By Megan Burks
The Board of Education voted last night to decrease the number of principals at the Crawford Educational Complex from three to one. The move brings the campus one step closer to losing its small schools model, which divides students into smaller cohorts, each with their own principal, support staff and academic focus.
Superintendent Bill Kowba amended the original proposal to eliminate the small schools in one fell swoop, asking instead that the school and community have the opportunity to work out what their school will look like under a centralized leadership: separate pathways, programs or schools.
Kowba called his proposal a “comprehensive school by leadership.” Indeed, the move is a de facto consolidation. Each small school having a separate administration is a key component of the small schools model. Without separate leadership, the four cohorts amount to pathways.
Students and teachers fought earlier this year to keep four principals, arguing each was necessary to maintain personalized attention for students and better collaboration among staff. The outcome, they said, are better test scores, more college acceptances and less violence on campus.
The school realignment committee pointed to school’s low market share—the number of neighborhood students it enrolls—as proof the school needs reform. About 60 percent of the students in Crawford’s boundaries choose to go elsewhere.
“We are in a budget crisis and we made the commitment to have a quality school in every neighborhood,” said board member Shelia Jackson after moving the proposal for a vote.
The committee also said consolidation would even out disparities. Crawford’s law and business school lags behind the other small schools on state tests.
“I’ve seen the positives that can emerge based on the initiative of a teacher or a portion of a staff, but those have to be brought on a much larger level,” Kowba said.
Principal Diego Gutierrez was one of many to speak out against the proposal last night and at previous meetings.
“I know that there are measures for success that are important, but there is another line of successes that doesn’t show,” Gutierrez said. He talked about his own daughter’s positive experience with the small schools model.
The only dissenting voice among board members was that of board President Richard Barrera. He said he wasn’t ready to do away with small schools when some have been successful.
“I don’t know what the right answer is there. I do know that one school seems to be doing extremely well with the small school model and its separate principal,” Barrera said. “If something is really working, I think we should hesitate before making a modification.”
Barrera referred to Crawford’s Community Health and Medical Practices School, which The Washington Post included on its list of top schools this year.
Barrera was the only board member to vote against the measure.
[Correction: This story originally reported Crawford’s multimedia and visual arts school lags behind the complex’s other small schools on state tests. Its law and business school has the lowest Academic Performance Index (API) score. We regret the error.]