It is a well-known true fact that the fastest way to improve schools in order to launch students on a path to 21st century prosperity is to close them. In fact, nine out of ten advocates of closing schools in order to promote enhanced choice and excellence have found that choice and excellence are enhanced when schools are closed. Unfortunately, closing a school while the students are still inside can prove difficult, especially in this era of putting students first.
Dear leader: know that you are not alone in your worthy cause of shuttering schools in order to offer the students who used to attend them more choice (and excellence). The outstanding experts at the Broad Foundation, which transforms urban schools by closing them, have helpfully assembled an 83 page guide to shutting ‘er down. The guide is packed with easy-to-follow tips to guide you from the start of your predetermined course (choosing which schools to close) to the not-at-all-surprising finish (leasing, selling or donating your old, closed schools to fresh, new academies of excellence and innovation). Well, what are you waiting for? Our schools aren’t just going to close themselves…
Investing in choice (and excellence)
While closing schools turns out to save little money, you and your “leadership” team will likely have moved on to another transformation opportunity before anyone notices this. The discovery of a budget shortfall presents an ideal occasion to pitch your right-sizing plan (p. 8), which you should be sure to drape in the urgent verbiage of achievement enhancing (p. 23). Of course, you’ll have a few upfront costs. Hiring outside consultants is always an excellent idea and will produce substantial net revenue gain—for the consultants. Public relations expertise is also an outstanding investment and can help you brand your particular approach to school closures. Note: Reorganize. Revitalize. Renew.™ has already been done (p. 60).
Keep your enemies close and your school closure list closer
Chances are that by now you’ve drawn up your school closure wish list. Tragically, not everyone seems to “get” that closing schools opens the doors to choice, excellence and 21st century workplace opportunities. Make sure that you keep yourself to yourself until you’ve had a chance to school the affected communities on the choices you are making for them. Also, be sure to collect confidential material at the conclusion of each meeting (p. 27).
The listening tour
It is important for community members to understand that they have a choice in the decision-making process (p. 27). In other words, they will have plenty of choice (and also excellence) once you have closed their schools. In the meantime, here are a few tips to make the “listening” phase as painless as possible. Hold regional meetings to avoid a “deep dive” into specific schools (p. 25). Identify key stake holders early and attempt to secure allies (p. 22). Also, be sure to check your district’s laws and regulations before breaking or violating these. Finally, practice your listening face with the aid of a mirror. The ideal listening face combines a tilt of “concern,” a nod of “understanding,” with a slight flaring of the nostrils to convey hopefulness about a future of choice (and excellence.)
Chances are that if you are using the handy Broad Foundation guide to better choice (and also excellence) through school closures, you are also following the Broad road to education transformation. Note: some will point out that your relentless pursuit of excellence and achievement is producing a vicious cycle in which more and more money is diverted from public schools, thus requiring even more school closures and paradoxically reducing choice for the non-excellence loving population. Ignore them as they are haters. In the meantime, consider leasing, selling the now empty public school buildings to charter schools (p. 36).
The new normal
And now a word from our sponsor (p. 40): “A difficult and often divisive task, closing schools is something that every school district eventually faces. While some operators are accustomed to this challenge because of the frequency with which it happens in their district (in the best cases as a step in regularly trimming and improving upon a portfolio of schools), others face it so infrequently that there is no continuity between this time and the last. For those who may be less accustomed to closing schools, we hope to have provided you with a comprehensive framework and some of the tools necessary to make this task a manageable one.”
I couldn’t have said it any better…
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