Fixing Cloverdale | Arkansas Blog

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Fixing Cloverdale

Posted By on Thu, Oct 15, 2009 at 9:10 AM

The Little Rock School District's Cloverdale middle school is in the seventh year of failing to make adequate progress under No Child Left Behind standards. The district has proposed to convert it to a charter school to address its shortcomings.

This has prompted some internal school board communication. First is a note from administrator Junious Babbs about a meeting at the school. Then, in somewhat plainer language, a comment from School Board member Baker Kurrus. He thinks more fundamental issues need to be examined before converting what's already a magnet school to a charter school. "We keep talking and children keep failing," he writes.


Thursday’s meeting is for an established “Focus Group”. That term is pliable but we’ve identified this group being PTA officers / members, the school Campus Leadership Team and School Academic Leadership Team via SMART Accountability. It is anticipated that this team will provide directional / foundational pieces for the final proposal.
Next Wednesday’s meeting is set for the general public  (media announcements, fliers, feeder school notification and letters to CMS parents have helped to provide this notification). It is suspected that others may be in attendance at Thursday’s meeting and if so “the more the merrier”.
We are reminded that efforts to generate this charter were recently introduced and a lot of energy is being put in place to work within ADE guidelines. The fact that Dr. Jennings has been “at the helm” has improved these efforts. We are attempting to take into account parameters attached with ADE guidelines on what goes into the proposal and I know the board anticipates information ASAP. After conversation with Dr. Jennings, we anticipate getting the proposal your way for the board by Friday / Monday at the latest. The Wednesday meeting may prompt some tweaking but we anticipate the “hay being in the barn” at board meeting.


I have said before that I think this charter idea is misplaced.   I view it as a diversion, rather than a real solution to a problem that doesn't depend on the theme of the school.  It is a magnet already.
 I appreciate the sincere efforts, but I also recognize institutional inertia taking over. The board sort of agreed to think about this, and now we are devoting a lot of our time, effort and money to this effort.  I want everyone to know that I believe the better approach is to make the necessary changes immediately.  I don't think we ought to hold focus groups, public meetings, etc. until we decide to do this. The kids at Cloverdale don't have a year to spend while we hold work sessions, focus groups, communities input meetings and the like.  We need to pull the fire alarm.  We are in year seven.
When do we get answers to the obvious questions?
1.  What does a charter allow us to do that we couldn't do immediately?
2.  What particular waivers do we seek from the state, and why do we need them to be successful?
3.  What do the personnel evaluations at Cloverdale show us?  Are the people there getting the typical glowing evaluations, and if so, how can we justify meaningful changes?  How can we keep giving raises there for the performance we have been getting?
4.  What are the rates of absenteeism, both for students and staff, and how will a charter change this?
5.  Can we reconstitute the personnel at the school through the charter process, and when do we get to this issue? 
6.  Why don't we simply reconstitute the school, and I don't mean just moving folks around, splitting the school in two, or any of the "Watson/Chicot" stuff.
7.  If we look at the other main drivers of achievement, such as mobility, discipline, and teacher quality, how does the school look?
8.  What do we do for our next trick at the other failing middle schools?  We need a broader, systemic solution.
We have to do something.  We are going to be known by what we do, not by what we say.  We keep talking and children keep failing.


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