Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Board of Trustees comes clean

So the parent revolt over at the Pioneer Valley Immersion Chinese Charter school seems to have made a difference as we learned at 7:00 AM this morning that the Board of Trustees voted on 6/14 just after the public 'Parent Speak Out' to reopen the search for an 'Executive Director' to oversee the school like a Public School Superintendent.

Problem in this particular case is the person originally appointed, Richard Alcorn, happens to be married to the Principal, Kathy Wang. And Mr. Alcorn is the current (volunteer) Board of Trustee Chair and has been since the founding of the school. The Board of Trustees--that he Chairs--voted him into the highly-paid position, although I assume he abstained.

Still, a clear case of Conflict of Interest. And according to PVIC bylaws: "Members of the Board of Trustees shall serve the Pioneer Valley Immersion Charter School with the highest degree of undivided duty, loyalty and care and shall undertake no enterprise to profit personally from their position with the Pioneer Valley Chinese Immersion Charter School."

What upset some of the parents was the shadowy, inside deal nature of the process. Yes, Mr. Alcorn founded the school and without his blood, sweat and tremendous time commitment the school would never have been granted a Charter (in fact the first year the state turned it down).

But the school is now in a growth spurt and can no longer be considered a small Mom-and-Pop startup. Oftentimes in entrepreneurial ventures the founders who have the vision and determination to get a business started are not necessarily the ones to guide it to the next stage.

Besides, neither of the two founders have a background in the education industry. Having one or the other in top management is fine for sure, but certainly not both.

Thus the parent listserve came alive last month when rumors spread that Mr. Alcorn was appointed to the top position. Comments flew back and forth like ping pong balls at a Chinese tournament.

I invited the media to the 6/14 Speak Out, although only the Springfield Republican covered it. After all, the Charter school is a public school subject to the Open Meeting Law just like any other school in the district.

This actually prompted a minor backlash on the listserve, with some other parents (happy with the status quo) questioning if anyone should be airing "dirty laundry" in public and pointing the finger at one (of the many) vocal parents--but the only one who happened to get quoted extensively in the Springfield Republican article.

But now this late course correction by the Executive Board of Trustees underscores that there's nothing wrong with dirty laundry. It is, after all, natural: all you do is throw in a load of wash.

The Springfield Republican Reported


Anonymous said...

All is not so rosy in charter school land. Just goes to show, human nature trumps ideology every time.

Anonymous said...

Nepotism, favoritism, it's as old as time. So is the old "don't talk about it in public" malarky. Keep up the good work, Larry. Search out the truth whereever it leads you.

Xenos said...

Explain to me again why the rest of us have to pay taxes to fund boutique schools that don't have to take in the special ed. students that the rest of the system has to provide services for?

Surely it must not be because the management of the boutique schools is always above reproach, no?

LarryK4 said...

Because on average Charter Schools outperform traditional Public Schools and they do it at a cheaper average cost per child.

And they do by law have to take in special ed students.

TCC said...

Aren't all kids deserving of a special education?

Anonymous said...

"Because on average Charter Schools outperform traditional Public Schools and they do it at a cheaper average cost per child."

Are you willfully ignoring the NEA study that found just the opposite? Or are you just misinformed? Please let me know.

"The report found that charter school students, on average, score lower than students in traditional public schools."

Why let facts get in the way of your opinions.

LarryK4 said...

I was thinking of a pretty major study the state did a few years back on Charter schools in, you know, Massachusetts.

Anonymous said...

I would find anything the NEA publishes on charter schools to be highly suspicious. They definitely have an agenda.

LarryK4 said...

Oh yeah, I'm sure the NRA can show us all sorts of studies that prove a home is sooooooo much safer with guns present.

And Camel convinced doctors 50 years ago that smoking was good for ya. Bet they had some great studies to back it up (all funded by the Tobacco Institute.)

Anonymous said...

So, where are your studies showing that "on average Charter Schools outperform traditional Public Schools"?

Put up or shut up.

LarryK4 said...

Signs of Success: Massachusetts Department of Education Charter School Office

Nearly 90 percent of the state’s charter schools performed the same or better on the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System than schools in their comparison sending districts* between 2001 and 2005, with just 10 percent doing worse, according to a 2006 study commissioned by the Massachusetts Department of Education.

The study listed in the first bullet also showed that similar patterns existed for all demographic subgroups, with the likelihood of the significant difference favoring the charter school being most prevalent for the African-American, Hispanic, and low-income subgroups.

The same study found that in both reading and mathematics, at least 30 percent of the charter schools performed statistically signifi- cantly higher than their comparison sending districts in each year, with the exception of 2001. In 2001, 19 percent of the charter schools performed significantly higher than comparison sending districts in reading, and 26 percent did so in mathematics.

In addition, researchers found that students in Boston’s charter schools performed significantly better than students in regular public schools. Between 2001 and 2005, students in Boston’s charter schools, on average, scored over 9 points higher on the English language arts state achievement test than students in regular public schools. In mathematics, charter school students’ scores were 8.07 points higher on average in the same time period.

Ed said...

Larry -- cite the source on Charter Schools;