NO ONE IS telling Superintendent William Hite he doesn't have the right to do his job. Part of a superintendent's job is looking at data and engaging with school communities, not doubling down on unproven initiatives.
Converting public schools to charters has raised legitimate concerns from financial analysts and academics as well as communities most affected:
* Three of the seven charter conversion schools started in 2010 were deemed failing and have or will likely see their charters revoked because of poor academic performance.
* Each charter conversion costs the district up to $4,000 more per pupil in "stranded" costs. That's millions of dollars that either can't or won't be spent when a school is under district control. The district has yet to do a full accounting of these costs.
* In 2014, parents at two different schools voted down charter conversions citing a process of reform that was being done to them rather than with their input.
* The district's African-American student population is at 50 percent and shrinks with every charter conversion. The charter system's African-American student population is over 60 percent and grows significantly with every conversion. Whatever you may think about school choice, shuttering students' public schools and forcing them into an erratic and unstable charter system is deeply problematic and is not the hallmark of a path to equity and quality.
The district's top-down mandates leave out a key component for sustainable school transformation: community engagement. Community engagement isn't just about a feel-good approach; community engagement helps us make better decisions in a school-reform experiment that is still largely unproven.
The district doesn't always get it right; consider the fiasco around the substitute-teacher contract. It's why the editorial board of the Daily News shouldn't shrug off concerns about long-documented problems. It's communities and families who will have to pick up the broken pieces of reform gone wrong. The voices of communities need engagement, not shushing.
We need a smarter view of education reform that partners with communities - critiques and all. Only then will we begin to rebuild schools of equity and justice together.
Doing your job vs. doing it well
The Daily News asks us to "Let the Man Do His Job" when it writes of Superintendent William Hite. Not long ago we let a woman do her job - and what a fiasco of a job Arlene Ackerman did! Earlier, we let another man do his job, and Paul Vallas gave us the failed Edison Schools, as well as a large debt.
The new substitute system was contracted last summer because it "had a good track record," but has been doing far worse than the previous one. Now we hear of more firms with good track records. There must be a continued, strong dialogue between all parties involved before any more crucial decisions are made. Our school system can't afford the luxury of another mistake.
Edwin H. Smith