Bringing this story to the wider attention of BMG readers. City on a Hill, the charter school where I conducted my practicum is suddenly shutting down its New Bedford campus and consolidating its two Roxbury campuses. This will lead to layoffs for the entire New Bedford operation and 25% of the staff at the Roxbury location including teachers. Not at the end of the school year, at the end of this year. A good friend and former colleague of mine just found out yesterday that he will be getting laid off and will need to scramble to find openings in the middle of the school year. It is hard enough for history teachers to find openings in general (I applied to over 50 school districts until I finally got hired where I am), let alone in the middle of the year.
They did successfully unionize and it will be interesting to see how many jobs the BTU can save. The situation is dire, but at least my friends and colleagues will have an easy Boston Globe article to reference when the interviewer inevitably asks why they were let go in the middle of the year. It has nothing to do with their performance and everything to do with the fiscal mismanagement of the administration. Unlike traditional public school districts, salaries are much higher for charter school “executives”, many of whom, lack the basic administrative licenses that public schools require.
I feel bad for my friends, but I feel far worse for my former students who will now be uprooted in the middle of the year to new buildings, new classrooms, and have to make relationships with entirely new teachers. One of the few benefits of teaching in a smaller school was that I got to know every face in the building, even the kids I did not teach. Many of them are still there now. Good relationships with teachers are some of the most important in these kids lives, many of whom lack the traditional family supports and structures at home. For many of them, school is the only place they can feel safe. They have endured so much in this dysfunctional school in the last three years. Constant teacher and principal turnover, and now, forced teacher turnover due to layoffs. It is simply heartbreaking.
The irony is, this is the ‘school choice’ free market at work. Enrollment at COAH has plummeted in the past five years as a result of improvements in BPS and the gradual unmasking of the structural racism, statistics manipulation, and poor teaching conditions in charter schools. Many students lamented the lack of gym, sports, extracurricular activities, and the poor quality of the food. As a Commonwealth we voted to stop their expansion. As a Commonwealth, we rightly passed a law shielding college students from sudden closures and administrative malpractice. We should do the same for charter school students, who are predominately students of color from some of our most vulnerable communities.