Tuesday, September 09, 2003

School Reform Takes A Leap?

At last night's Memphis City School Board meeting, as the last agenda item, a proposal was put forward by Lora Jobe and Michael Hooks, Jr. to fire all the teachers and administrators in the 22 lowest-performing schools in the city. All the fired employees would be eligible for rehire, but only after taking qualifying exams. Being the last item at the meeting, some Board members were already gone and nothing much came of it. But, an electrifying gauntlet was thrown down.

Whether it will bear fruit, to mangle a metaphor, is not at all sure. Jobe has a reputation as a knowledgeable devotee of education, someone who takes her job quite seriously. Hooks, on the other hand, is a political operative. His job on the School Board is merely a holding position until some other office/campaign comes along. He has ambitions. How they paired up and under what auspices is a mystery not yet answered.

Will they follow through? Or is this just a jolt to the system, something to shake things up a bit but not carry out? They face serious opposition from the teachers union and the bureaucracy in the MCS main office, and from their allies on the Board. There will also be the usual demagoguery to endure, the hue and cry from the expected quarters that drowns out meaningful discussion.

New MCS Superintendent Carol Johnson was blindsided. She hasn't commented yet. One has to wonder what she thinks of this move, coming before she's even settled into her chair. I don't think she's coming in with rose-colored glasses, but still this is some hello.

There is also the daily paper. Already, in it's reporting there is a feeling of sympathy for teachers. Take this opening, from a news story no less:
Cindy Whitmore is more than a seventh-grade math teacher at Sherwood Middle School.

She is a social worker. She is a psychologist. And she is a surrogate mother and sister to students at Sherwood.

Now - thanks to a new Memphis City school board proposal to rebuild 22 of the lowest-performing schools from scratch - Whitmore also is among hundreds of teachers who could lose their jobs.
Oh yeah, fair, neutral and objective my ass. But wait, there's more:
Healing the schools will mean....
Healing? What kind of word choice is that? You can see where the CA's sympathies lie already.

This one will be fun to watch, if the Jobe/Hooks team follow through.

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