Education Opinion

A Come to Jesus Meeting with Paul2

By Roslyn Johnson Smith, Ph.D. — January 10, 2008 2 min read

Our State Superintendent, Paul Pastorek (Paul #1), convened a meeting of charter school leaders today. Our topics included discussions around “bureaucratic creep,” a term for increasing supervision and interference by the local education agencies in the autonomy provided to charter schools. Mr. Pastorek listened attentively to each person explain his or her most pressing issues during the hour he was present. He did very little talking.

My own questions were centered on reimbursements for capital projects that should be covered in our charter school agreements with FEMA and the insurance companies and special education dilemmas. These two topics were also high on the state superintendent’s list of concerns as well.

We are spending money of things that should have been repaired in the building before we took possession. The kitchen equipment is not there because we needed to have the RSD consultant do a plan with the architectural staff. They had to dig up the floor plans and blueprints from somewhere. The good news is that the state agents are trying to develop a comprehensive plan for the buildings. The bad news is that there is no capital improvement money provided by the state to make the changes. That hurt.

On the special education issue, everyone admits that it is a tough nut to crack. We were told that the advocate groups had given the RSD a “pass” for this year to get the act together. I was relieved to hear Paul #2, Mr. Vallas, who is the superintendent for RSD, when he said that he had many of the same problems we had. At least, we are not alone. Mr. Vallas talked for almost as long as Mr. Pastorek listened.

We didn’t get much new information for our 2-hour investment. I did meet a few more of the players in the charter school movement. We also had an opportunity to introduce our principal to the other operators. The staff was told to arrange more meetings so that the dialogue could continue. We will learn from each other because there is more cooperation and collaboration than competition.

One or two people surprised me by asking how I was doing, having survived a media blitz. My response was that the issues they were discussing were 2007. We are looking forward in 2008. I have only so much energy and brain power. I refuse to continue rehashing yesterday’s news. Let’s move on. No one is forcing me to work with the charter school. In spite of continued negativism in some quarters and constant distractions by certain instigators, I am as committed as ever to make good things happen for our students. We can do great things with commitment and the right attitude.

Writing the blog has put me in touch with many people who want to help us be successful. Thank you for your encouragement, suggestions, and offers to help us. Your support reminds me of why I am doing this special work. It’s for the children.

The opinions expressed in Starting Over: A Post-Katrina Education are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

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