spoken out loud and clear about the Governor’s misguided plan: Steve Green of DeKalb County. Green lived through a similar battle in Kansas City. He knows that the state doesn’t have a plan or an idea about how to help low-scoring schools.

He writes:


I have said it before, and I’ll say it again now: I am opposed to any state takeover of local schools no matter what it is called.

For me, the state of Georgia’s effort to take control of 26 DeKalb County schools … and schools elsewhere … is déjà vu all over again.

When I became superintendent of the Kansas City (Missouri) Public Schools in 2011, my team and I found ourselves in a desperate fight for survival and for control of public education. An appointed Missouri state employee was attempting to take over the school system under a conspiratorial smokescreen – by creating a special statewide district for low-performing schools.

Sound familiar?

In Georgia, the state wants control of schools it has stigmatized as “failing,” based on standardized testing. This takeover effort comes despite strong evidence that standardized tests can’t fairly take into account … or accurately measure … the extreme complexity of teaching and learning in a district like DeKalb County, with 135 schools and 102,000 students from 180 nations and with 144 languages.

We fought … and won … the battle to keep schools in Kansas City under control of parents and professional educators and out of the hands of politicians. I am probably the only school superintendent in the state of Georgia to lead a system through this unique experience. Key members of today’s DeKalb schools leadership team also worked beside me in Kansas City. These academic professionals are battle-tested in holding onto local control of schools.

Striking parallels can be seen between the struggle in Missouri and ours in Georgia.

The real issue in Kansas City involved powerful, ambitious officials exploiting a political situation rather than working with local school systems to address root causes of underachievement and provide what schools needed to succeed.

It was ruthless aggression – like predator and prey. A rapacious state political system wanted to take over the weakest, most vulnerable schools.

Georgia feels painfully similar. We see racial, socio-economic, and political parallels. The names are different, and the titles of the people who want to take over are different, but the goal is still the same – seize local control of public education….

As Green and fellow citizens fought the state takeover, they knew the stakes were high:

“We’d seen the failed results of state takeovers of local schools in New Orleans and Memphis. (After being unable to take over schools in Kansas City, the Missouri commissioner did manage to take over the school system in nearby Normandy. That state-controlled education experiment failed miserably – students performed more poorly under the state regimen than under local control.) It was also abundantly clear to us that too much power and secrecy concentrated in the hands of a detached, uninformed, faceless state bureaucracy would ultimately fail students, schools, and society.”

Green and his team created an effective plan to improve the Kansas City schools:

Progress came by design – our team made strategic, systematic, intentional, student-by-student improvements. The key? We built a foundation of trust and a sense of purpose among parents, school leaders, teachers, and the community.

Here in DeKalb, our own progress in just two years using this same model has already earned national and international attention. Of the specific 26 DeKalb schools targeted for takeover, 15 are within five points of the 60-point threshold. Ten others need more intensive support, and we’ve launched strong remedial measures. In all schools, we’re laser-focused on the classroom experience, where any lasting improvement in education must start.

There are no quick fixes, no short cuts. Turning around schools takes deep, hard, intimate work. It means fighting poverty and all that it brings. It means helping new arrivals to our country anchor lives and hopes to our communities and country. It means giving special needs and pre-school students and others among our most vulnerable the schooling, security, and stability that allows them to be their best.

That’s the kind of work going on right now with our most challenged schools and at others all through our system.

We stand for something in DeKalb County – education with rigor, relevance, and relationships. Our goal is nothing less than to be recognized nationally for academic excellence and for world-class service to kids, caregivers, and communities.

In my opinion, you’ll look far and wide before you find a politician in Georgia who goes to bed at night and gets out of bed in the morning with this same ambitious goal.

In DeKalb, we have 15,000 teachers and staff who work 365 days a year to reach our goal of excellence. We are professional educators … not predatory politicians.

Who do you want teaching and looking out for our children?