Wednesday, June 6, 2012

With Great Hearts Appeal, Song Will Likely Remain The Same

Posted By on Wed, Jun 6, 2012 at 11:29 AM

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There's an old saying in Tennessee — I know it's in Texas, probably Tennessee — that says 'fool me once, shame on ... shame on you. Fool me — can't get fooled again!

Too often, the above quote incited gleeful leftist schadenfreude over the rhetorical fallibility of former President George W. Bush, during what many survivors remember as a thoroughly entertaining and psychologically draining presidency. Yet by putting elitist concepts like "memory" and "logic" on the back burner for a moment, we can begin to see striking parallels between Bush's nugget o' wisdom and another notable maxim — one that serves as a more polished bookend to Bush II's folksy take on this fundamental flaw in the human condition.

"Insanity," wrote Albert Einstein, "[is] doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."

Naturally, Einstein and former President Bush/The Who were onto something here: Any human endeavor exposed as folly, if undertaken again in the same fashion as the first attempt, will yield disappointingly similar results. And any expectation to the contrary is absurd.

This belabored introduction now leads us to Phoenix-based charter school chain Great Hearts Academies, which is appealing its rejected application to create a network of five charter schools in Nashville. But thus far, it has given no indication that it will change even a few notes in what has become a familiar (if unpopular) tune.

As The City Paper's indubitable Joey "Hazard Pay" Garrison reports:

Metro’s charter review committee, which recommended the board deny Great Hearts application, cited concerns with the organization’s lack of a location plan and failure to identify the students it would serve. Great Hearts has not revealed where it intends to locate its schools, though critics have assumed the first would be on the west side of town.

Director of Schools Jesse Register has shared diversity concerns with Great Hearts’ proposal as well as concerns over Great Hearts decision not to offer transportation.

As Garrison reports later in the story, Great Hearts CEO Dan Scoggin wrote in an email to supporters that he expects change to come not in the form of a potentially revised application (e.g. "[We] believe our application was very strong and consistent with board policy, state law, and federal law"), but in the school board itself (e.g. "[When] the conditions for the acceptance of our application have improved.”).

Of course, the implication here is that the school board is the broken entity here, and perhaps the denial of Great Hearts' application — vague as it might be — is the fault of a political body and the morass it ostensibly creates, slug-like, in its wake. No doubt all bureaucracies and institutions fall victim to inefficiency and politicization, but then, so has the movement to spread the good news for Great Hearts. It's stuff for another debate, another time.

But the charter review committee's concerns with Great Hearts' application have been pretty straightforward: A lack of specifics on location and populations to be served, as well as a head-scratching absence of a transportation network that would ferry students to and from the school to their front door. If this were a traditional job interview, a rejected applicant would likely heed any advice given to them by the interviewer ("Maybe next time, you know, comb your hair").

Although it's early in the appeal process, and Great Hearts could yet attempt singing a few bars of a decidedly different tune to win over a defiant school board, Scoggin's language is an indication that "It's not me, it's you," and there's no need to fix something that they perceive as unbroken. And with all of these issues seemingly relating back to diversity (an issue MNPS is certainly no stranger to), one might think that given the track record of Great Hearts president Jay Heiler, the charter organization would be extra cautious to assuage these fears, whether they believe them to be true or not, perception being stronger than reality.

Only time will tell if Great Hearts conforms to reality or — as our species is wont to do — tries to force reality to conform to it.

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