Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Walls do a prison make

Pioneer Valley Chinese Immersion Charter School: clueless in Hadley

What a dramatic difference in response to incidents of solitary confinement enforced on a child at the Pioneer Valley Chinese Immersion Charter in Hadley last March vs. the "handfull" of times the "pink room" was used at Old Mill Pond Elementary School in Palmer last winter.

After an anonymous complaint sent to the state from a "group of concerned grandparents" about the "prison-like" conditions imposed on 5-9 year old children, the state then demanded to see investigation results and any corrective action implemented.

That corrective action did not take long! The School Committee Chair (probably overstepping her authority) immediately told the Principal to remove the locks and doors on the three cells, errr, I mean"cubbies."

The interim Superintendent stated the public school has "disbanded" use of the rooms (which had a 15 minute maximum time limit for use) and the new principal readily agreed.

Meanwhile back in Hadley at the PVCIC, the two highest paid "public" employees, Principal Kathy Wang and Executive Director Rich Alcorn, who just happen to be married, closed ranks and defended placing a 9-year-old boy, unattended, in a small room...for seven and a half hours!

Even worse, defended their business, errr, school by blaming the victim--branding him a "bully."

In fact, the child was himself the victim of bullying in a bathroom when he pushed another child out of the way to escape. The seven-and-a-half-hour sentence, errr, "in-house suspension" was imposed the next day and without any parent notification either day, even though the mother dutifully dropped off and picked up the boy daily.

Department of Children and Families found the actions of the 3rd grade teacher and principal rose to the level of "neglect," and according to the school's own handbook they were automatically suspended...but quickly reinstated by a unanimous vote of the School Committee, errr, "Board of Trustees", probably with back pay for the week missed.

I say "probably" only because a public documents request for Executive Session minutes of that June 13 meeting was denied by the school's attorney on the grounds it was a "personnel" issue. That decision will be appealed to Public Records czar Alan Cote.

Since Charter Schools upper management--Principals and Superintendents, errr, "Executive Directors"--have nonexistent job qualifications compared to the traditional public school system, could it be the lack of educational training that directly lead to such different outcomes?

Traditional Public School Administration requirements (note 7.09, 7.10)

Charter School Administration requirements (note there are none, other than "staff".)

The Springfield Republican reports:


Anonymous said...

Well, well, so perhaps you get what you pay for. Less experienced leadership, staff, etc. leads to problems.

Anonymous said...

"Less experienced leadership, staff, etc.leads to problems."

Yes, that's right.

Watch what happens in Amherst's schools by, oh, say, 2013 or so with its overmatched superintendent.

Right now we're in the suppression phase, or, to use Rick Hood's phrase, the "ignore it and it'll go away" phase (spoken as he did just that).

Anonymous said...

Kathy Wang and her husband, Richard Alcorn, do not have degrres in education or child development- they have proven (verified by DCF finding of neglect) that they are not qualified to run a school.

"you get what you pay for"-- well guess what? We, as tax payers, are all paying for their salaries and this is not ok.

Just because you can get a charter apporved, doesn't mean you should be able to run the school-- MA laws need to be changed!!

Anonymous said...

Gee Larry, don't remember St. Mikes. Even when you went there, kids were sent to the coatroom for a little timeout now and then. Solitary has been around for a long time.

LarryK4 said...

Yeah I remember it well, and the stinging slap of a wooden ruler across the knuckles.

But, indeed, that was 45 or so years ago. I think education has come a ways since then.

(And I don't ever remember being sent to the coatroom for 7.5 hours)

Anonymous said...

(And I don't ever remember being sent to the coatroom for 7.5 hours)

Thank you, Larry, for pointing out the obvious.

If what the child did was heinous enough to warrant a 7.5 hour timeout then the parent(s) should have been called to inform them of the behaviour and to invite them to the school for the meeting to work out a plan to help the child. This plan should be the result of a school/home parntership.

The way this episode was handled was wrong on so many different levels it's hard to know where to begin. There should be more oversight over who can start and lead a charter school. If the Chinese Imersion school does not get a change of leadership I would not be surprised if it closed its doors in a few years due to lack of interested families.

Anonymous said...

Damn, and I thought going down to the principal's office and sitting in the corner for an hour was bad.

Anonymous said...

Am I the only one who noticed the "jail-type" magnetic locks on the pictured doors? Or that the principal who installed them is now the SPED director for that district?

There is a difference between being sent to a room and being locked up in one. A big difference...

Anonymous said...

Am I the only person who notices that the more I hear/read about the Phoebe Prince death, the more the record screams ADHD?

And what did the SPED experts do for her? Anything????

What about this kid in the charter school????

Should ADHD be a death sentence because it is in the DSM? Homosexuality used to be in there, are folks willing for *that* to be a death sentence????

Anonymous said...

How easy is it to ignore the fact that you sung the praises of this chinese immersion school when your adopted chinese daughter attended it? Now, suddenly, after the school's jailing policies come to light, you start slamming the fact that these people are not trained educators.

Yet, you take great delight, typically not an indicator of a true journalist, in endlessly slamming the highly trained educators in your own beloved town's school.

Yep, that's Larry Kelly logic for you.

LarryK4 said...

At least I know how to spell my name correctly. That too is a journalisic sign.

Anonymous said...

Larry and his family had the good sense to take their daughter out of a bad situation. His hopes, as were the hopes of many others, were that the school would offer an innovative alternative to traditional public schools. It did. But over time, Larry and many other parents who have also pulled their kids out of the school realized that a school is only as good as it's leaders and teachers, and events over the past couple of years have clearly demonstrated leadership that is oblivious to sound educational practice and teachers that teach as if they were still living in the days of the Cultural Revolution.