Jun 8, 2011

The Idea Man

...Allentown School District is introducing the concept of a Newcomer Academy which will be housed at the Midway Manor building and will serve as a first-year high school experience for students new to the United States. Newcomer Academies have been successful in cities throughout the U.S., but the ASD program will be the first comprehensive academic program for immigrant students in the Lehigh Valley...
Our new framework, Pathways to Success, aims to increase the achievement of all of our students...Kindergarten students will be assigned to other buildings ... Newcomer students will take a bus to the Academy and back to their home high school each day... Courses will be taught by experienced and innovative ASD teachers.
As the school year winds down, my wallet and I were hoping that The Idea Man would give us a vacation from his national harvest of educational ideas. Not to be. Zahorchak has introduced yet another program. In this age of $4 gasoline, we will bus new immigrant students back and forth from Dieruff and Allen every day to another new academy. We will also disperse the current kindergarden kids to other elementary schools to accommodate the new academy. What's with this guy and academies? He wanted to bus the honor students to a special academy at 4th and Allen. Here's my innovative ideas. Why not teach the newcomers English at Dieruff and Allen and save both the time and gas? Why doesn't the School Board tell Zahorchak to sit down, shut up and just run the school system.


Wise Man from the West End said...

What no one wants to admit about Dr. Z is this...he is here until Washington DC calls and he can move! He was education secretary for this state and really did not do much (anyone arguing he increased funding has to give that credit to Rendell). Now, he is out of a job and comes here to Allentown, the 3rd largest city mostly because Philly and P-burgh wouldn't take him. So, let's spin all of his ideas around so as to show him positively:

1.) reformed a "failed" urban school with a new pathways program

2.) established a language-based newcomer academy for students new to America

3.) did more with less in a terrible economy

Now, let's see the reality:

1.) eliminated 1/2 of the math and science teachers at the high school

2.) eliminated nearly all of the elementary art, music, and gym teachers

3.) eliminated so many teachers that Allen HS does not have enough courses to fill a period of instruction for the entire building next year and now people downtown are asking what to do with the kids...you can only fit so many in one classroom.

So, which version of Dr. Z will make it to Washington...I am betting on number one when he is named Assistant Undersecretary for fill-in-the-blank education. Unfortunately, we will be stuck back here in Allentown with version 2.

Patrick McHenry said...

Wise Man -

Until people start paying attention to local elections (like school board) and realize the huge consequences that these elections have, we won't get what we want.

We will get what we deserve.

We need to make sure things like this are campaign issues. We need to find out where the candidates stand on this. We need to get out and WORK for those candidates that will put an end to rubber-stamping every other unproven, costly dream suggested by Zahorchak.

In Allentown, we need to put aside what party candidates belong to and actually find out what they stand for.

Unless we do all that, nothing will get better.

Anonymous said...

I do not live or work in Allentown and have no vested interest in the ASD other than the fact that I strongly believe that well educated young people in any part of our region make the whole region stronger. That said, I initially gave Dr. Zahorchak a pass on his plans in the hope he had some new ideas that would improve education in the ASD. I have since lost all respect for him for the simple reason that he led a charade that stated the recent massive cuts in the ASD were based on a positive program change rather than an attempt to balance a budget. That is nothing short of a lie to comply with a law that is probably ill advised and clearly unenforceable given the willingness of the PA Department of Education to approve the cuts. If this region and indeed our country are ever to again become great we will need to start with leaders who tell the truth no matter how unpleasant that truth might be.

Anonymous said...

Retired ASD teacher here.

Spent today volunteering in one of ASD's bigger schools. In speaking with several current teachers, it does appear, NO significant planning has been done, so far, in terms of scheduling and class size issues for the coming year.

Most employees simply shake their heads in confusion over what they see to be serious new problems coming in just 10 more weeks.

Idea guys, like Zahorchak, sometimes overlook practical matters that are already well-known by those in lesser positions. Those who actually do the "grunt work."

I am convinced Zahorchak's new program of studies has NOT been thoroughly planned out. I also believe the current school board is too weak to force their new leader to factually illustrate how his plan will succeed, not just philosophically, but mechanically.

It's all too late, of course. The time for full examination was BEFORE the infamous March board meeting.

Rumor has it, contract negotiations are still in progress.

Anonymous said...

All is not well in the land of OZ. The curtain has been pulled and the public is now seeing reality As RT states.

I understand some board members are shaking their heads as well. Those few in the minority position, who dare to challenge the wizard.

Don't you love the use of the word immigrant. It really is so retro.

Anonymous said...

As if Dr. Z has not destroyed all trust in himself and his core team, he has managed to, yet again, break contractual laws and issue 13 additional Intent to Furlough letters one week past the contractual deadline citing his staff "screwed up" in issuing the initial round of 265 (18 beyond what the state department of education has approved) letters. This individual has no regard for the law, community, and school district which employs him.

Brian said...

The board approved 247 furloughs.He has already furloughed 326 as of 6/9.Is this guy just running roughshod over the board or what? A friend of mine,who is on a school board in Berks County,said their board would NEVER allow this because it is not approved.To quote Vince Lombardi,"What's the hell's going on out there!!"

WIse Man from the West End said...

Has anyone else noticed how NONE of the furlough numbers have added up at all so far? I mean, right now the city newsletter, The Morning Call, reports that 100 fewer people were furloughed however how did the admin arrive at that reduction? Who and what teaching jobs (dept?) were saved? Why have we completely stopped calling this a curricular change and now are calling it what has always been: an economic reduction in force which by state law is illegal?

Anonymous said...

To weigh in on the real #s... 247=number of furloughs approved by the Dept. of Ed.. 265+12(in violation of contract)=277 total Intent to Furlough Letters. 45=retirements and resignations. 208=total number of furloughs slated to be distributed 6/23. 165=number of furloughs issued (ironically ahead of schedule) on 6/10. From the data that I've compiled from employees in different schools, most of the 165 receiving furloughs were tenured employees, while non-tenured employees were informed they still have positions within ASD for next year.
Wise Man, the numbers add up even less when one examines the whole picture. Almost none of the processes or information provided to the public from Dr. Zahorchak has been followed or accurate...Whooda thunk it?

Anonymous said...

as a resident of Midway Manor, I am less than thrilled about this idea. I already have to send my child to Catholic School because the local public schools and the kids that attend them are so atrocious, I would not even want my kid to set foot near them. Midway Manor is currently a pretty nice neighborhood, but it is surrounded by less-than-savory areas. I can not understand why Allentown officials think it's a good idea to cut vital teachers / programs for art, music, gym, etc. --- but it's a good idea to spend that money creating new experiemental programs for immigrants? I grew up in a very diverse area of NY (Long Island) and went to public school, and our test scores were WAY better and there was NONE of the crime and trashy nonsense that I see going on here in Allentown. I am ashamed to tell people that I live in Allentown, it is getting to be so bad. If I could move away from here entirely, I would. As it is, we may move to a different neighborhood if this new 'school' brings negative changes to our neighborhood. I am all for immigrants who are good people and work hard to have a better life, but honestly after living in the LV since 1997, all I have seen are growing numbers of greedy, trashy lowlifes living on welfare and selling drugs, killing each other and robbing innocent people, etc. --- And yes, I know this is true because I live and work in this area, I see what goes on and it is sickening. I feel sorry for the children, but their parents don't raise them properly and they do not teach them morals, manners, or any kind of work ethic. Growing up on LI, I was friends with people from all types of backgrounds and there were no problems, people generally had a lot more motivation and respect for themselves and for others.