January 16, 2012
We would stand up and applaud the Public Schools of Robeson County’s open-door transfer policy that has resulted from evolution except for this: It is failing.
We appreciate the Board of Education’s default position of accommodating parents with requests for transfers, whether they are prompted by convenience or a pursuit of better teachers and school resources for their child. And the value of education, being what it is, weighs in favor of granting the requests of parents and guardians who actually involve themselves in their child’s schooling. We wish there were more parents in Robeson County who cared.
But accommodating one student can’t be done at the expense of another. And it’s clear, lines are being trampled upon.
Staff writer Ali Rockett’s Page 1A story today details some of the issues, but it breaks down easily to this: There isn’t enough elbow room at some schools, Prospect and Tanglewood being the most egregious examples, and crowded classrooms complicate the learning process, meaning less time a teacher can spend individually with students who require the attention.
It is a problem with an obvious fix, but what is first required is the leadership on the school board to address the problem. So far, that has been absent.
Dwayne Smith, the school board member who represents the district that includes Tanglewood Elementary, suggests a transfer fee, with $300 per child being mentioned. While that would cut down on the requests, it would bend the arch in favor of families who could afford the fee, and that would take us to a place the system doesn’t need to go. A child’s educational opportunities can’t be chained to the parent’s bank account, at least not in a public system.
This problem isn’t difficult to solve, but it asks school board members to have the fortitude to say no, even to family, friends, neighbors and acquaintances who tend to vote. A cement cap is needed at schools that is based on classroom size and the availability of teachers. Transfers could be granted on a first-come, first-considered basis, and when the inn is full, then the answer is easy — no.
Favoritism could be removed if the school board considered transfers anonymously, with the names of those making the request blacked out. School board members, because they would be taken off the hook, should agree.
Such a system could be phased in to ease the pain, and preclude the possibility of a child being plucked from his current school and deposited next year into another one.
There is a better solution, but that road is so long it disappears beyond the horizon. Transfer requests would plunge if bad schools were made good and good schools were made great.
Smith hammered the nail when he said, “Every school should be made desirable.”