Red Clay’s disgraceful referendum presentation supports the call for charter schools

Red Clay School District’s referendum presentation is as bad as the worst used car commercial even seen on television. The classic game of one lies the other swears to it.

I try to put thinks in perspective and say, OK I don’t like the new school plan but do like keeping our existing schools updated and maintained. I have a choice of voting No for the new school and Yes for repairs and up grade to existing  schools. But the more I look at Red Clay’s plans and some of the used car salesman tactics I’ve come to a conclusion to vote No on both referendum questions. Do note, I’ve never voted no for a Red Clay capital referendum or operational referendum. We hear all the shit about having honest conversations about education but it seems Red Clay wants to high-jack that conversation but calling those who have serious reservation about their plans naysayers who don’t care about kids. Over and over we hear, it’s just the price of a daily cup of coffee. Well perhaps it’s time for Red Clay to stop drinking at Starbucks.

I’ve laid out my opinion in past posts about how I feel about the new school on Graves Road. Pretty much I called Red Clay everything but racist. I don’t live in the city of Wilmington nor am I back. There are many people who live in the Camelot communities like ant is a safe self contained ant farm not giving a rat’s ass about others. They appease white parents who don’t want their children riding school buses into Wilmington to fill vacant seats in the city schools. Meantime taxpayers pay heating and maintaining school buildings that are not being used to it’s fullest potential. And let’s not forget, new schools require ongoing maintenance and operational cost for things such as heat and maintenance staff. Are we going to hire more custodians or transfer them from other schools. But what about the city middle and high school students whom apparently aren’t worthy of a neighborhood middle or high school of their own? Red Clay claims they don’t want to make changes that will make Wilmington school racially identifiable. Though I don’t live in Wilmington, Wilmington is part of our society as are black people, Hispanics, Latinos, Asians, American Indian, Arabs living among us and all other races and nationalities.  

Back to Red Clay’s referendum. Red Clay presents shallow renovation plans to each of the schools. Why not full plans to exactly which doors are being replace and what are the exact up grades intended for a school stage and so forth. They have to know all the numbers to formulate and estimate. The reason they play this game of Red Clay Where’s Waldo is because down the road they’ll lower the scope of some plans and increase it on other plans. They’ll create this little pool of floating money to run bullshit agendas. Are there building level committees of parents, teachers and community members reviewing projects to ensure what was on the plan gets completed? Are there committees that sign off and provide a report to the school board and community that repairs and upgrades to their building were complete as promised? HELL NO !!! Red Clay can use forward thinking when their heads are up their asses.

Many parents who send their children to charter school say they aren’t happy with traditional public schools and the assumption is its bad teachers. That is not necessary the case. Central administration and leadership also plays a major part in education and it often poor leadership that trickles down to the classrooms. Teachers these days have about the same amount of authority as custodians or the cafeteria lady! It’s put the blinders on and do what you are told. Much of the failures in public education is due to failure in leadership and much that stems from school leaders kissing political ass to sever their own interest.

Many charter schools if not all run a tight budget like Old Mother Hubbard. Red Clay tactics playing poor mouth claiming schools are so bad they’re about to fall off their foundations are playing the community for idiots. There have been referendums over the years trying to keep up with upgrades such as modern technologies. They’ll find pictures of doors that are in the worst shape and print pictures of them to want you to think all doors are the same. Maybe its time to review Red Clay’s preventive maintenance plans. Maybe school district are too big and overwhelming for superintendents. Perhaps we need to revisit site-based management that includes maintenance issue. Why wait for a door to rust of it’s hinges when addressing the first sign of rust could prevent long term damage? Why not have maintenance contracts on heaters and A/C where parts are maintained along the way before they become major issues? I have a hunch charter schools are more proactive when it comes to these issues.

Maybe that new school in Hockesin should be a charter school? I guess its easier for the more affluent to manipulate school officials to build schools to their needs at the same time putting their asses in the face of city children rather then build charter schools. It seems Red Clay is more accommodating to the more affluent than any other school district in the state. Red Clay has turned it’s back on ensuring equity in achieving neighborhood schools in Wilmington and more focused on meeting the needs of the more affluent suburban communities.

Nothing will ever change until there are changes community leadership. Why are voices of suburban parents louder than that of city parents? Those who live by the old school thinking that a piece of pie is better than none at all aren’t good community leaders. And those who follow community leaders who have a personal $$$ vested interest in education are fools. The cost of power is “FREE” and it take a community of voices to stand up and demand “CHANGE”. Red Clay will go to the schools selling those schools what they will get out of this referendum but we must looks at the complete agenda. Wilmington Red Clay taxpayers shouldn’t be paying for a school in the suburbs when that school has no feeder pattern extending into Wilmington. Sure fill  a Choice application out but it’s up to you to get your child to school. DART buses don’t even run to Graves Road. Sure you don’t have to vote on the question for the school or vote no for that part. But does that excuse the AGENDA? 

Red Clay will get more than they bargained for when the new civil rights leaders step up! It’s only a matter of time and that day is coming!

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13 Responses

  1. I’m curious, Kilroy, what exactly is in their presentation that calls for charter schools?

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    • There is nothing in the presentation and it’s just Red Clay’s mode of operation re: referendums suggest the construction and maintenance of charter schools are less burdensome on taxpayers. If a charter school were to open in Hockessin the taxpayers wouldn’t be funding the capital expenses. Charter are allowed to use operational funds transferred from the districts and state to maintain and build/ purchase buildings Really, how is charter schools can do it for less?

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  2. No need to post “I don’t live in the city of Wilmington nor am I back. ” Not sure back isthe correct word .

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    • African-America term seems to be what’s politically correct but why is it when we refer to white in America its now White-Americans?

      Look at the school profiles! White stands alone whereas, for black it’s African-American. Does this suggest as assumption that all blacks in America aren’t American.

      As far as noting I am not from Wilmington is to express Wilmington is my community of people.

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  3. Your comment about preventive maintenance is very appropriate, we spend millions every year for custodians, maintenance employees, maintenance contracts, maintenance equipment and supplies. Do we have a system in place to identify what needs to be done and when? Does the Board require any reports on maintenance of our facilities?
    In RC what percentage of “maintenance” employees work during the school day, what percentage work when our schools are empty?

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  4. As a charter school parent, I can say you are spot-on in your speculation about why parents choose charter schools. Of course I want the best possible teachers for my children. I also wanted out of the bullsh*t of administration-heavy, top-down districts with their heads in the sand. For us, the buck stops with the head of the charter school. The teachers are awesome…in large part because they’re ALLOWED to be awesome. The curriculum doesn’t get changed on a whim each year. They collaborate and plan together. The budget doesn’t get shifted around via sleight of hand. And parents are welcome at the school, by the school head on down to teachers and administrative assistants…and this means more help and support for the teachers. The transparency is greater, period. Having competent, trustworthy and accessible leadership is huge for me.

    As for Red Clay…I’d love it if all kids could go to neighborhood schools that were high-quality and safe. I think that’s the best model because it strengthens communities and schools. It’s a shame that neighborhood schools are not an option for most Wilmington students, in communities that might benefit most from having a neighborhood beacon in their schools, and it’s also a shame that they spend so much time on buses…to me that is time wasted, that could be spent on other enriching activity…one more way in which those kids get cheated.

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    • I understand this perspective but fear it’s more than a shame that our neighborhood schools aren’t viable. Not turning that fact around could spell disaster for us city residents – our overall public safety and economic development prospects, community cohesion and property values are on the line as long as this continues.

      In my experience, life on the ground in most trad public schools is not as far from this charter ideal as is portrayed in rumor, just as educational life in charter schools is not that superior to the reality of a traditional public school – that is, apart from what can be attributed to the segregated populations that result from competitive admissions.

      I think it’s a shame that charter schools have allowed so many of us a bubble and an opportunity to let this particular problem fester.

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    • I agree with you, to an extent. I’m new enough to DE that I don’t know all the details/history of the school systems here, so I may also lack information that might help me better understand what’s going on. You’re right- it’s more than a shame; my choice of words was too mild. It’s a travesty, and much much more should be done to turn things around. But what needs to happen goes so far beyond the schools. The “achievement gap” in schools will never be closed unless we also address problems of poverty, poor nutrition, parents who are unable for whatever reason to be supportive of their child’s education in ways that produce positive student outcomes. Expecting teachers alone to do it is ludicrous. On the other hand, school districts certainly don’t seem to do as much as they could, either, and the situation in Red Clay certainly seems to reflect that.

      I don’t agree, though, that charter schools offer a bubble. The problems in the school system pre-date charters. The festering started long before. My kids, I assume like many others in charter elementary schools, are still headed for local middle and high schools, so my interest in improving local schools is undiminished.

      I also don’t think charter schools are the answer to all the ills of the system, or a viable replacement for a system of traditional public schools. I think what often gets overlooked in the charter debate is that there is a huge range in terms of content and quality at charter schools. Each is unique. I would love to see research at a school considered successful (like the Newark Charter School) that compares student outcomes for kids who attend the charter school with student outcomes for kids who were in the lottery (maybe w/in the 5-mile radius?) but didn’t get a spot and attend their local feeder school. That would address your comment about positive outcomes being due to segregated populations. Yet even if that research did show better outcomes for that particular charter school, you couldn’t export the Newark Charter school model everywhere and expect the same results. There needs to be much more understanding of what works, for what populations, and why.

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    • New2Del, I really couldn’t agree more, with just about every word! :) I guess, in terms of a bubble, I was thinking more of friends of mine who take care of K-8 with charters or preferable choice options, and presumably will do they same at the 9-12 level. But I understand that may not apply to everyone.

      And yes, kilroy – I believe Albert Shanker, who conceived of the charter concept (as gap-closing lab programs within traditional school environments), ultimately disavowed any connection with what they had become – this public-private mutation, often at the hands of those who were actively anti-deseg. I am not AGAINST charters or choice – I just want us to learn to wield these options in a morally sound way. They could be great tools for progress on our issues if we used them more consciously rather than allow them to be so abused.

      I don’t see all specialized programs this way, though – I believe there is a place for a competitive high school in the vein of a Stuyvesant, Bronx Science or Brooklyn Tech – I think this is appropriate when students have reached a level when they can achieve placements based on real personal merits, rather than their parents’ gamesmanship. (I say this with full admission that I probably will “game” the system as much as any parents has to when it comes to our next educational steps…sigh) I just don’t think non-admission to such schools should mean being doomed to lack of strong programs in the traditional environments, but Red Clay has developed a history of appeasing the squeaky wheels to the grave detriment of the voiceless.

      I like the term “bright flight” – because it is not explicitly a race problem. It’s a class/power & poverty problem which in our community does break down remarkably along color lines. It irks me to hear the two overly conflated, because I think it brings up the hackles and stalls the conversation – and I say this as a Wilmingtonian of color!

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    • I thought the call for charter schools was the result of traditional public schools not effectively closing the achievement and the achieve gap is the academic gap between white and black students. So how is it we are building charter schools that want to be meet the needs of overachievers and ones who want to help at-risk students. we’re creating a school system that is counterproductive to what is meant by free public schools. In my opinion no charter school should do pre-admission tests and, look at students current grades at current schools. It’s very sad that charter schools that cherry pick student are praised as the model and those who want to serve at-risk student which struggle are the bad charters.

      The desegregation years caused the so-called white-flight and now charter is creating the bright-flight. Also components of Choice and Magnet school has an impact. What is left? Students in a system that is being abandon and students who have no parent advocating for them.The decline in academic performance in traditional schools may be artificial due to the impact of the bright-flight. Pull the top 20% of any class and of course combined class achievement will decline. Are schools really getting worst or is it a result of the bright-flight?

      Sadly to say, the fear of giving Wilmington it’s own school district will cause alarm that we are once again segregating our schools and action might be taken to mess it up for those who found their Camelot paid for by taxpayers. Some charter schools are nothing more than private schools funded by the public.

      It will take a social awakening in the communities and it will be led by new young civil rights leaders. I know that in my heart!

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  5. “new2del,I agree with you, to an extent. I’m new enough to DE that I don’t know all the details/history of the school systems here, so I may also lack information that might help me better understand what’s going on.”

    New2del, my family has lived in what is Red Clay for 100 years and there is deep-seeded racism (not suggesting school district are). The folks in the suburbs don’t want their kids bused into the city and want new schools. However, in Red Clay city middle and high school kids are bused to the suburbs because there are no Red Clay traditional middle and high schools. Wilmington was divided into four school districts , Red Clay, Brandywine, Christina and Colonial as a result of desegregation order . The order was lifted and now we have Choice and neighborhood school laws, However the deseg order forced school closed and sold. But in the case of Red Clay. two need suburb schools were added and another on the referendum vote. The charter school law allow admission preferences and some say with those preferences and neighborhood expanding with new schools that they are creating a community that resembles segregation. Governor sells Delaware as a state where a student can choose their school. However, with feeder-pattern students coming first not all desirable choice schools have room. Also, of you chose a Choice school out of you feeder-pattern and lucky enough to get in you must provide you child transportation to and from the school or to and from a school bus stop within that school. This create a burden for those poor people without private transportation. Some kind hearted people say too f’ing bad, stop doing drugs and buy a car. The more affluent people in Delaware have a voice and with that voice comes political leverage whereas, the poor don’t have that organized voice and sadly some of the righteous community leader claiming to also be civil rights leaders play to the greenback. The price of freedom should be free and those who work in the name of freedom and Dr King shouldn’t be looking for a payday!

    http://delcode.delaware.gov/title14/c010/index.shtml

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  6. coolspringer- it’s a painful thing to confront, at least it was for me…my general beliefs about what public education should be, vs. what actual options were available to me at the time my kids were entering school.

    You said “I just don’t think non-admission to such schools should mean being doomed to lack of strong programs in the traditional environments.” This, exactly. Kilroy mentioned the issue of transportation being a barrier for some families, because some charters only bus within a certain distance from t school. Of course it wouldn’t be practical in terms of time or money to transport every student to any school they wanted to attend. There should be good schools in every neighborhood, not good schools at the expense of “the rest.”

    Kilroy- thank you for your explanation of the state of education here in DE. So, to come back to the topic of your post, is this a problem in Red Clay only, or in the other districts as well (Colonial, Christina, Brandywine)? In those districts, are there under-enrolled city schools while new schools are being built in the suburbs, and are the schools being effectively re-segregated by choice and charters?

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  7. […] For an interesting discussion on this check out Kilroy’s posts on Red Clay (there’s a lot of them) and this conversation taking place on The Seventh Type.  Yes, we’ve been over this, […]

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