Wednesday, March 26, 2008 | The tragic disintegration of Memorial Academy in Barrio Logan, described here by reporter Emily Alpert, could be a case study for the kinds of warring forces that are undoing effective public education in this country.

A crowded middle school in a poor neighborhood with mostly Spanish-speaking students, pressed by the top-down Bersin “Blueprint” and relentless timetable of No Child Left Behind, becomes a charter school with a board comprised of ethno-centric non-educators, loses its dedicated staff and superb principal, falls into financial hot water and academic decline. Every month of continuing adult disarray means Memorial students — the kids whose futures we most need to salvage —are falling behind, missing out, dropping out. It is a crime.

Memorial Academy is an old and important institution in San Diego. Its graduates are among the professional and political leaders of this city and state. Before the most recent charter, Memorial had a 10-year-plus history of excellent bi-lingual principals and role models in Marco Curiel and Tony Alfaro, Vice Principal Robert Gallardo, and teacher Rey Hernandez, as well as many many others. Under their guidance, student achievement was improving.

Perhaps new Superintendent Terry Grier will note this unfolding disaster and move to salvage the school and its children. He can start by talking to former Principal Marco Curiel and Memorial board member and SDSU education professor Alberto Ochoa. He can bring Memorial back into the San Diego Unified School District from the charter wilderness, restore educators to staff and school leadership and get back to the only business schools should be in — teaching and learning in classrooms.

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