Calling all Joes

“In the first place, God made idiots.  That was for practice.  Then he made school boards.” – Mark Twain

I recently witnessed the mockery that is a school board meeting to “consider” whether or not a charter school should be allowed to compete against the public schools.  My best friend is spear-heading a drive to bring Oxford Preparatory Academy (OPA), a top-tier charter school, to our district so I had the opportunity to view the circus that ensues when a good charter school applies for entry.

“Ignorance is bliss.  I wish I still had some.” – Adam Pascal

To little surprise but much dismay, San Diego County’s school board denied OPA’s charter.  Yes, even though Oxford Preparatory Academy is a top-rate charter organization with multiple campuses… even though their track record is impeccable (Oxford took a failing school in Chino and elevated it to #1 – with ESL students experiencing the largest jump)… even though concerned and motivated parents amassed nearly a thousand interest signatures, lawyers filled out numerous state application forms, and Oxford boasts a $375,000 grant to open… even though the Andre Agassi Foundation and other charities financially back OPA’s proven instructional techniques… and even though no student would have to go to OPA – on the contrary, lotteries would be held to see which lucky students would get to go – this phenomenal organization’s charter submission was “denied.”

“I believe public education is the new civil rights battle and I support charter schools.” – Andrew Cuomo

Now, as if designed in hell as part of some cruel game, the system requires Oxford to appeal to the State of California to see if it can get the chance to compete against… well, the State of California.  Naïve, concerned parents will show up at the meeting believing that the “No” outcome is not pre-determined – but it is.  I now know what happens.  The parents receive less than a minute to say something, the board votes “No,” the parents cry, and everyone goes home.  That’s how it works – or more appropriately, that’s why it doesn’t work.  And we wonder why our State education system is failing our children.

“There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.” – Nelson Mandela

After the meeting, I went and saw the new “GI Joe” movie.  There is a scene in the movie where the “Joes” get betrayed, their team is destroyed, and Cobra runs the State.  The only survivors are a trinity of Joes who submerge themselves in well water to avoid being killed.  To me, that’s what Oxford Preparatory Academy supporters are – a small group of average Joes, a collection of baptized good guys, who are bound and determined to fight the good fight.

“I’m your average Joe guy. I don’t really care for politicians.” – John Mellencamp

From my viewpoint, the odds are definitely stacked against our concerned parents – it appears the Joes have been given “Mission Impossible.”  Because you see, the people who are on the School Boards, the politicians who decide whether or not to allow charter schools, they are only allowed on the election ballot after appeasing the powerful Teacher’s Union and State Education Administrators – the very people who despise competition to public schooling.  The Joes actually have to fight Cobra at Cobra headquarters.

What I found really appalling were the “reasons” the School Board gave for denying Oxford’s application:

1) the charter school is unlikely to be able to stay open after the 1st year

2) the charter school fails to meet the State’s criteria for application

3) the charter school has an inadequate education method.

It’s as if years ago, after the first fool’s application was denied, the school boards just kept using that same template to deny anyone and everyone ever since.  I mean, come on School Board, before you give us your pre-determined “No” answer, can you at least make a small effort to pretend like you’re actually trying to determine whether or not this is a good and viable charter school?

“The greatest way to live with honor in this world is to be what we pretend to be.” – Socrates

Couldn’t you at least change your denial criteria to reflect the fact that Oxford Preparatory Academy isn’t some Mom and Pop charter school likely to fail after one year?  Are you really claiming that Oxford isn’t likely to remain open even though it possesses a grant, is supported by the Andre Agassi Foundation, and – well let’s see – how about the fact that it already has multiple campuses, right here and now, that are and have been open for years!

“One of the cruelest things you can do to another person is pretend you care about them.” – Doug Coupland

Come on school board, really?!  You claim Oxford has an inadequate education method even though their well proven instructional techniques rank it #1 of all schools in Chino – a conversion school which, before Oxford took it over, was failing?  Really?!  How can it be ranked better than all of the public schools yet still be considered inadequate to compete?!  You can’t possibly expect us to believe that… or are you just that confident the citizenry will simply continue to plod on in ignorance?

“To succeed in life, you need two things: ignorance and confidence.” – Mark Twain

That’s what I found most disturbing – the school board simply paraded the same old denial criteria it always uses and smiled at the helpless parents around them as it voted to deny the charter.  I sat and watched as good people presented irrefutable academic numbers to a disinterested board.  I witnessed the absurdity of the vote, observed the pre-determined outcome, and thought, what’s wrong with Us?  Have we stopped caring?  Are we too busy?  Or are we just powerless?

“The foundation of every state is the education of its youth.” – Diogenes

If a recognized, successful, and established organization like Oxford Preparatory Academy cannot get its charter approved, then tell me, who can?  I’ve got to be honest with you my friends – this political journey is rapidly sapping my strength.  I didn’t know it was this bad.  There is a scene in “GI Joe” where the few surviving Joes send out a distress call to see if there are any other Joes alive out there.  I suppose that’s where I am now.  I feel very much like a downed pilot, wandering alone in enemy territory, hoping desperately that we Joes can take back our government.

“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” – Helen Keller

So here I am.  I’m broadcasting on the only channel us good Joes use – free, open, and in the clear – is there no help for the widow’s son?  I’m lighting the Bat Signal, sending out an SOS, encoding a message in this R2 unit – help me Obi-wan Kenobi, you’re our only hope.  Here’s the deal “Joes” out there in America.  Cobra blew up the whole gang.  Duke is dead… it’s… it’s just us left – those of US of America who managed to submerge in the well and stay alive.

“I don’t know if you’ve been keeping up on current events, but we just got our asses kicked!” – Pvt Hudson, Aliens

I salute those of you who attended the school board meeting and are trying to make a positive difference in this world.  Stand up and be one of the Good Guys – it’s the message of every good book, every good movie – it’s The Message.  So keep at it Joes.  After witnessing how quickly and efficiently the school board denied OPA’s charter, it does look like Mission Impossible… but it takes only a few Joes and the Grace of God to make a world of difference.

“Never believe that a few caring people can’t change the world.  For, indeed, that’s all who ever have.” – Margaret Mead


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