Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Pass the Popcorn


PROVIDENCE — A new study recommends turning the popular Vartan Gregorian Elementary School into a kindergarten through grade eight school, much to the consternation of some East Side parents who fear that the change would undermine the school’s success...

Harlan Rich, a leader of the East Side Public Education Coalition, has several problems with the recommendation, which will be subject to public discussion before any final decisions are made. Gregorian, located on Wickenden Street, is already crowded, Rich said. Although the study says the building could handle 452 students, Rich said he doesn’t know where they would put them. Gregorian is currently a kindergarten through grade six school with 369 students.

“The numbers don’t make sense,” Rich said. “This doesn’t seem to be based on sound pedagogy, but on saving money.”

Um... yeah, it is about saving money. I'm actually puzzled why the administration doesn't lead with that more aggressively, actually. You can argue pedagogy forever, but if there is no money, there is no money. And there is less than no money, at least according to the official books.


“We have a school that is successful and in demand,” said Robin O’Hara, one of the consultants. “But it is in need of modernization. In order to modernize, you need to put in an addition. We saw this as an opportunity to create a K-8 building.”

With the proposed closing of two middle schools, Perry and Bridgham, parents also worry that Nathan Bishop will become another overcrowded middle school.

“You have between 1,200 and 1,500 students from the two middle schools that are closing,” Rich said. “Will they expand the other middle schools to the breaking point?”

Finally, parents said they worry that Gregorian will no longer serve as a “feeder” school that sends children to Bishop. One of the driving forces behind the $35-million Bishop overhaul was that school officials saw it as a way to lure East Side parents back to the public schools.

Behind these contradictory policy straw men lurks the real spectre: WHITE FLIGHT. Too many brown kids in our shiny new schools mean OH NOES RUN BACK TO THE PRIVATE SCHOOLS!

I'm not sure who wears the pants in the Brady/East Side relationship, but I guess we're about to find out. If I were Brady I'd start floating some rumors about how he's might have to start having to move principals from high performing schools to the new turnaround schools (blame Race to the Top!), or perhaps the West End wouldn't mind having Bridgham renovated and expanded and having Gregorian closed. Then have a little sit-down with the East Siders.

As "Karina Wood, a parent of two Providence schoolchildren and a member of the East Side Public Education Coalition," told the ProJo:

“I’m fortunate that my children attend a high-performing school. But many families are not as fortunate. Every child deserves to attend a good school.”

That was apparently before they got the memo that closing schools in my neighborhood might result in my neighbors arriving in their high performing schools. They've still got some work to do on their messaging.

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