Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Updates on the politics of public school takeover in St Louis, corporate school reform, etc...

From BG:
While the world watches the Trump and Hillary show, the powers that be in St. Louis, (mostly of the white 'democrats' and black political machine leaders who act like neoliberal republicans, as well as all the real corporate republicans who back them) continue to double down on their attempt to do away with robust, democratically controlled public schools.  

First, this morning I read that Washington University might give a free ride to KIPP alums who meet "academic standards."  That headline doesn't really sound right, to start with (translation: "if we decide you are good enough, then maybe we'll let some of you poor POCs in, since you are among those who have seen their public schools gutted and thus turned to the least bad option, a KIPP school named 'wisdom' or 'victory' or 'aspire', names, as it were, that are themselves quite patronizing forms of suggesting that white people are giving POCs an opportunity to attain one of these possibilities,  but if you aren't up to snuff it's your fault, not the fault of a system that failed you, but I dither)....

...but if we're (Wash U.) going to do that why not give a free ride to all SLPS grads who "meet academic standards?"  Probably because big KIPP booster Maxine 'Build A Bear' Clark is on the Board of Trustees and WUSTL is desperate to justify its sponsorship of KIPP, which, all in all, isn't really doing much better than SLPS.  And, the KIPPists and their pro-charter crowd are also doing their best to show that public schools don't work.  (So why help public schools in St. Louis, since the name of the game now is 'competition' and 'choice'?) KIPP was trying to colonize Normandy when Mike Brown was killed, and I'm pretty sure they still are, hence the gutting of that district as well...  Anyway, let's offer a spot to a KIPP alum to try to show how great it is! Stay tuned.  

Meanwhile, read below by Susan Turk, on Melanie Adams' departure from the SAB. Susan's cogent and insightful (and deeply committed) comments came just prior to Slay's naming of Darnetta Clinkscale to the SAB.  Here's the Clinkscale story. (For those of short memory, Clinkscale – detractors call her 'Colonel Klink' – was one of Slay's candidates when the 'Slayte' ran to take over the board back in 2003.  When they couldn't get their way by democratic means, Slay and friends backed the state takeover vetted by the Danforth-Freeman commission and corporate elites.  Being African-American, it is clear, does not put you on the side of robust, democratically controlled and well-funded public schools.  There is a political machine at work, and then there are the other possibilities.  For the moment, the machine is winning.

As per Susan's comments below, I'm not sure why the Post-Dispatch is so pro-elite and pro-corporate on this school issue, I guess they just don't get it, or they get it very well as part of the corporate 'liberal' and managerial class.  

Common Sense Publishing 
St. Louis Schools Watch
Oh, the Hypocrisy!
By Susan Turk

As I am sure most of you are aware, SLPS SAB VP Melanie Adams has resigned from the SAB. She has taken a job in Minnesota. Long live Melanie!
And now we await the announcement of her replacement. According PD Education Reporter Elisa Crouch’s August 22 article, Mayor Slay’s Director of Strategic Policy Initiatives Carl Filler reported that the mayor, “has several candidates in mind to succeed her.” That should make it easy for him to announce her replacement before tomorrow’s (Monday, September 26, SAB meeting.) Adams submitted her resignation to the mayor on August 22, more than a month ago now.
Meanwhile, Adams was celebrated for her 9 years of service on the SAB at their August 25, 2016 meeting. By way of honoring her, some very interesting things were said. SAB President Rick Sullivan remarked that although they had seen issues differently at times, they had always come to agreement. SAB Member Richard Gaines mentioned that they had had “disagreements’ and “differences” and that “her positions on issues has been the toughest, her third has been the hardest”.
Given that the SAB rarely discusses anything during their public meetings, these remarks were revelatory. You must understand that because there are only 3 of them, SAB members cannot communicate with each other about district business outside of public meetings. Two of them talking face to face, by phone or via email would constitute a quorum and require notice of a public meeting 24 hours in advance and then provision made for the public to be present.
That has not happened.
So, how and when were these differences and disagreements communicated?
Well, there is the possibility that discussions occurred during executive session, which are by law allowed to occur behind closed doors. But executive sessions are supposed to be limited to discussion of legal, personnel and real estate matters. Were any other matters discussed during executive session, which would violate the Sunshine Law?
Then there was Blake Youde. Youde has since moved on to greener pastures. During the first 2 years of the SAB’s tenure he held the annually renewable contract position of board liaison and was paid $60,000. His responsibilities were to act as an interlocutor for the SAB. According to Macmillan’s Dictionary, an interlocutor is “someone who takes part in talks as a representative of another person or organization”. If they wanted to communicate between public meetings, one of them would communicate to Youde, who would then communicate to the other SAB members. By this means they could communicate in private without public scrutiny or knowledge.
By July, 2009, Youde was determined to be of such value to the SLPS, that his responsibilities were embellished. He was promoted to be the deputy superintendent of the newly formed Office of Institutional Advancement at a salary of $135,000, a more than doubling of what he had been earning after a mere 2 years of service. He must have been doing a very good job. Youde left the district a few years ago and was replaced as deputy superintendent of institutional advancement by Rachel Seward. Whether she inherited his responsibilities as interlocutor for the SAB is not known. But I assure you someone did.
This is important because what has long been suspected has now been verified. By hook or by crook, the SAB does communicate out of the public eye and ear. And like any normal deliberative body, they have disagreements, but for some reason, they do not want the public to know what those disagreements are.
Whatever has transpired over the past 9 years has been well hidden. Fast forward to the present.
In a September 6 PD article Elisa Crouch, wrote, “Members of the SAB say their differences in philosophy and approach to overseeing city schools have been stark at times. However, they have taken deliberate steps to avoid the distractions that dominated the final years of the elected board’s power — which are still remembered for infighting and dysfunction.”
And, “They rarely discuss their differences publicly. Contracts and policy changes are almost always approved unanimously with little, if any, public discourse.” The tone of Crouch’s article is appreciative. That the SAB has kept conflict out of the public eye is seen as a positive.
As has been the continuous meme for the past 9 years, what the SAB does is fine and dandy.
However, earlier this year the state board of education began to engage the SAB and the elected board of education in a transition process to return the elected board to power. It was proceeding smoothly until August 16, when elected board Member Bill Monroe barged into the transition committee’s second meeting, creating a quorum and forcing the meeting to abruptly end.
The PD, in an August 22 editorial, took the meeting participants to task for rendering the spirit, if not the letter, of the Sunshine Law “in tatters”. The editorial board wrote, “An ample bag of tricks is available to those public officials intent on circumventing Missouri’s Sunshine Law and hiding their actions from public view.…the meeting was orchestrated specifically to keep the public from observing.”
They continued, “One trick to avoid Sunshine Law compliance is the “walking quorum,” where officials meet, talk by phone or exchange emails in groups too small to constitute a quorum. They agree on important matters. Then one participant holds a similar discussion with other individuals in the group to relay the results of the earlier meeting. The chain continues until a majority of elected officials have discussed and reached a consensus without ever having formally met in public.”
Their description of a walking quorum almost exactly mirrors how the SAB has operated during their 9 years at the helm of the SLPS, only using an interlocutor in place of a member to pass messages along.
And the editorial board concludes, “it’s a bogus way to conduct the public’s business,” and, “that end does not justify the means.”
In conclusion, if the SAB wants to operate sub rosa, in secret, that’s okay. If any other body tries to operate that way, not so much.
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