My overriding impression from the last two days of public meetings on the AF Mayoral Academy proposal is that its backers are really not having fun anymore. Bill Fischer just gets some sullen kid to get there early and sign up first to speak for DfER while Fischer glowers next to the exit. None of the mayors show up and only Taveras bothers to send an aide to speak for him. Most supporters seem more interested in "choice" in general than excited about the particular one in question. Even Jeremy Chiappetta's statement Wednesday night contained a rambling interlude on his dissatisfaction with the PPSD's choice system, under which his child was not guaranteed a seat in his closest neighborhood school. The only thing that made this an argument in favor of a mayoral academy only insofar as it was coming out of Chiappetta's mouth. It could be copy/pasted into the middle of a Parents Across America press release.
All you need is a few shark-eyed bureaucrats and political appointees to close a school, but this isn't sufficient to create one. I don't have to guess what it is like trying to create a new school in Providence; I helped do it and have many friends who have done it too. And believe me, at this point in the process, you should be full of energy, passionate to explain your plans to whomever will listen. Yet, what struck me Wednesday night is that we've been at this for almost a year and two separate proposals, and there has never, never been a single presentation by the backers of these schools to the general public. Not one. Nor has there been a public forum where parents and citizens can ask questions and get answers in the open. I was glad someone pointed out last night that if advocates for these proposals are unhappy about what they perceive to be misinformation, perhaps they should provide more information. Angela Romans called for a conversation about teaching and learning. OK! We're ready! Let's schedule it.
These people are arrogant, but they are not confident, and they are under a lot of pressure. There is a reason they tweet inspiring quotes at each other all the time. Deborah Gist doesn't get a "Champions for Charters" award because she's actually opened a lot of charters; it is to keep her spirits up.
I think we can oppose this proposal from a point of strength and confidence and simply insist that there be a period of public discussion, disclosure and information regarding this proposal, including the Mayors, RIMA, AF and RIDE, prior to a re-submission in March. There are so many fundamental questions that have never been asked, and which have no good answers, starting with "Why is this a mayoral academy at all?" Even if they refuse to do it, humiliating them and exposing their cowardice is worth the effort.