by James A. Bacon
Maybe there’s hope for the Richmond city school system after all. The School Board has approved a contract to outsource the education of students with disciplinary issues to a private company, Camelot Education.
Under the contract, Camelot will take over operation of the Richmond Alternative school, which serves students who have been pulled out of their home school because they are too disruptive, reports the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
The contract should be a good deal for taxpayers. The city will pay Camelot $1.8 million for the upcoming school year, supplemented by $800,000 for city support staff. That’s less than the $2.9 million the city had budgeted to operate Richmond Alternative.
More importantly, school officials hope that Camelot will do a better job of educating the problem students. Test scores at the school have been stagnant or dropped in the past three years, and the number of dropouts showed a “significant uptick.”
Explained Michelle Boyd, assistant superintendent of exceptional education and student services:
Camelot will staff the school with people licensed in specific content areas, who are trained in behavior modification and de-escalation techniques and who are experienced at working in nontraditional environments.
Key to Camelot’s success, most notably in the Philadelphia school system, is the emphasis on creating a of norms geared to students with disciplinary issues. These behavioral expectations, sustained by peer pressure among staff and students, include:
- No one has the right to hurt another person.
- Education and the classroom are sacred.
- Never behave in any way that will discredit yourselves, your family, your peers, or your school.
- Take pride in your school.
- A Camelot student is always a lady or gentleman.
What worked in Philadelphia may or may not work in Richmond. But surely that is a risk worth taking. The existing system was not working. If the Camelot contract was structured properly, it will set clear performance metrics — reduced absenteeism, higher graduation rates, etc. — for the organization to achieve. If Camelot succeeds, then everybody wins. If it falls short, then Richmond can always find another vendor or put its own team back in place.