Governor Dan McKee is hoping to export the urban learning program he founded in Cumberland to other cities and towns, but the Cumberland Headmaster and others are not convinced of the idea.
McKee published a call for proposals in March calling for “Implementing community learning programs in cities and towns … semester learning programs.”
Advisers were also sought to assist schools with their reopening plans.
McKee, who founded the Office of Children, Youth and Learning as Mayor of Cumberland in 2017, has been committed to community programs since he took office as governor.
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Consultancy agreement raises questions
Government contracts were awarded to two consultants, WestEd and ILO Group LLC. That raised eyebrows, as the ILO Group’s final contract was $ 5.2 million, $ 4 million more than WestEd’s offer, which has done extensive work for schools in Rhode Island.
Channel 12 reported that the ILO Group has ties to former Chiefs for Change members, of which Mike Magee is the CEO. Magee served on the governor’s transition team last winter, previously helping then-Mayor McKee set up the first mayoral charter schools in Cumberland.
In its original application, the ILO wrote that the Cumberland Office of Children Youth and Learning (OCYL), a municipal office established during Governor McKee’s tenure as Mayor of Cumberland, is a striking example of how community resources nurture early childhood Education and youth citizenship can support engagement while promoting a deep sense of belonging among young people, which research has shown is critical to their long-term success.
“Although not every municipality may choose a design exactly like OCYL,” wrote the consultants, “many will benefit from the advice and support of the ILO group in designing their own approach to community learning and youth development.”
School officials see no connection with student performance
Cumberland Superintendent Philip Thornton said Friday that there is no data to show that the city’s program has improved student performance.
“Programs like this do not correlate with academic performance,” he said. “They’re good for kids, but they don’t make permanent change in any school district. Cumberland is one of the least funded districts in Rhode Island. We could use the money in public schools.
“Somehow, the narrative turned out to make Cumberland public schools better,” Thornton said. “My answer is that the governor cannot take a loan. Our progress is due to the hard work of teachers, administrators and students. ”
Cumberland School Committee member Mark Fiorillo said he had a positive experience with the program, which offers early childhood classes; Science, math and technology programs; and civic engagement.
“They run a great preschool,” he says. “But these programs should be left to each community. What happens when the money is gone? Can the money be better used? Do we have to use taxpayers money to create a parallel school system in every city? ”
The contracts with WestEd and the ILO are financed from the Federal Coronavirus Relief Fund and the Emergency Aid Fund for primary and secondary schools.
“I think it’s ridiculous,” said Tim Ryan, lobbyist for the Rhode Island School Superintendents Association. “It’s a nice tutoring program after school. It is not tied to the school system or the school curriculum. It has nothing to do with the improvements that the Cumberland schools have made in recent years. ”
During Tuesday’s press conference, McKee was asked about the ILO contract and the creation of other community programs.
McKee said, “My plan is to open civic education offices in any ward that she wants. Both teams are positioned where they will help us develop long-term strategies. ”
McKee said he plans to open five of the programs in Providence, where the state has taken over the school district.
Linda Borg reports on education for The Journal.