DOE plan for Wilmington schools ignores reality

With the approval of the MOU that was force-fed to Wimington students and parents, we will now see young children uncomfortably crammed into two aged, monolithic, barracks-like structures, far from their current walking distance homes, immersed in an antagonistic culture of neighborhood allegiances and conflicts, forced to confront the social challenges of substantial age differences, and still without any reduction in class-size and lacking any Reading or Math specialists. RODEL, Carney, DOE, and the Chamber of Commerce can proudly raise their “MISSION ACCOMPLISHED” banner.

Below is the statement of opposition to the MOU that I made at the CSD board meeting on Tuesday night.

John Kowalko
State Representative
25th District

In anticipation of your vote tonight on the DOE/Governor proposed MOU, I felt it was my responsibility as a State Legislator to thoroughly study the proposal and make my opinion public. Drawing on my twelve years as a State Representative, nearly a decade serving on the House Education committee and almost 30 years of attending hundreds of board meetings, I feel fairly comfortable in my ability to judge this proposal for what it may or may not be worth to the educational opportunities of the Wilmington school children and their parents.

Unfortunately, I’ve been unable to discern practical and provable advantages for students or educators in this MOU. I find it frighteningly sparse on monetary investment going directly into the classrooms and more likely to disrupt the lives and community of the Wilmington students and their families.

Ripping young children from the smaller and more welcoming neighborhood schools and herding them into two monolithic structures better suited as barracks can hardly contribute to a welcoming atmosphere for young students and integrating them with older and unfamiliar classmates would probably be an intimidating experience. This sleight of hand portion of the MOU has been portrayed as a $15 million injection of funds into Wilmington schools and while not even guaranteed has been viewed as such even by the News Journal’s editorial board and other inexperienced and naïve members of the business community.

The case is often presented as “we have to do or try something” and I take offense at that cynical approach. Do we propose that the kids in Wilmington see $15 million unnecessarily flushed down the drain while they are forced to endure unwieldy and over-crowded classrooms with no money for more teachers and smaller classrooms or Reading specialists or Math specialists?

If this MOU is not hocus-pocus or a hoax about to be perpetrated on the children of Wilmington than I would expect that some proof, any proof, that removing these kids from their local and easily accessible schools and warehousing them in these two unattractive and formidable appearing buildings has a record of improving educational opportunities or student proficiencies for any students anywhere.

I can show you proven and indisputable evidence that smaller classroom ratios and Reading and Math specialists assigned to schools positively impact students and achieve significant proficiency improvements in all children’s’ performances.

If this board wants to partner with DOE and the Administration to honestly improve educational opportunities for inner-city public schools then I suggest that you counter with an MOU proposal that would take that $15 million and spend it in the classrooms. Hire more teachers and aides to reduce classroom sizes, hire Reading specialists and Math specialists, and invest in necessary structural improvements in the more welcoming neighborhood schools that are being threatened with closure.

No gimmicks, no propaganda for media to chew on just plain and simple better education for the children of Wilmington.

Representative John Kowalko

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