Thursday, March 22, 2007

Graffitied Garcia

It's a hoot. This week's Nashville Scene* has a interesting cover story about MNPS Superintendent Pedro Garcia the cover art is a must see--and I can't find a copy of that on their website to link to. You'll have to go to your local library, grocer or coffee shop to check out the graffitied head shot of him and get a good laugh. While you've got it in your hand tear out pages 23-28 and read those at your leisure. But don't let that funny cover fool you...there's definitely some downer material contained in this article. Highlights include
"... his five-and-a-half years in Nashville actually make him the second most tenured director among urban districts nationwide. "
That's pretty sad. It's likely that this may be part of the problem with so many school districts....lack of continuity at the very top. No system can make serious progress or keep it's standing when they're going through management upheaval on a regular basis.

On to the charter schools:

Meanwhile, the district’s own school enrollment and capacity figures show several school sites that could conceivably accommodate LEAD. Park Avenue Enhanced Option School, for example, had 17 empty classrooms as of late November.

“Well, I’m not going to sacrifice our needs and our resources for their space,” Garcia says of LEAD, adding that the city’s three charters suck up about $4 million in district money and that the school’s application never said it would need space from the district. [Emphasis added.](snip)

Garcia offered the Highland Heights building in East Nashville, part of which is currently being used by another charter school, KIPP Academy.
Let's get this straight....we've got to get past the us v. them in the charter school conversations. These are MNPS students....they're are US. Every day that Dr. Garcia doesn't ensure that they are in safe facilities, he doesn't actively look out for their welfare or allows their needs to go unmet is a day he's in dereliction of his duties. Highland Heights is in shameful condition. We've got better spaces for these children. Quit being territorial and 'do it for the children'.

I do agree with Dr. Garcia about Smithson-Craighead Academy charter school. I will be surprised if it actually succeeds. I've no doubt these folks have poured their heart and just about as much effort as anyone can--but it's becoming obvious that it's not working. Their difficulties shouldn't be used to discourage other charters. We just need to make sure that charter's don't use this same educational plan in the future. Frankly, I think a good part of the problem is they're too close to the usual public school model.

And I completely agree with David Fox in the following:
The whole imbroglio has led school board member David Fox to propose that the board’s governance committee address the administration’s treatment of charter schools by adding to its list of “executive expectation” a line item basically saying the director should make a good-faith effort to work productively with charter schools. The committee will take up the proposal in coming months.
They should do this immediately--though I realize that it's not likely to make an immediate impact on Garcia's contract. But it will ensure that the BOE is regularly looking at this issue and, I sincerely hope, making sure that these MNPS students get all they need too.

[*The Nashville Scene is an adult publication. If you click on the link above there is no telling what sort of advertisement you'll get to see. Also there is one profanity in the piece.]


Wendy said...

While I found the picture on the cover distasteful and certainly in step with a traditional rag newspaper, I also found some nuggets of information in the article.

Kay, I agree with you about the charter schools; Garcia's cavalier attitude toward them is also the attitude I've seen within the parent groups too.

Buckley said...

"Let's get this straight....we've got to get past the us v. them in the charter school conversations."

I agree, but it's a sentiment that should also be true for magnets. It's kind of ironic to me that those who are magnet supporters are hostile to charters and those who are charter supporters (like yourself) tend to have an attitude about magnets, when both are really trying to find new frameworks to the one choice "zone school" system of student assignment.

I have slowly become more open to experimentation through charters, if nothing else to bypass or neutralize some of the bureaucracy that I increasingly see as a hindrance. I hope you can see magnets as schools that take our mission quite seriously and do offer choice to both MNPS-committed families and to families who might not otherwise be a part of MNPS.

What is it that makes these conflicting perceptions of the two- the political innuendo anecdotally associated with each? Academic magnets tending to lean to the left and charters generally promoted by right wing interests? Perhaps that's part of what we need to get past. Seems if more public school choice is a goal, we should focus on the commonalities of charters and magnets rather than the differences.


Kay Brooks said...


Perhaps it's the difference between the magnets still being in the system and the charters having the freedom to work outside the usual constraints that come from the central office and the employment contracts.