The other shoe dropped last week on two schools targeted last fall for Level 5 status, as DESE Commissioner Mitchell Chester assigned to both schools a third party receiver (aka charter school wannabe operator) for the foreseeable future. Dr. Chester awarded the management of the Dever Elementary to the Blueprint Schools Network and the Holland Elementary to Unlocking Potential, neither of which is foreign to the Boston Public Schools. Blueprint, with the city, currently co-manages English High School and the Elihu Greenwood, providing expertise and low-paid tutors at food stamp wages. Unlocking Potential operates two in-district charter schools in the city on the sites of the former Gavin and the Marshall. Staff at the Gavin and the Marshall are members of the BTU.
Dr. Chester announced his decision after a three-month planning process that began with abbreviated community meetings at the Dever and Holland schools. Though advertised as “we want to hear from you” community meetings, the meetings were one-time and brief, and the hundreds of teachers, parents, students and partners in attendance were sent on their way, unfulfilled, after an hour or so at the Holland and two hours at the Dever.
The two Boston schools were among four chosen statewide as Level 5 schools, marking the first time individual schools in Massachusetts have been taken over by a third party receiver. The city of Lawrence is also in receivership.
The changes in each school’s structure and workings will be announced after a period of faux negotiations set forth under state law. Predictably, each receiver will seek a longer day for students (heavy on the basics) and for staff (light on the compensation). Students will march on the right and speak only when spoken to. Staff will be required to have a commitment to a new vision, which, they will be told, is much better than the old vision. The reader can fill in the rest.
Staff at both schools have already been notified that they must re-apply for their positions at the schools. Staff at both schools previously had to apply to teach for the 2010-2011 school year, when each school was first named a Turnaround School. As a member of a Turnaround school, each staff member has been subject to a yearly renewal process to remain at his or her respective school. So, after a reapplication process for each year for the last four (soon to be five!) years, there’s a question that begs to be answered: How many more times must a staff member be asked to reapply for the same position at the same school before we look elsewhere for a solution?