Changing old habits wired into the psyche is difficult even for the most motivated individuals. And in some ways, that’s what an educational partnering organization will confront working with East High School: changing the old habits of the school’s current leaders.
The Rochester school board has created an EPO Screening Committee to review the proposal from School Turnaround, an affiliate of Rennselaerville Institute. The committee will meet tonight to review the proposal following a budget deliberation meeting that starts at 6 p.m. in the district’s central office, 131 West Broad Street.
Superintendent Bolgen Vargas has until May 15 to submit a plan to the State Education Department to turn around East, and an EPO is one option. The school board has to approve the proposal before the proposal is submitted to the SED. The Rochester school board is responsible for oversight of the EPO.
Vargas is expected to present a separate proposal for an East turnaround to the school board in a special meeting at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, May 6, at central office.
Meanwhile, Turnaround’s website touts its ability to intervene in failing schools, and to get results quickly. The organization’s success comes from a rigorous retraining of leadership, since failing schools, in Turnaround’s estimation, begins with lack of leadership.
The site provides a number of case studies to illustrate Turnaround’s success, and it even says that Turnaround provides a money-back guarantee if agreed-upon goals for the school are not met. The local screening committee will undoubtedly have to sort through issues like costs and terms. What exactly are the conditions Turnaround will expect and accept?
More questions: How will issues such as suspensions and absenteeism be handled, since they play a significant role in East’s low performance? And will Turnaround require changes in staffing and, if so, how will that be handled?
Turnaround’s website seems to go to great lengths to position its methods as remedial or boot camp training for the school’s existing leaders and staff. And it makes the point that success should be measured in its ability to leave behind a fresh, invigorated, and more effective operation than the one it found.
If Turnaround is the typical business-style consulting group that’s called in to be bad cops and make cuts, send out pink slips, and trim the deadwood to get East back on its feet, there’s no hint of it on the organization's website.