Head of Cleveland NAACP to turn around failing charter school

File this under pieces of news that confuse my emotions. Rev. Stanley Miller, executive director of the Cleveland NAACP, is leaving that post to take on an area charter school ? a very terrible one to be specific (Marcus Garvey Academy). I am equal parts inspired by this move (Rev. Miller is a 63-year old whose heart is undoubtedly in the right place) and cynical.

The school is rated F by the state. Its achievement results are lower than literally any Ohio school I recall looking up data for: across all tested and grades and subjects, 96.6 percent of students tested ?limited? in their knowledge ? the very lowest category one could achieve. Just over three percent of students scored ?basic?; none scored proficient or advanced. Is this for real?

Beyond shameful academic results, the school has been in the news constantly for poor bookkeeping ? to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars. Ohio's auditor temporarily halted funding to the school last April.

And this is the school Rev. Miller wants to take on. (By the way, it seems even more tragic than normal when these kinds of schools are named after prominent African American leaders. The irony is just painful.)

According to the Plain Dealer, he's not na?ve:

Miller said he knew what he was stepping into. ?They are a school that's had some difficulties. I've been asked to come over and help fix it,? he said. ?Just because there's problems," he added, "doesn't mean kids don't deserve our help."

There are multiple things to comment on here. For starters, while it's admirable/noble/well-intentioned for Miller to attempt a turnaround, why not just start a new charter school, or expand an existing (high-performing)?charter school? Why charters are slated for turnaround to begin with is somewhat of mystery, as the concept behind them ? getting a temporary contract in exchange for freedoms that district schools don't have ? is odd. If a charter isn't working, shouldn't it close?

That said, it's tough to be too critical here as more leaders like Rev. Miller are desperately needed to enter the fray. Solving the problems in urban education requires the involvement of the religious/civil rights/African American communities. But let's hope that his ?soft,? collaborative approach to leadership (as described by the Plain Dealer) can get the job done. ?

Jamie Davies O'Leary

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