My daughter was one of the Omni Prep teachers who resigned. She began the school year with enthusiasm and high hopes for her new school. Before long, however, she became concerned with the philosophy embraced by school founders, the direction the school was taking, and glaring problems with the day-to-day operations of Omni Prep. Inadequate provisions had been made for handling the front desk, arranging for substitutes, and providing a school nurse. Special education services were not delivered effectively, some children were placed in classes inappropriate for their ages, and enrollment in my daughter's class fluctuated unpredictably and was often above the state maximum. At the same time, Omni Prep's administrative staff was nearly equal in number to classroom teachers. By Christmas, she was disillusioned and talked of quitting. My wife and I counseled her to stay "for the sake of the children". She commiserated with her older sister, a former Teach for America teacher and supervisor now working in a Kipp School. And she held on. Uncertainty, empty promises, and a month without pay finally took their toll. Even then, she did not simply walk away. She and her colleagues met with parents and informed them of the situation and their decisions to resign. They spent days following their departure from Omni Prep helping disenfranchised parents find placement for their children in other schools.
The big lesson to be learned, I suppose, is that it isn't that easy to start a school from scratch. Many people have opinions on education and nurse personal theories about what schools require to be successful. Those who have not had experience working inside a school on a day-to-day basis are at a disadvantage when it comes to administering school programs. The founders and administration of Omni Prep, while their goals may have been noble, were poorly equipped to design and run an educational program. They failed to keep their promises to parents, students, and teachers. Belatedly, Mr. Booker acknowledges that starting up a school can be tough, but it's doubtful that this candor was shared with the eager parents who signed their children up for a "better" education last August. Students shouldn't have to serve as guinea pigs while school administrators figure out how to make things work.
Thank you to Hannah Sayle for an article much more balanced and insightful than the coverage afforded by Channel 13 or Fox News.
By Chris Davis, Susan Ellis, Toby Sells, and Maya Smith
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