Saturday, April 23, 2005

School/Corporate Partnerships

Rarely do I sit down and watch television. Rather, I like to use it as background noise while I do my mom-thing around the house.
The other evening, I heard something that made me walk over to the TV set and pay attention. Cleveland city councilman Mike Polensek was ranting. He was quite upset about the problems in the city schools, especially the reports of violence which have been making the news lately. One thing he said struck me, and I continued to think about it several days later.

"Where are the corporations?" he asked.

He wanted to know why the business leaders -- who've had their hands out, receiving tax abatements, as well as every other perk imaginable from the city of Cleveland, as incentive to keep their companies here -- draw back when it comes to helping out the city's children.

Like I said, it got me thinking...
Perhaps the city should re-address the Corporate Partners program, begun a number of years ago, which set up each Cleveland school with a Cleveland business. In a few schools the partnerships were successful. In most however, they were ineffective. This is the conventional wisdom gleaned from teachers I've talked with in schools around the district.

As far as I know, the success of the partnerships has never been evaluated by those who are in a real position to asses them. As a teacher in the Cleveland Schools for the past 17 years, I have never once been asked how any corporate partnership has impacted my teaching. Nor have I ever been asked what I might like the corporate partner to do to help make the school more effective. No business representative has come into my classroom, the teachers lounge, or even sent me a questionnaire asking what I might need that they could provide.

I've said this before, and I will say it again. Top-down management-driven attempts at problem solving will not fix the school district. In order to identify the needs of students and teachers, ASK THEM!
Administrators know what will make their jobs easier, but can only guess what the teachers and students need. New curtains for the stage might make the auditorium look very nice, but how will they help kids learn geometry when the students have no textbooks?

What if the mayor and the school district sent teachers an on-line survey. (Parents and students could be surveyed via regular mail) It would ask teachers to list what they needed to improve teaching and learning in their schools and classrooms. A wish-list of resources could be compiled for each school and posted on a web site. It would detail items ranging from books and supplies, to equipment, to personnel, field trips, tutors, ..anything. Businesses, or even individuals, could then go online, find a school they would like to support, and identify a specific need they could fulfill. All donations would, of course, be tax deductible.

I've talked to both residents and business owners, who say they would love to help the schools, but they don't know how, or who to contact. The voicemail system used by the district is very frustrating to people who would like to get involved, but are not sure who to talk to. This web site would allow smaller local companies to become partners with the schools as well as the large corporations that are already working with the district. It wouldn't cost much to administrate, since donors could contact schools directly via email. It would also be a great move politically.

Oh well, it's just a thought...
If anybody who is reading this likes the idea, and is in a position to implement it, please go ahead and use it.

If you could give me a little credit, that would be nice too.

1 comment:

T. said...

Are you familiar with I donated some money to them last year and thought it was such a good program that I sent inquiries to find out what Cleveland would have to do, to get the program to expand here. Unfortunately, they were at a point in time when the cities for the next year's ('05) expansion had already been chosen. But I did ask that when they begin accepting applications from systems for the next expansion, they contact me and I would do whatever it took to get an application in for Cleveland.

So, your idea is good -- of course -- and there is a model that's working for a lot of schools. I wonder how difficult it would be to get this done....? From what I understand, it's the startup costs that are most difficult; but in my opinion, not at all out of the question for here.