Last night, I filed a story about the financial projections related to the two options being considered by the York City schools advisory committee. It was the first we’ve really heard numbers for either the all-charter proposal or the district’s internal reform idea.
But with meetings spanning more than three hours, there’s always more to say. So here’s a look at some other points raised during the meeting. The public comment session, as has become typical at these meetings, contained a fair amount of anti-charter school sentiment.
Also, future meetings will be held at William Penn Senior High School. Some committee and community members complained that Davis Elementary School isn’t central and some city residents might be discouraged from coming.
Give district a shot first?
Keith Still, principal at McKinley Elementary School and an advisory committee member, proposed that the performance standards suggested to be imposed on the new charters instead be added for the internal district model.
If in a few years, the district hasn’t met them, then move to the charter option, he said.
Mike Johnson, another committee member, liked the idea, saying he’s still searching for a way to feel confident that the internal plan proposed is different than business as usual.
David Meckley, the chief recovery officer, said the hope is to have guests speak on both the charter plan and the internal plan at the April 24 meeting, though exactly who that will be hasn’t been determined.
Concerns about a done deal
Bruce Reik, president-elect of the city teachers’ union, said during public comment that the group “knew from the start that this was a politically motivated process, fueled by an elitist governor, whose top goal is not to improve public education for all, no matter your zip code or your income, but to dismantle the Pennsylvania State Education Association, while selling public education, and our tax dollars, to private companies.”
He said “wheeling and dealing” has taken over and a majority of the committee members have no voice in the process. Reik accused Meckley of having met with Bobby Simpson at Crispus Attucks and Dennis Baughman from the York Academy Regional Charter School and asking them to convert schools to charters.
Meckley answered later – after another community member raised concern that a deal was already done – that an advisory committee member suggested local nonprofit charter operators be included as possibilities for the all-charter option. He said he had a conversation with those mentioned about whether it would be possible to talk with their boards, if the option got on the table.
He said no deal has been made.
Community questions charters
The meeting included several questions from the public about charter schools. Sandra Thompson, with the local NAACP, asked where kids would go if one of the new charter schools didn’t meet the performance standards set. Meckley said kids would attend the same school but a new operator would be brought in.
Thompson said the NAACP doesn’t believe the all-charter option will fix the public education system.
She suggested the committee look at the Safer, Saner Schools program*. City schools must first deal with the trauma kids in the city are exposed to, like poverty and violence, she said.
“Any successful school would have to deal with underlying traumatic impact,” she said.
The NAACP might be back with another recommendation in the future,” she said.
Dina Conzone, a teacher in the district, said she doesn’t understand “the push for private companies to make money off of our poor kids.”
Research on charters is mixed, she said, so she doesn’t understand why anyone would want York city to become the first all-charter district.
“We have such strong employees,” she said. “We are willing to work those endless hours, put in time for our kids. We just need to change the perception.”
Glenn Medice, a city resident, said he’s concerned about the possibility of schools under either option being held to higher performance standards than the existing charters. Then, if the district’s schools or new charters don’t meet them, the existing charters would end up looking like the stable choice.
“What’s scary to me is … the option with the most stability, because they seem to be entrenched, are the existing charters,” he said.
*Safer, Saner Schools sounded familiar to me. I checked our archives, and I did a story in 2010 about representatives from the program being slated to visit the York City School District in 2010 to pitch their program. It was an effort coordinated by then-state Rep. Eugene DePasquale. I confirmed with Shawn Fink, in the 95th district office, that nothing ever happened after the visit. (It would’ve been up to the district to pursue.)