Saturday, April 29, 2017

A School in Crisis

I heard about a school in crisis recently. This school does not exist in the district where I teach, but elsewhere.

What makes me think the school is in crisis, is the following reality:
  • Educators are afraid to speak up
  • Several educators have been removed publicly with no word about why this happened--hence, there's lots of conjecture
  • Students are misbehaving a lot, and the police regularly visit the school to remove students
  • They have almost no technology, the classes are huge, and the supports minimal
  • There is limited ability for children to play and have recess, and the playground is insufficient
  • Many children face substantial at-home trauma, neglect, and potential abuse
  • There is substantial poverty in the area
  • After school programming is limited
  • There are few field studies and special events
  • It appears that the school's way of dividing up students who require special programs such as special education, ELL, and behavioral supports may be unjust thus perpetuating prejudice and lack of needed education supports
  • A charter school in the district drains resources from the public school
All of what I write, I've learned via conversation and can't testify that details or truth of the matter, but I have heard enough to recognize that this school and the system in which it is apart of needs an intense overview and rehabilitation.

If I were in charge, what would I do?

First, I would look carefully at the school budget. I wonder if the money in this district is mismanaged--are the dollars going to programs and staff in adequate ways or is some money misappropriated. I find it surprising that this school has such a lack of supports, materials, and services, so I wonder about the budget.

Welcoming, Inviting Learning Centers
Next, I wonder about the school itself--it is a joyful place for student learning or is it more prison-like. Simply painting walls, creating a better playground, and re-looking at the daily schedule could make the school more inviting.

Needed Health and Social Services
And, since this school is in an area that suffers from poverty and the affect of the opioid crisis, how can the school access needed funds in more creative ways. Perhaps they could look to federal monies that are directed towards the opioid crisis and use those funds to support after school programs for children of opioid addicts and homeless children. Perhaps the school could include a more supportive in-school health services department, one that is funded by students' health cards thus providing more health service providers in the school--providers such as a doctor, nurse practitioners, counselors, and more. And, perhaps this school would qualify for free lunch and breakfast for all students and incorporate those meals into part of the overall schedule in joyful, inviting ways. 

School Structure
Further, the staff has to think differently about how they will change this school of many students into many smaller schools and pods--clusters of students and teachers that are named in inspiring ways, and who engaged in lots of positive team building activities to grow a sense of place and belonging.

Cultural Proficiency
The diversity in this school cries for greater attention to cultural proficiency too--there needs to be lots of education for all about the diverse groups of students that make up this school and signage and activities that maximize the potential of that diversity.

Holistic Analysis and Change
As I learn about this school, I realize that this is where oversight is important. It's important that local and state agencies carefully analyze their schools for the attributes that serve children well. It's critical that those attributes are listed with priority so that districts are analyzing their schools for the right elements. When I hear of schools like this, I worry about our whole society since I know that children in these school suffer, and that's not right. Good educators in schools like this suffer too as they don't have what they need to do the job well. Eventually the broader community suffers as well since students in these schools may not have the confidence, allegiance, skills, and commitment to give back to their communities later on due to their insufficient education.

Support for Public Schools
A voucher system would only tear a community like this further apart, potentially separating children by culture, religion, and class. Instead we need to well support schools like this with good oversight, proper funding, and appropriate, forward-thinking supports--supports that focus on the what that school needs and how they can empower the educators and students in that school. This kind of support will translate into support for the entire community, since good schools spell less crime and poverty later on. 

My students are so much more supported than the students in the school I write about. Great inequity occurs between what I'm able to do for my students versus what teachers in that school are able to do. I have much more support, many more materials, and a greater collegial ability related to schedules, time, and inspiration to problem solve, lead, and improve the conditions for students in our midst. My students will live with the students from the community I write about--their lives will intersect, and it is in the best interests of all students that every child gets a good education. 

As educators we can't let schools like this exist, and we need to find ways to support our education colleagues in systems like this so that they can do the job they want and need to do to support and teach children well. Our society and democracy depends on it.