I've stayed around the fringes on the increasing flow of Pencader revelations, partly because I was doing other things, and partly because I don't have the sources to compete with the work Elizabeth Scheinberg, John Young, and Kilroy have all been doing.
But this comment by pandora over at Kilroy's has--several days after I first read it--forced me out of the closet:
Reading all the comments here, and at other sites, here is what I’ve heard:
1. Parents afraid to speak out because their children will be retaliated against.
2. Parents also being intimidated
3. Teachers being intimidated
4. An actual, and active, Team Lewis
5. School Board members dropping like flies
6. The claim that the board has been stacked in favor of Ms. Lewis
7. And of course, the PhD and pension drama
I honestly don’t know why anyone would willingly expose their child to this environment. If I were a Pencader parent I would pull my kid out of that school – to me, remaining open isn’t a victory.Here's the thing: my twins attend Charter School of Wilmington, as any regular reader knows, so my example will be drawn from real life.
When you decide to place your child in a charter school, you are knowingly taking part in an educational experiment. All that "freedom" from stultifying government rules comes with a concurrent responsibility: if you don't want government rules, you don't get the same level of government oversight.
Put another way: charter schools are, by definition, experiments, and some experiments fail. That is an intended part of the charter school model--that poorly designed, organized, or funded charter schools will fail.
When you send your child to a charter school, you'd better have a back-up plan in mind, and you'd better update it every year, because even if the school doesn't fail, it still has the legal ability to dump your child for pretty much any reason.
There's only one way to reduce the risk of this happening to you and your children: parental oversight has to take the place of government control. If parents do not "own" the school, from PTOs to curriculum committees to the school's board to simply keeping the principal and teachers on notice every single day that they have expectations, and that they're watching, then the parents deserve exactly what they get when poor leadership, poor financial management, or poor teaching cause a charter school to fail.
Unfortunately, the kid get to pay the price for parental neglect, which always seems to be the case.
It totally pisses me off to hear parents complain and cry for government rescue when a charter school is failing because it's hypocritical.
YOU opted out of the system of government oversight. YOU either knew or should have known the risks you were taking with your child's education. YOU had every opportunity to see the warning signs and either organize to raise holy hell or vote with your feet and get your child out of that school.
In the charter schools that everybody admits have a solid foundation (no matter how they might disagree about selection of students), this is universally true: parents are involved in everything, and almost all parents are involved in something. The schools know that they have to keep parents happy on a daily basis, and that while you can fool some of the parents all of the time, you can't fool all of the parents all of the time.
This is how it works at CSW, at DMA, and even at NCS (where I find some--not all by any means--of the parents obnoxious in their rhetoric, but cannot fault any of them for failing to be involved in their school).
This is obviously NOT how it has worked at Pencader, which apparently pursued a model of keeping parents at a distance, keeping them divided into cliques by school administrators, and keeping them away from the information they would need to be informed stakeholders.
But I don't blame the administrators, even though it is fairly obvious that several were at least morally bankrupt if not legally culpable.
I blame the parents for not self-organizing and putting a stop to this two years ago--or at least leading a mass exodus out of the school.
Yes, I know. People will tell me I don't know about the climate, about the intimidation, or about how they thought the government was supposed to provide oversight.
Time to stand up and admit it, Pencader parents.
Ann Lewis, loss of tax-exempt status, a nonfunctional board, all the rest--you own it.
Now get in there and take it back, or get your kids the hell out.