Bettering Plainfield with the facts since 2005

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Obama Academy future clarified, though elephant is still in room

Plainfield's interim schools superintendent Anna Belin-Pyles took the floor at an informational meeting in the PHS auditorium last night to explain the future of the Barack Obama Academy, the District's state-recognized alternative public high school.

Contrary to rumors that have abounded since school closed for summer recess with students and parents wondering what was in store for the fall, the Obama Academy is NOT being closed, nor is it being moved to the PHS campus -- either the 'old PHS building' or the main complex.

On the contrary, the school will take up new digs at the District's headquarters building at 1200 Myrtle Avenue, the former Jefferson School.

This is an elegant and simple cost-cutting solution to a problem caused by budget cuts caused by the gradual withdrawal of Abbott-level state funding. One wonders that Dr. Gallon hadn't thought of it (or perhaps he did, we shall probably never know).

The move brings the estimated student body of 50-60 to a facility that, while certainly not new, is a better setting.

Students will have a 'real' cafeteria, auditorium and gym, as well as a 25-seat computer lab and a 'fully staffed library' -- Ms. Belin-Pyles' words.

(I am told by insiders that the gym will need plenty of work, since it has been used as a general-purpose storeroom since the Jefferson students were moved over to the National Starch location on West Front Street, and the floor has suffered accordingly.)

Belin-Pyles was self-assured and appeared at ease addressing the smallish turnout, standing close to the audience, speaking without a microphone, and walking up the aisle to take questions.

(I counted about 23 in the audience, including Board members Rasheed Abdul-Haqq and Wilma Campbell; Board members Renata Hernandez and Keisha Edwards took seats at the table in the front of the auditorium.)

The only glitch (not of her doing, apparently) was a PowerPoint presentation in which key words that were meant to be highly visible were rendered illegible because of a low-contrast between the red font color and the slide's background. Not missing a beat, Belin-Pyles explained to the audience that which they could not see.

Unfortunately, there was something else the audience could not see -- the elephant in the room.

And that is the staffing situation for the Obama Academy come the fall.

Belin-Pyles did state that there would be 'an administrator on site' but that the 'Principal-of-record' would be PHS principal Brian Bilal.

Not brought out was what the exact arrangements for teachers will be, though Belin-Pyles did say that the current faculty-student ratio of 10:1 would be maintained.

In an aside to me as I was leaving, Belin-Pyles said it would be good for the school to be located near the District's administrators and seemed to indicate that some administrators -- who must hold teaching credentials anyway -- might be put to use in the classrooms.

The plans for the Obama Academy -- and ostensibly for its staffing -- are to be presented formally to the Board of Ed at next Tuesday's BOE meeting.

-- Dan Damon [follow]

View today's CLIPS here. Not getting your own CLIPS email daily? Click here to subscribe.


Anonymous said...

Say what you will but that Grand Slam team stays involved in district matters. They were there Sunday (all of them) and last night (all of them) the same cannot be said for the others.

They did not take my vote and then disappear.

Anonymous said...

They had NO plan and threw this together. If I were a parent or student I would be furious!

Nearly three weeks from the start of school and their being told that their school will be in the BASEMENT of a the administrative building?

Whose bright idea was this?
The students WILL NOT have a school to call their OWN. They will be reduced to SECOND class and taught in the BASEMENT.

Has anyone also considered the liability for lumping the students in a building with district employees?
What about safety, fighting, guns, and drugs which brought many of the students there in the first place?

This district is going, no, has gone downhill fast.

They should cut some of the highly paid administrators that dont work with students and give these students their own or a more suitable learning environment.

This is terrible, even with the 'spin'.

Anonymous said...

Dan if there were 23 people there and 3 were board members and counting the superintendent, that would leave about 19 people.

How many parents were there? With about 50-60 students there should have been more parents.

That could only mean that the parents may not really know the details of this. I hope the BOE asks questions and take a hard look at what they are doing to children.

Now the students wont even have a school to call their own.

Yep I Said It! said...

To August 5 @ 11:30AM

This meeting was regarding PPS -of course the Grand Slam team SHOULD be there. The "others" are NOT REQUIRED to be at this meeting.

I will also say this much -Gallon's meetings were well attended and well prepared.

Anonymous said...

"What about safety, fighting, guns, and drugs which brought many of the students there in the first place?" Really? Where's your facts to back that up? If I were a parent of one of those students I'd be furious about this statement!


Dan said...

@12:56 PM: I didn't count the super or those at the table as 'audience'.

But I also didn't mention that the audience included myself and the Courier & Ledger reporters, so there were 18 in the audience, presumably all parents, as no one identified themself as a teacher.

If there are 38 students (60 minus the 22 who graduated), that would mean that just about half the parents came out. That's not bad, considering turnouts I have seen at other events.

Anonymous said...

4:36PM; Gallon did have a lot of EMPLOYEES at his meetings. The ones geared towards parents were poorly attended.

Dan said...

@ 6:15 PM: Did we both hear the same thing and understand it differently?

What I got was that some kids don't feel safe in PHS -- for some of those reasons -- and the Obama Academy offers them a safe environment until they feel they can cope with PHS, if ever.

A teacher also told me this independently of last night's meeting.

Anonymous said...

Dan I was responding to 12:53PM's suggestion that these are the 'type' of kids and reasons for attending the alternative school. My understanding is the like you have stated.