Education First

Fernando Mendez | 2/2/2017, 9 a.m.
Education First

We must state at the outset that charter schools have been very successful in the Hispanic neighborhoods. The first task of our leaders is to provide children with a good education. Everyday we hear parents who have children in public schools express the hope that one day their child can attend one of the charter schools in the neighborhood. For that reason we read with some concern the fact that the auditor general is focusing on Aspira, one of our best known organizations. Because it has had up to now a reputation for efficiency at the service of the community, Aspira was entrusted with more than one of the schools that the SRC considered in need of change to improve the performance of the student population. Aspira promised to bring about academic improvements.

Aspira’s success has inspired political opposition. Those who support a better public school system would prefer that all funds be spent to improve the public schools instead of investing in some “privileged” schools that, according to the detractors, are able to pick the best students. There is no indication at this point that anything has gone wrong with the schools themselves, only with the operations of upper management, and more specifically with the person at the top of the organization. At this point what is under scrutiny is the use of taxpayer funds to pay for a law suit filed by an employee who accused the CEO Alfredo Calderon of sexual harassment. A spokesman for Aspira attributes the action to political motivation. In a published article we read that “A limited review of our schools was prompted by opponents who have consistently attempted to serve their own political agendas by trying to damage Aspira’s reputation,” Nathan Cross, Aspira’s communications coordinator.” We are not familiar with the wording of the audits that have been performed, only that according to Aspira’s communications director Nathan Cross, they have received what he called “clean opinions,” by the auditors. What we do know is that Aspira was given the management of the schools after the SRC decided that they would be in a better position to administer the five schools, and that they are located in “difficult” districts.

Aspira, it has been reported, has failed to produce the expected results. At this time the SRC has decided to delay voting an an operating agreement for two of the schools--Olney High School and Stetson, a middle school. Auditor General Eugene de Pasquale stated in the published interview that his office decided to examine the five charter schools for the sake of efficiency. He also stated that he is not sure about the length of the process. So, as usual, what we have here is a problem that affects hundreds of children who must now be concerned about the future of their schools, the future of their lives, while those in charge argue about how to deal with problems they have created. If a change at the top is justified, they should proceed with all due speed to carry out that task. It behooves the government and the school administrators to expedite a resolution to put an end to the uncertainty and anxiety they have created.

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