SLPS vers. 2.0

If you live in St Louis, you are probably aware of the turmoil that is happening with the St Louis Public Schools. I blogged about it earlier this year, but things have been happening at a breakneck speed. Crazy-lady Veronica O'Brien, who just months ago pushed for Diana Bourisaw's hiring as superintendent, is now saying that Bourisaw should be fired and the state should take over. Mayor Slay is also pushing for a partial state takeover. What happens when the state takes over? The school board will be replaced by a three-person panel, and the current board will remain intact but have no power and make no decisions.

I am torn about what to believe is going on. Here's what I know to be true: There is obviously a huge, huge problem. At this point, I wouldn't send my non-existent children to SLPS. There ARE good teachers in SLPS. Not all of them, but certainly a large number of committed, skilled educators. The problem, though, is not teachers. The problems are coming from inconsistent adminstration and leadership, from the superintendent and board on down. Not Bourisaw herself, she hasn't been here long enough to be inconsistent. That's part of the problem: not allowing any one superintendent enough time to make a change.

However, I don't know that state takeover is the best answer. The problem with state takeover is that the board that will take over is appointed (one each) by Slay, James Shrewsbury (Board of Aldermen President) and the School Board, and there is a large amount of speculation that said appointments will be just as bad as the school board that the public elected. Those opposed to state takeover believe that those who have the power to appoint the new board will not choose people based on qualifications, but on how they can serve those people who appoint (Slay, Shrewsbury, and the SB). I read one letter than believed that Slay would appoint O'Brien. DANG. Please don't. I think it is crucial that the three appointed board members are committed to working together, with a shared vision, towards making our schools outstanding for all students

A lot of people are pointing the finger at Mayor Slay. Chris has ties to Slay and his administration, and I know that he is not this evil powermonger some make him out to be. He is the mayor of the city. Obviously, he has a vested interest in the quality of the schools. I think he lost his credibility with the schools when he backed Clinkscale, Schoemehl, Archibald, and Jackson in 2003, because that ended in disaster and marked the slide from close-to-accreditation to nowhere-near-accreditation, but ultimately, he has to want what is best for the schools.

The Post-Dispatch has given ink to this highly pertinent subject, but many think the coverage is biased. There is numerous coverage from multiple perspectives available in the blogosphere. Pub Def has good coverage, although it is connected to board member Peter Downs. Downs wrote a letter to the Special Board that recommended partial state takeover, which is pretty insightful and worth reading.

All city/county people should have a vested interest in a radical change in the St Louis Schools. For so long, people who have the means (and some who don't) have sent their kids to parochial or private schools instead of city schools. It's practically a given for people I know. For people my age who are committed to living in the city, it feels like their only option. Most people wouldn't even send their kids to the outstanding public magnet schools. It doesn't have to be like that. Imagine sending your kids to a diverse neighborhood school that was clean, safe, stable, and had amazing curriculum and instruction. For free. It would draw people back to city living and would completely revitalize the area.

I think it's bullshit that people turn their backs to the problem because their children don't attend the public schools. We as a community benefit from having a population that is educated. Comprehensive education prepares people for higher education and the workplace. If a person has the ability to get a good job, with good benefits, because they have a certain level of education, they are more likely to positively contribute to their community. As it stands, public education, as a whole, is structured so that white, middle-to-upper class student can succeed. Everyone else can assimilate or fail. I am interested in how we change education so that all students, regardless of ethnicity, race, gender, or socioeconomic status, truly has the ability to succeed. If we can do that (and we can, as a community) we will take one huge step towards attaining social justice for all people.

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