Monday, May 20, 2013

Baby Steps...Academic Distress Commission Part Deux

Four hours and missing a son's first baseball game of the year is what it took for me tonight to have renewed hope for Lorain City Schools and our kids.

I sat through several presentations during today's Academic Distress Commission meeting regarding staffing levels, a district leadership and staff survey and Mr Tucker's academic recovery plan.  The specific numbers regarding staffing are all available online at the ODE website and reveal some things we knew and some things some of us didn't know.  For instance, I knew we were down in teachers, but what I didn't know was that we are down below what the state recommends  by over 40 teachers.  We're down more than 30 administrators.  We're also down students according to the state but the number they claim we have was startling to me.  6100 students is a very low number as far as I'm concerned.  We also have 1900 students in charter schools in Lorain according to the ODE.  That's 5 elementary schools worth of kids being taught somewhere else because we have failed them in one way or another.

There is however good news that needs to be spread.  The Academic Distress Commission adopted unanimously, in their bylaws, a provision allowing public recording of the meetings.  After today's four hours, I'd love to be able to lay in bed and watch the proceedings.  There also seems to be a sense of urgency in the commission.  Not necessarily a "rush" per se, but an obvious need to move forward with the process of turning around education in Lorain.  With that in mind, many people in Lorain have not noticed the work already being done by the administration and Mr. Tucker.  A plan has already been put into action to turn things around academically and even financially. Mr. Tucker's presentation was complete and decisive.  He covered all the bases, has ALREADY put the plan into action, even mentioning to the ADC that he wasn't going to wait for their plan and said "we don't have time to wait". The commissioners unanimously agreed that Mr. Tucker's plan and presentation was a great start and Mr. Ramos even mentioned that it's possible that the commission's work could hold the district back if they didn't adopt Mr. Tucker's plan as a foundation for their own recovery plan. Yes Virginia, there is light at the end of the tunnel.

You should have a renewed sense of hope for our schools. Take it from the most critical parent in this district.

Those of you out there saying parents are not a part of the district or that we have no say, let me tell you a short story.  I met with Mr. Tucker and Dr. Hall several weeks ago and one of the things I mentioned to them was a need to get kids to school every day and on time.  I suggested to Mr. Tucker that we should somehow get the courts involved in truancy issues.  I'm not talking about putting people in jail or something so severe at first, but we needed some sort of mechanism to just give parents a nudge. The process could become more extreme  and involved in the case of habitual truancies.  He said he agreed with me and I made some phone calls.  One was to Pat Jacobs in the Juvenile Division of the Domestic Relations Court.  She's the director of the School Liaison Program where they provide the "truancy officers" and the teeth needed to keep our kids in school.  It just so happened that she was going to be in a meeting that Mr. Tucker was also going to attend so I asked Ms. Jacobs to approach him and BAM! Mr. Tucker is planning on using their services once the BOE approves the minimal cost.

I'm not saying it was my doing that this came about. But at least I had a small part and that's the point. You can make a difference.

Parents cannot "run" the district.  That's Mr. Tucker's job. We can provide input and our time to help.  They're our kids too...remember?


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