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How To Create Chaos and Destroy Public Schools (continued)

By Barbara Chicherio

Afterwards the school superintendent made the extremely poor choice to establish alternative classrooms. About 12% (roughly 130 students) of the CMS population were moved out of the middle school and put into classrooms in elementary schools and at an underutilized building, St. Sebastian. Each alternative classroom has approximately 20 students. Keep in mind these are the most disruptive students at CMS. The CMS sixth grade alternative sites are in an elementary school.

They told us that the staff in the alternative rooms would be following the Boys’ and Girls’ Town Model (a level system). This is a program which requires staff to have extensive training. To my knowledge, no training has taken place in RGSD. The alternative classrooms are being staffed by substitute teachers who may or may not be certified.

Even teachers who know students may have difficulty controlling a classroom. It is almost impossible for a substitute teacher to do so. If someone was planning to create chaos and destroy a public school system, they could not do a better job than what is happening in Riverview Gardens.

Violence at Central Middle School, Westview Middle School and Riverview Gardens High School has become a huge issue. I have observed some of the violence first hand. Staff at Westview and at the high school have told me that the violence there is also very extreme. Reportedly, a nurse at CMS considered resigning due to the severity of the injuries that she was treating on a regular basis (dislocated shoulders, broken noses, etc.).

St. Louis area school districts are experiencing what is happening in cities all over the US. There is a concerted effort, supported by the White House, to replace public schools with charter schools.

The charter schools are able to “cherry pick” or provide education only to those whom they chose. Some charter schools are low quality, worse than current public schools, while others receive the best of everything available and are reserved for the children of the rich. Both are funded by tax dollars.

Meanwhile, public schools will be left to languish. They already have very limited resources in a system designed for students likely to drop out because they realize that there are no jobs available to them after graduation.

CMS now has its fourth principal since August. I do not know about the high school or West Middle (regarding administrators). There have been many staff changes among the administrators. I called to speak to our SRO (School Resource Officer) only to be told that he was now presiding over discipline hearings. A few days later he was put in charge of security. I am not sure who is now in charge of the hearings.

SEIU (Service Employees International Union), which represented our custodians, is no longer acknowledged as having any authority in the new RGSD. Essentially the union has been busted. Custodians lost their accumulated sick leave. They have been threatened with having their services outsourced.

Meanwhile Superintendent Clive Coleman travels in a limo with a driver and a body guard.

Another outcome of the pervasive issue of violence was that high school students did not return to school immediately after the winter break. While the rest of the district's students returned at the prescheduled time, the high school students received an extra week of time away from school. I heard that this was done to revise the high school schedule and to rearrange groupings of students. Staff believe that this was done because of the chaos and violence the high school was experiencing. Supposedly the high school students will not be required to attend a week of make-up classes at the end of the school year. They lost an entire week of academic instruction.

I have worked in this district for six years and, while we have certainly had our share of problems, I have been shocked by the level of chaos, violence and the apparent absence of planning. Actions by the Superintendent and the SAB seem reactive and not well thought out. Their actions suggest little proactive planning.

Perhaps the most shocking thing that has happened at Riverview Gardens is that the events are not considered news. Not locally and not nationally. No TV cameras have come to chronicle these astounding events.

If teachers and staff in schools across the US are going to halt the destruction of public schools and continued deterioration of working conditions for those employed in education, we cannot rely on union bureaucrats and professional politicians to do it for us. The hour is at hand for us to build our own unions and our own parties to change the course of schooling in America.

(Barbara Chicherio has practiced social work for 32 years. She has been employed as a school social worker for the past 21 years and has served in Riverview Gardens School District for the past 6 years.)