Now that the Townies have vanquished the evil queen and returned control of the school board to the boosters eager to restore the alternative reality of Greenwich, we can all breathe a sigh of relief. No more humiliating reminders of our failings in public. The iconic Greenwich tableau – the horsey crowd sipping bubbly at one gala event after another while our children are nurtured by inspirational pedagogists who will guide them to Princeton and Yale – is back where it belongs in our psyche.
Or we can face facts: That sections of Greenwich exhibit the same characteristics as those of an Inner City. To wit, one of Greenwich’s middle schools, Western, performed worse on the 2010-2011 statewide exams than a middle school in Bridgeport. Bridgeport!
Park City School in Bridgeport, where 95 percent of the students qualified for a discounted, free lunch program and with a teacher/student ratio of 17.7, scored 532.1 for combined math and reading compared to 528.7 for Western Middle School, which is only a stone’s throw away from some of the country’s largest hedge funds.
Western has a 12-1 student/teacher ratio and about 29 percent of its students qualify for discounted, free lunches. Also, Western has a hispanic population of 28 percent while Park City is at 30 percent.
Okay, if you don’t like that comparison, how about Norwalk? Roton Middle School in Norwalk, with 43 percent of its students qualifying for discounted, free lunches and a hispanic population of 36 percent, bested Greenwich Western with a score of 536.2.
Why is all this important?
First of all, can we even agree that we have a problem? Not according to some of the boosters in Greenwich – the PTA being the worst among the cheerleaders. With the evil queen out of the way, the PTA can go back to funding irrelevant projects and holding “fund-raising” galas so more bubbly can be imbibed. Good luck with that. (How many hispanic parents at Western Middle School are in the Greenwich PTA? What outreach is there to bolster this under-represented group?) If the PTA wishes to do something truly beneficial for Greenwich school children, it should fund a two-week trip to India for every member of our school board so they can see firsthand what our next generation is up against in this global “community.”
Some of us hope there is some recognition among the new school board that Greenwich cannot continue this way. They will be selecting a new superintendent and it’s important that the new school chief be aligned with the proper goals.
So what are those goals?
For me, the solution is binary. Greenwich still has excellent programs for the gifted and the achievers, even though the previous administration attempted to dismantle it. So, protect the ALP. Protect the AP program. I assume the election of Barbara O’Neill, the longtime head of the ALP, will ensure that will happen.
The harder problem is fixing Western Middle School and the under-achieving elementary schools at the bottom. I believe this is Job One in Greenwich, although there are many, many Townies who would bristle at this strategy.
Greenwich needs to hire an educator with experience at fixing the lower end. Its impulse has been to hire someone who “understands Greenwich” – whatever that means. Sir Peter Von Braun, whose elasticity at stretching the truth should fit in well with BOE chairman Steven Anderson, actually said in his campaign that preference should be given to someone already working in Greenwich. The naiveté and ignorance of that statement are palpable.
Look no farther than the City of New Haven, which just promoted an educator who would fit the job description I outlined. Kim Johnsky is New Haven’s new director of instruction. Johnsky will be in charge of supervising, coaching and evaluating the district’s principals. Johnsky has worked at the New Haven Public Schools for 23 years, the last four as principal of Fair Haven K-8 School. She also had a stint at New Haven’s legendary Worthington Hooker School, one of the highest ranking and diverse elementary schools in Connecticut. Everywhere she’s worked, she’s elevated the performance of children in standardized tests.
There are many people like Kim Johnsky who would be the right fit for Greenwich at this time in the town’s history.
But you can’t fix a problem, unless you see the problem first …