Sunday, June 17, 2007

Why Problems at Murray Hill Academy?

As the late congressman Everitt Dirkson from Illinois used to say: "A million here, a million there, and pretty soon you're talking real money." Actually, he probably said "billion," but fortunately CCSD doesn't YET fall in that ballpark.

What's happening at Murray Hill Academy (i.e., the Discipline School) doesn't make sense. No one in his or her right mind would question the need for such a school in CCSD, but its $9 million building will not hold the projected 432 students next year. The five-year contract to run Murray Hill Academy (previously known as the Discipline School) of over $3 million per year has been negotiated down to 328, approximately the number attending at the end of this school year.

Community Education Partners (CEP), the Tennessee-based private company that runs the school, has similar schools in Houston, Atlanta, and Orlando that do not appear to have suffered from revolving principals, high staff turnover, and extremely high dropout rates (200 out of 533 assigned this year). So what's different here?

Certainly the students in CCSD aren't harder cases than those in the urban districts listed above. Those schools must be faced with the same problems of expulsion, dropping out, and alternative home or private schooling that Courrege's article in today's paper attributes to the high dropout number.

Then there's the question of staff turnover and placement. CCSD cannot complain about lack of teacher certification when CEP clearly states it will use other qualified professionals when appropriate. However, if CEP did not provide a full-time mental health counselor as promised, did that shortcoming affect the contract? And then, why was it necessary to replace CEP's choice of principal in the middle of the year with a consultant from CCSD (and former Burke High School principal)? If the school "culture has been restored," as the director of CCSD's Office of Prevention and Intervention suggests, what made it go south in the first place?

CEP points out that the mix of students at Murray Hill differs from its other schools, but CEP deals with the students sent it by CCSD, so THAT phenomenon means that CCSD has selected a different mix. Was that the plan originally? Did CCSD have such a backlog of students needing expulsion that the mix this last year was skewed? Are "low-performing students with behavior problems" not being recommended to Murray Hill by CCSD unless they are on the verge of expulsion? Surely the school could be filled to the brim with them, if CCSD so desired. What percentage of Brentwood's students do you think would qualify? The selection process seems flawed--that's CCSD's management.

The P &C briefly mentioned "missing academic goals" as a concern regarding the program's effectiveness. Well, how do its academics compare to previous incarnations of "discipline schools"?

And why mix males and females together in the classroom if CEP's model calls for separation? Obviously, if CCSD wants to emulate the successes of other CEP schools, it should follow their model.

As for its previously having an average of 27 students per class, that number strikes me as rather high. Is that what CEP had planned for or what CCSD insisted upon? No one in CCSD is saying that CEP isn't following CCSD's lead.

So, who has the management problem?


Anonymous said...

Whatever CCSD intended with this program, a discipline school, a last resort before expulsion, a holding pen to keep expulsions off the AYP reports or a genuine effort to create a highly structured academic oriented catch-up program for kids off track, in any imagined form it was never understood very well even by the people who tried to sell it to the public. The only sure thing is that it was suppose to be an improvement over the badly managed Discipline School which CCSD operated until 2005. Much heralded as a replacement, CEP at the newly constructed Murray Hill Academy is turning out to be just another outsourced problem that CCSD wanted off the books almost at any price. This was part of Dr. Goodloe’s reassignment of students who previously would have to be expelled in order to be admitted to the program. Murray Hill was the way CCSD passed off a variety of problems to CEP, but not so far out of reach that they couldn't manipulate the program to cover any crisis that might arise. And they did arise, almost on a daily basis. Marvin Stewart simply called it a very expensive student jail.

Anonymous said...

The lack of regular student counselors, on-staff psychologists and over crowded classrooms all have been major liabilities against the school ever meeting expectations. Parents and students were variously misled as to what was expected for those who were sent there. No professional counselors on staff was just as bad as the fact that those in the 9th grade or above in the CEP program had difficulty getting their high school credits certified since so many of the teachers at Murray Hill weren't. How's that for mismanagement? And Gregg Meyers made his name as a plaintiff’s attorney in a school abuse case? What's this? Murray Hill Academy is a law suit waiting to be filed. Diette was too superficial. She should have asked more questions.

Anonymous said...

I just heard about
There's a posting very similar to this on that blog.
We need to get these two blogs together...

Anonymous said...

I would like to say that you probably don't understand what the school staff goes through on a daily basis. You really can't say anything unless you work a day there. So before you say anything negative how about try and find out what the staff goes through and maybe make postive suggestions instead of negative comments.

Anonymous said...

CCSD's failure to provide the administrative support and promised resources is the problem. That is what can stress out a school staff in no time. It becomes dangerous when CCSD decides to short change and mismanage schools like Murray Hill. This is why so many Charleston County teachers choose jobs outside of Charleston County.

Babbie said...

It seems very unlikely to me that Murray Hill's problems are the fault of school staff. That's not what I meant to suggest. I've assumed that the fault lies with restrictions and management rules laid down by CCSD that interfered with creating effective programs.

Anonymous said...

aal you no nuttin about murrey hill or you would know iit is the school eveyone goes to school after they get expelled i uswed ta go dere after i got expeleed from west ashely watever they say anyone who gets expeled ya go to murray hill it is everyone in one school