Stop Shutting out Parents

Susan Cranley is clueless! It's indefensible that the Cincinnati Board of Education president would even say that the state has a lot of clout because they provide 21 percent of the local schools' b

Jan 3, 2007 at 2:06 pm

Susan Cranley is clueless! It's indefensible that the Cincinnati Board of Education president would even say that the state has a lot of clout because they provide 21 percent of the local schools' budget ("Cutting Classes," issue of Dec. 13). The federal government provides a significant proportion of the local budget, as do taxpayers, so why aren't we having "a lot of clout?"

Cincinnati Public Schools is totally problematic, and rather than teach kids CPS preps for a test that has scant value in the real world. A greedy teachers union has interfered to the point whereby it almost controls individual classrooms. The union protects incompetent, unproductive teachers to the detriment of our children.

A major first step is to dump the union contract or at least modify it drastically to reflect children first, not last! Other steps include tightening teacher performance standards, allowing and facilitating teachers to instruct students to achieve subject mastery rather than prep for an all but meaningless test and working as hard to keep students in school as is done to kick them out.

Superintendent Rosa Blackwell is a good person and proved her worth in the classroom and as a principal. She is definitely student-centered.

Her stewardship, however, is negatively affected by the city's problems that she can't control, including persistent racism manifested in residential segregation, bigoted teachers and the malignant fear/distrust/hatred of black people in Cincinnati. She can strive as she may, but I think she's set up for blame for someone else's failure, much as the two black former superintendents were.

Cincinnati is virtually half black and half white. The schools are primarily black, except for teachers and administrators. And yet only black neighborhood schools are slated for closing. How could more be expected from a school district that has never truly valued its black students? There are many teachers who always present their best for students, but there are too many who just don't give a damn.

School closings are a symptom of a much deeper problem, but only school board member Florence Newell alludes to it honestly. Yet what can she do alone?

I happen to chair the Local School Decision-Making Committee for a CPS school striving for excellence. I signed off on the "One Plan" committed to by our teachers. Our principal is building a great team and spent a fair amount of time developing the plan.

Yet how will our school be affected by other school closings? Will there be an influx of students and/or teachers that will have to be integrated into the existing school culture? What happens if the influx creates major disruption? The school is currently in a state of equilibrium, but how might an influx of newcomers disturb that balance and how long will it take to regain equilibrium?

The school board president either did not conduct a proper analysis of the situation or didn't request one. Either way, she's using flawed data. It seems to me that Blackwell ought to have the dominant voice in school matters without others, especially newcomers to the board, gainsaying her recommendations.

The school closing issue is a catastrophe on the way to happening. When the mess does occur, voters will have to assess the damage, the players and the decision-makers and determine a course of action. November's school board race might make this past Congressional election seem like a teddy bear's picnic!

CPS decries the non-involvement of parents, but then parental groups are ignored when major decisions are made. Many black parents bitterly criticize CPS because of ill treatment by school personnel. Parents are slighted, disrespected, ignored, spoken to like children and subjected to insensitivity and unconcern. Complaints are lodged but are filed without action.

Parents and Local School Decision-Making Committees are potentially strong, viable and committed partners for CPS, but the question must be raised as to whether CPS wants our help. I'm still looking for an answer.

— William Herbert Smith, Walnut Hills