Why not put Virg in charge of schools?
|By Kyle Melinn|
Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero said he wants nothing to do with it. Asked on “City Pulse Live” (7 p.m. Wednesday on WDBM, 88.9 FM) if he’d support turning over administrative control of the Lansing School District to the mayor’s office, a la Chicago, Boston, New York City, etc., Bernero cringed.
Bernero said Lansing’s city government has a great collaborative process with the Lansing School District. They take turn mowing each other’s lawns when the two have adjacent property. The city put police officers into the high schools. The city finds re-use options for shuttered school buildings.
No, with so many other things on his plate, Bernero said the thought of adding something else was “daunting.”
It’s about time he did.
Let’s look at the current structure of the Lansing School District, and start with one simple question: Who’s in charge of the school district?
We have a nine-member elected board led by a powerful chairman, Hugh Clarke Jr., who hasn’t exactly had a cozy year with Superintendent T.C. Wallace. Remember, Wallace nearly bolted only 20 months into a four-year contract that’s now worth $180,000-a-year. He was one of two finalists for the Pontiac schools job until the mysterious family illness cleared up that had driven him to want to return to Southeast Michigan in the first place.
Is it Clarke? He’s publicly elected, but he’s only the president because a majority of the board put him there.
Is it Lansing Schools Education Association President Jerry Schwarz? I’m told a review of the teacher union’s cushy contract would make one wonder.
Meanwhile, we had a bold, wellthought-out school improvement proposal prepared by former Mayor David Hollister. The “Rightsizing Plan” lays out a clear, positive direction for a district losing students by the hundreds and money by the thousands. And let’s not forget all three city high schools are chronically failing.
Urban school districts in which the city’s mayor appoints qualified school board members or CEOs are performing better than those with elected school boards, Brown University education Professor Kenneth Wong told USA Today. Test scores are rising “significantly.”
Lansing needs a bold board of likeminded folks committed to acting on an entire right-sizing plan, not a board that uses months of work as an excuse to close a couple of schools, the end.
Our well-intentioned elected school board, while allegedly representative of the people, too often turns out to be a training ground for minor-league politicians. As a group, they’ve shown little initiative and little vision.
There’s absolutely no reason it shouldn’t be the same person charged with turning around our city: The mayor.