SCUSD Observer

Sacramento, California

Archive for the ‘School Closure’ Category

Closing schools = turnaround?

In September, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and the Obama administration are set to announce the “winner” states that will receive Race to the Top funding, an ongoing competitive grants program that hands out money to states that can prove they’re sufficiently committed to education reform.

To recap, Race to the Top funding is incumbent on four “turnaround” models — all of which we’re seeing in the political machinations taking place in our own school district. They are:

  • Turnaround model: Replace the principal and rehire no more than 50% of the staff, and grant the principal sufficient operational flexibility (including in staffing, calendars/time and budgeting) to fully implement a comprehensive approach to substantially improve student outcomes.
  • Restart model: Convert a school or close and reopen it under a charter school operator, a charter management organization, or an education management organization that has been selected through a rigorous review process.
  • School closure: Close a school and enroll the students who attended that school in other schools in the district that are higher achieving.
  • Transformation model: Implement each of the following strategies: (1) replace the principal and take steps to increase teacher and school leader effectiveness; (2) institute comprehensive instructional reforms; (3) increase learning time and create community-oriented schools; and (4) provide operational flexibility and sustained support.

In the Washington Post today, writer Valerie Strauss shares a letter from parent activist, Rita Solnet:

Secretary Duncan, you have an opportunity to be the hero this country needs. You have the ability to stop these initiatives and regroup. Gain input from all levels of ’stakeholders’ in the process, gain endorsement of a new plan–a plan in which all levels of stakeholders take pride in developing and launching. Congresswoman Judy Chu’s plan is a great first start. The DOE’s proposed four (4) turnaround models [for the worst schools in each state] will not work. Scrap them, start over. Closing public schools should not be an option.


Written by scusdobserver

July 19, 2010 at 7:38 am

Corporate restructuring

The news that Superintendent Jonathan Raymond is seeking permission from trustees to hire a chief accountability officer for SCUSD does not allay very real fears that Raymond is accelerating a push to develop a corporate education culture in Sacramento.

Consider these job titles: Chief Talent Officer, Chief Knowledge Officer, Chief Portfolio Officer…all with annual salary ranges between $125,000-175,000. New York City Schools Chancellor Joel Klein, a strong proponent of privatization, devised this idea of “administrative restructuring.”

These executives (most who have never taught in a classroom or been a principal) make the rounds throughout the countries’ school systems while changing job titles and descriptions. It’s a smorgasboard of CEO’s. Raymond was a chief accountability officer before he was hired in Sacramento.

The ultimate goal is to run the school system like a corporation –SCUSD teachers will have continued pressure to “teach the test” and improve API scores — data will be relentlessly tracked and tied to performance by the chief accountability officer.

This reform leads to what education historian Diane Ravitch calls a huge mistake:

Teachers — not just union leaders — are unhappy, frustrated, and demoralized. So are parents, because they don’t like the high-stakes testing regime either. They don’t like that their children are losing time for the arts, science, history, geography, physical education, foreign languages, and everything that is not tested. They may not be well-informed, yet they know that their children are missing out on a good education.

Neighboring Folsom Cordova Unified to close schools

Last night at Mills Middle School, parents and community members came together to discuss school closures.

Six schools north of Folsom Boulevard in Rancho Cordova, could shut down for good, although the focus was on three – Cordova Lane, Riverview and Williamson elementaries.

One parent suggested that homeowners in Rancho Cordova may fight back by filing a class action suit, an injunction or even a restraining order to prevent the district from closing schools.

Although often unsuccessful, school closures can lead to lawsuits. This summer in Seattle, parents filed litigation on behalf of schools targeted for closure in the poor/minority areas of the city.

In Hawaii, the state is facing two federal lawsuits that seek to block Furlough Fridays in public schools, one representing nine students with autism and the other on behalf of regular and special education students.

Closing neighborhood schools will eventually awaken the sleeping giant of parents, teachers, community activists and education advocates (if it hasn’t already).

Regardless of the outcome, defending against the protracted litigation that will eventually follow these closures will drain school districts of precious time and resources.

Written by scusdobserver

November 3, 2009 at 4:11 pm

Listening or lecturing?

This evening, SCUSD Superintendent Jonathan Raymond will visit the Pocket area as part of a continuing campaign of outreach to district stakeholders. Councilman Robbie Waters, Board President Ray Grimes and Raymond will partner to present the “listening and learning tour of the district” tonight at John F. Kennedy High School from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m.

An opinion piece in the Sacramento Bee
yesterday urged local communities to assert a “count us in” approach by informing state legislators of the “barriers that need to be removed in order to achieve dramatic turnaround of the lowest performing schools.” The feel-good ideas of reconstitution, transformation, and culture change are bandied about, yet the crux of the matter centers on a very ugly couple of words — school closures.

Today, the Bee’s editorial page is touting the “reconstitution” of Jonas Salk Middle School (San Juan Unified) as a dramatic fix to that particular school’s problems of low API scores and chronic underperformance. The editorial, in no small way, credits the miraculous and swift turnaround to performance-based pay for teachers and a corporate partnership with Apple Computer, Inc.

Do teachers really want the performance-based pay incentive?
Do parents ultimately want corporations in their public school systems?

Given the recent pressure for Race to The Top federal funding, the local competition for economic resources, and the opinion trend on the Bee’s editorial page, the question stakeholders really need to ask is:

Should we buy what you’re selling?


Again…with the "revenue stream"

In today’s Bee, SCUSD Interim Superintendent Susan Miller makes an interesting comment about finding leases for its currently closed facilities (and those to be closed).

“When you have tenants in there it adds to the safety and security of the environment,” Miller said. “It’s least likely to be vandalized, and financially, we want to find a revenue stream.”

The emotional and financial impact of closing a school reaches far beyond the revenue stream. Kicking kids out, finding non-existent renters in a dismal economy, repairing vandalism, all the bureaucratic twisting and turning…wouldn’t it be more cost-effective to just keep the darn schools open and demand the SCUSD board balance the books without this scorched earth policy?

Written by scusdobserver

June 26, 2009 at 1:40 pm

Facilities committee meets today and Wednesday

SCUSD’s Facility Re-use/7-11 Committee will meet today and Wednesday, 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Serna Center, 5735 47th Avenue, Sacramento.


Written by scusdobserver

June 15, 2009 at 4:00 pm

Most of That Has Died Down

In today’s Bee, a story by Melody Gutierrez reports that SCUSD students who are having their school closed next fall get a choice about where to attend next year. A special open enrollment period for those students (which began on Monday) ends today.

Toward the end of the article, Associate Superintendent Mary Hardin-Young is quoted.

District trustees voted April 16 to close the four schools because of budget cuts, which prompted anger among parents and concern from school site staff.

Hardin Young said most of that has died down.

Written by scusdobserver

May 6, 2009 at 1:22 pm