Bleeding in Asbury Park

The Asbury Park Public Schools’ struggle to improve student performance continues unabated. Today the Asbury Park Press reports that the Asbury Park School Board rejected Superintendent Denise Lowe’s reorganization plan of the lower grades but is considering her “back-up plan,” which would close the lowest-performing elementary schools. Here’s Lowe:
"I can tell you right now that what we're doing is not working," Lowe said at the meeting. "As far as addressing the needs of students, we have a great curriculum. . . . These are problems that started 15 years ago. I have to be given the chance to implement a plan. We have to work together."
Certainly, test scores are dicey. Among the three elementary schools, Thurgood Marshall is the jewel in the crown: 74% of 3d graders failed the ASK3 in language arts but only 50% failed the math portion of the standardized test. At Bradley Elementary School, language arts scores are dreadful (80.6% of 4th graders failed the test) but math scores are all over the place, bouncing from only 31% of 3d graders getting failing scores to 73.2% of 5th grade students failing to achieve proficiency. Barack Obama Elementary’s scores are so bad that the number of kids failing gets replaced on the state data base with an asterisk.

All this for $22,495 annual cost per pupil.

But, then again, trouble seems to haunt the school district, where there’s been a 25% drop in public school enrollment over the last decade; it's down to 1,900 kids as of this month. Five years ago Kathryn Forsyth of the DOE told the New York Times that the goal of an intervention team sent there was “to get things back on track. They have not been able to make simple decisions. When a district can't function properly, it can affect the classroom.''

In other news, the Board last month appointed Antonio Lewis as principal of the middle school. (Board minutes here.) Lewis was superintendent of the district from 1992-1999, but was suspended for incompetence. When the Board filed tenure charges so he would be ineligible for continued employment in the district, he sued them and won. (Here’s the back story.) The board tried to buy out his contract for $600K but the DOE nixed the deal.

Here’s one way to look at it: Asbury Park’s annual operating budget is about $61 million. With only 1,900 kids left in-district, the state could pay, say, $23K per child to go somewhere else, for a total cost of about $43 million.

Just saying…