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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Odds and Ends (Spoiler Alert for a Movie)

A reader asked about the Arbor Heights Elementary charter forum last week.  It went well.  There were about 35 people there, mostly from Arbor Heights but some from other surrounding schools.  The principal, Christy Collins, was there along with several of their teachers.  (What was really nice is that some of the PTA leaders from Olympic View, who had also put on their own charter forum a couple of weeks back, came to this forum and stayed for a tour of the building.)

It was well-organized (with little Halloween candy packages for all).

As per Olympic View, I was the fact-checker with Beth Sigall, pro side (from the Lake Washington School district) and Kristen King, con side.  Both of them had very good PowerPoints and I think the audience appreciated that. (Note: I did an update as I misspelled Beth's name and got her district wrong in the first version.  My apologies.)

What was somewhat different from the Olympic View charter forum was Beth's emphasis on Eric Pettigrew's advocacy of this bill and yet it wasn't even his district.  Also, Beth's presentation emphasized more of the "big-picture" of charters and not this bill.  I have to say there is almost no one who will stand up to the specifics in this bill and it's troubling.

As I mentioned, after the forum, Principal Collins took several of us on a tour of the building.  I have been through many, many buildings in this district.  This was one of the worst.  I think the PTA leaders from Olympic View were more than a little shocked that this is the state of a public school building.

With all due respect for the good work going on in the building (and with a nod to Bette Davis), what a dump.

Arbor Heights is at the top of the list (along with Meany) for the worst building in the district.  Dingy, cramped, some of the oldest furniture I've seen, heating that does not work 80% of the time, and worst of all, real safety issues.   The kids can't drink the water in the bathrooms and there's a sign saying that but we all know kids.  Arbor Heights has those low kind of windows popular in '60s schools and, in some rooms, the blinds are broken.  As Principal Collins pointed out, when you have a lock-down, the teachers are supposed to draw the blinds so no one can see in.  That is not possible in every room at AH and yes, someone on the outside could walk the perimeter of the building and see in.

Next, guess what subject has been made into a movie?  The parent trigger law in California.  Thanks to one of our readers for this story that appeared in the NY Times.
In a rare mix of hot policy debate and old-fashioned screen drama, 20th Century Fox is preparing a September release for “Won’t Back Down.” The film heads smack into the controversies around so-called parent trigger laws that in California and a handful of other states allow parents to dump bad teachers and overrule administrators in bottom-ranked schools.


Now the trigger laws have connected with a movie culture whose new preoccupation with timeliness lends urgency and risk to reality-inspired dramas that in the past were usually set safely in the past.
 As I have noted in other threads, California lead the way with the so-called Parent Trigger law but there are several other states that have them.  But none of them have been used except in California and one episode is now in a court (and two others failed).

Now, I have a bit of a history (really small) in the film industry but I smelled a rat as I read this article.  Studios may like to be timely but this law hasn't ever been enacted at a single school.  So I read on:

“I thought it was a prank,” Mr. Austin said of his surprise at a call in which he learned that Walden Media, backed by the conservative-leaning billionaire Philip Anschutz, was shooting a drama in which teachers and parents aim to take charge.

For Walden, the film is a second shot at an education-reform movie. With Mr. Gates and the progressive-minded Participant Media, Walden was among the financial backers of the documentary “Waiting for ‘Superman.’ ”


“We realized the inherent limitations of the documentary format,” said Michael Bostick, chief executive of Walden. Now, he said, the idea is to reach a larger audience through the power of actors playing complicated characters who struggle with issues that happen to be, in his phrase, “ripped from the headlines.”

And so it goes.  The ed reformers could not make a convincing case with real-life so they'll make up a story to sell it.  I guess that's what you can do if you have money but I knew no studio would have just bought this script without some real action behind it.

Hilariously, Mr. Barnz, the director, says, "I'm extremely pro-union."  Well, he better be because all those actors?  Union members.  And don't get me started on how you do not want to make the Teamsters who work on the set mad.  That's probably in the top 10 things you do not do when you make a film.

What did the spokesperson for the California Teachers Association say?

Still, he voiced surprise that the parent trigger laws should become a subject for Hollywood at all. “I can’t wait for ‘Vouchers 3-D: The Movie,’ ” he said.

To note, the California case that set off this film, in a town called Adelanto, failed to win support at their school board meeting last night.  From the LA Times:

In a stunning development, school officials in the High Desert community of Adelanto announced late Tuesday that parents aiming to transform their low-performing school into a charter campus had failed to collect enough signatures under the state's landmark parent trigger law.

Shortly after the announcement, the school board voted 5 to 0 to accept Supt. Darin Brawley's recommendation to reject the petition. Brawley reported that the district could verify only 235 signatures of 466 submitted; among the signatures thrown out were 97 from parents who revoked them, saying they were misled or had signed in error.

The announcement disappointed many in the crowd, who believed that the charter school petition signed by parents representing 70% of the 665 students at the school would be enough. But other parents who opposed the petition were pleased, saying that they wanted to give the new principal, David Mobley, a chance to improve the school without the upheaval of a charter conversion.


This WILL be an issue if the Washington charter bill passes.  The parent trigger portion in this bill is so under-written that I don't believe it could stand a court challenge (yet another troubling part about this poorly written bill).  The Washington bill doesn't say what form the petition should take, where to turn it in, who verifies the signatures, nothing. 

Lastly, the Times' Lynne Varner has written yet another column about ed reform, this time backing up Nick Hanauer and his unhappiness over the Dems in this state not fully embracing ed reform.  She makes a number of "huh" statements:

"Democrats for Education Reform is one of a number of new pro-reform advocacy groups."

No, it's just another one of the many astro-turf "groups" that the ed reform crowd has thought up. In Washington State, its whole staff is one person - check their website.

"...will go down as the tough-love message heard around the state."

Or the frantic posturing of yet another wealthy guy who thinks he should tell the rest of us what our children's public education should look like.

She also made this whopper of a statement:

"...with a charter-school bill so unthreatening it could have been used as a trial balloon."

She has obviously not read it but here's some "unthreatening" (I'm guessing she meant "non-threatening"):

3 comments:

mirmac1 said...

Hey, I like Atlanta's new Supt.

Atlanta on the mend

Jan said...

Wow, mirmac1. What a change from the old regime! Wish we could clone one like him! Failing that, I wish we could at least get him up here to call off Pettigrew, Hanauer and their dogs.

Anonymous said...

The beginning of the 2/15 school board meeting is now on the Seattle Channel.

Mr Ed