How To Turn Around The "Turnaround" Plan


The packed house at Munoz-Marin school on Thursday night.

Last Friday, four district schools got word that they were targeted to become “turnaround” schools, and that all staff would be laid off from the building, with no more than 50% allowed to return.

Yesterday, in a major reversal, Superintendent Hite made a statement to the press that the staffing requirements for these turnarounds are “flexible.”

So how did this turnaround language get turned around?

It’s simple: 

Educators, administrators, and the families they serve came together and rejected the terms of the proposal at their schools, even though the turnarounds were being presented as a done deal.

On Tuesday, at Rhodes Elementary, parents gave an earful to the district presenters who were there to convince them that dumping staff was a good idea--that it was even somehow required by the contract with the PFT (as if the district has any respect for the contract these days).

On Wednesday, at Mitchell Elementary, the staff spent two hours in a marathon meeting with district officials, picking the turnaround plan to pieces. The principal drew a line in the sand and made her position crystal clear: if her staff goes, she goes too. Suddenly, the requirement for dropping at least 50% of staff became “flexible.”

And on Thursday, at Munoz-Marin Elementary, the staff arranged their own community event in advance of the district’s 6PM event. By end of the evening, staff, students, parents, and community members alike had all said their piece to the presenters from 440.

Turnaround Superintendent Becoates’ response to the voices at Marin: “I hear you. I hear you loud and clear.”

This reversal is an important win for all rank and file educators.  And it only happened because educators and community members at these schools worked together to show the district that we are united and powerful.

This kind of work is not magic. It takes time and effort, but any school can do successfully.

We’ve had a presence at each of these meetings -- through PFT members who work at these schools, through reports from parents and community members in attendance, and through supporters driving across town to show solidarity for these schools in their time of need. Our network also connected educators at each school with each other, so that each group knew exactly how last night’s meetings had gone.

As a result of all this work, the district has let go of a harmful policy that they claimed was set in stone, until it suddenly wasn’t.

This week’s events were also a powerful reminder that the battle for our schools will ultimately be won or lost in our own neighborhoods, in our own buildings. When your school comes under attack--and it will, in sooner or later--is your staff organized and ready to fight?