TOO SIMPLE: Circle one: a) Schools are overcrowded b)There aren't enough books c) Academic achievement is low d) Schools have to offer everything from breakfast to psychological counseling e) Students are out of control f) All of the above.
"We know what to do. If the school districts aren't working, get rid of them," screams State School Superintendent Lisa Graham, with all the excitement and brains of Mickey Rooney as Andy Hardy; "C'mon gang, let's put on a play and I'll be the star and we'll figure it out as we go along." Graham wants schools to manage themselves solely through site-based administration.
Great idea Lisa, if that meant each school would effectively supervise and distribute money for everything from food programs to paper towel purchases to transportation. But what happens when they flush it down the drain the first month of school?
Site-based administration, where interested parents, teachers and students work intimately on the direction of their schools, is in place in some schools in the Tucson Unified School District and can work when district bureaucrats give them the power they should have. Site-based schools like University High and Tucson Magnet High reared their heads recently when they were not consulted on high level administrative changes the district forced upon them. These people are not your mother's fundraising tea anymore. They want input.
But if you've been to a PTA meeting which has the same 13 parents show up week after week, be afraid of getting rid of school districts completely. Not every school can pull together the awesome parent/teacher involvement of say, a school for the gifted, like University High.
Keeping districts small enough so that administration can continue to work with site-based management teams is where we should be heading. Tucson Unified School District, with its 62,000 students, is way too big. For years people have been calling for a break up of this ungainly district. Smaller districts like Flowing Wells, Vail and Catalina Foothills continue to get TUSD refugees because they are smaller and more responsive to student's needs.
The idea behind public education is that all schools are created equal, but we know there must be some administration to see that schools achieve and keep that equality. Let strong site-based management teams advise and work closely with districts. That doesn't mean districts have to roll over and play dead, but they are going to have to listen with freshly cleaned ears and, in some cases, take orders from schools.
What we don't need is a clear-the-desk-and-start-over mentality where we throw out everything we have learned to date. Politicians, who will ultimately make the education reform decisions, are erased every few years. They won't be around to see if our schools sink or swim based on a national trend they think offers a quick, tidy solution. Our kids will be.
Watch for the trick questions, warriors.
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