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NO on new school… for now

February 28, 2012

For today’s Red Clay referendum – YES on renovations, NO on new school.

It doesn’t feel right to oppose a new school. But in this case there is every reason to hold off until more answers come out. If and when they do, then we can vote for the new school.

Red Clay’s capacity-based argument for a new suburban school was already on shaky ground, as several options for making better use of existing space were apparently not on the table. Red Clay also didn’t help its case by releasing fishy capacity numbers, or by voting to continue to accept choice applications for suburban elementary schools with extra space.

But now the capacity argument has been shattered by Bank of America’s announcement of 2000 privately-controlled charter school seats in Wilmington. The new charter seats will overturn the capacity chessboard all over northern New Castle County. Some of today’s traditional public schools will likely be closed or charterized. The presence of our top political and education officials seemed to endorse the plan, whatever it may be.

Not one brick should be laid and not one new charter approved until we find out:

1. How will high-needs students be supported, both in and out of Wilmington? We have had too many concentrations of low-performing students for too long. It is long past time to address the problem.

But Red Clay doesn’t seem to have its priorities straight. New schools are fine, but there is a good argument that new programs for high-needs students should come first. We can actually afford to do both, so let’s see the programs. And no – charterization of Wilmington is not an acceptable answer.

There is a strong case that opening new schools in the suburbs will leave behind higher concentrations of high-needs students in city schools, resulting in decline of those schools. Pandora at Delaware Liberal presents correlations that indicate this in fact happened to Warner when Brandywine Springs was opened.

2. Exactly what new schools, with what leadership, will the Longwood Foundation install in the new 2000 seat foundation-owned, corporate-funded building in Wilmington? And once we find out, is that what parents really want? The transfer of this building was announced with a fanfare that obscured the fact that nearly no details were provided.

And there is every indication that the BofA building is the centerpiece of a master plan for New Castle County schools that has not been revealed but can be well guessed at.

If we are in fact to implement a master plan that includes charterization of the top and middle performing students, while creating dumping ground schools for the rest, let’s put those cards on the table and vote on it. Is that what we really want? Because that is where we are headed.

To be fair, the problems with Red Clay schools are bigger than Red Clay or any school system can deal with. For the most part, Red Clay is being asked to perform social engineering to fix problems the rest of our civic establishment refuses to deal with. But Red Clay needs to join with parents in seeking answers from itself, from the state, from the county, and from the Federal government.

Critics. especially bloggers, are not off the hook either – myself included. Bloggers are essential and have spoken more truth than anyone in this referendum go-round. But I am weary of debates that always turn toward someone finding a newer and more clever way to assert so-and-so is racist or dishonest, with high-fives all around.

Once the referendum is over we must not go back to sleep until the next referendum. We need to continue to press for solutions and not be satisfied with always being the Party of No. We need to find and promote solutions worthy of our enthusiastic support and advocacy.

  1. Coolspringer
    February 28, 2012 at 9:30 am

    Hear, hear!!! Looking forward to continuing the conversation with you and others…

  2. February 28, 2012 at 12:44 pm

    Nicely done, Mike.

    I’m in the process of organizing a group – yes, Coolspringer, that’s moving forward quickly, so get ready! – and, if your interested, Mike, you’re welcome to join in.

  3. Coolspringer
    February 28, 2012 at 1:57 pm

    Definitely ready and willing… 🙂

  4. February 28, 2012 at 2:02 pm

    Sign me up!

  5. February 29, 2012 at 9:37 am

    I’d email you, but I don’t see contact info. You can contact me at pandora@delawareliberal.net

  6. February 29, 2012 at 9:47 am

    Check your email, Pandora. My email is mike01@seventhtype.com.

  7. February 29, 2012 at 10:05 am

    Got it! Thanks!

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