The Vast Right Wing Conspiracy: All Politics is Local

January 11, 2010

This is an article I submitted to my local paper in reference to my ciies ongoing search to find a new superintendent of schools.

Middletown School Board: Mission Accomplished?

After seven months and $30,000 what do we have for candidates for the position of Superintendent of our schools? We have one seemingly nice guy from Kansas. Mr. Greg Rasmussen. Where does that leave our schools? The best option with which the citizens were presented with by our “search experts” and the School Board has taken another job. The other “suitable candidate” withdrew after it came to light that he was Mansfield’s version of Steve Price.

I attended the community forum on Friday evening and learned of Dr. Martin’s withdrawal from the process when I arrived. I asked two of our board members if those in attendance might have a chance to question Mr. Rasmussen but was politely told that the community’s input would be limited to filling out cards. Apparently, the only input the School Board wants from the community is financial. I owe Mrs. Andrew an apology for my tone in our conversation got a little heated after she suggested that voting against future levies would hurt our students. My feeling is that the conduct of the Board is hurting our students and that voting against levies is the only way citizens have to show the depth of our displeasure with their direction.  

I listened to what Mr. Rasmussen had to say and let me try to sum it up for those who couldn’t attend. He’s for building good relationship, building trust and working together! He doesn’t know a lot about our schools but should be up to speed somewhere between three to five months into the job.

Is there anybody out there against building good relationship? Anybody want to be against working together and building trust? Good! Now that we’re all on the same page let me ask a question or two. If you were going to interview for a job you wanted would you do a little research before you arrived? Would you know why the last person in your position left? Have some knowledge of past problems in the job? Would you have some information on the problems in the schools? Perhaps you might even have a few suggestions on the budget after having looked at it before a meeting with community members.

If you were interviewing someone for a job and in the interview they said, “I don’t know a lot about your company or its problems but if you give me three to five months I should be up to speed and ready to go,” would you hire them? If I had to take a chance on Mr. Rasmussen I suppose we could do worse but is that what we want for our schools?

There is another option, demand a refund from our search firm and do the job ourselves like we should have in the first place. The school board should form a committee of parents, voters and teachers to review applications and recommend several new candidates to the board. This could be done out in the open and with no back room dealing. Then the Board and the public can interview and hire a new superintendent from the committee selections. If the Board would like an internet and background search on anyone they want to consider I’ll do it on my laptop and it won’t cost them 30 grand.


The Vast Right Wing Conspiracy: All Politics is Local

May 14, 2009

As much as I hate quoting a Democrat Boss Daley was right, all politics is local. I have been spending a lot of time this week e mailing back and forth with the superintendentof our local school system. Over the past five years he has wasted millions of dollars instituting a program he calls an “equity” training program in our schools. The idea behind this program is rooted in failed educational philosophy from the late sixties and early seventies. The idea is that the achievement gap between White and Asian students and urban African-American students can be overcome if White teachers in the schools are more sensitive to so callled “Black” culture.  There has been no closing of this achievement gap in our schools in the five years of this program. There are other programs that seem to be working,  notably Geoffrey Canada’s program in NYC  ( see David Brooks in the NYT May 8th 2009  http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/08/opinion/08brooks.html?_r=1 ) 

I have written several opinion pieces for our local paper which have been highly critical of the superintendent and the program. He has recently defended the program’s philosophy but has not supported it with any studies or data.  He recently answered a question about the cost in print. I thought his answer was evasive and disingenuous I am publishing my fourth pinion piece below.

Fourth Editorial Education

I read Dr. Price’s reply to a sound off question with my critical thinking skills engaged. The questioner asked Dr. Price to how much money had been spent on the equity program in the last three years. Whenever you deal with a public official you need to analyze the words very carefully.  

Since the questioner only asked about the last three years Dr. Price gave information only about those years. Public officials seldom volunteer information that is not in their favor. He did give a lot of information for which he was not asked. Information about total dollars spent on professional development and how the percentage he claims that was paid to PEG compares to that total.  He did this in order to make the taxpayer think he isn’t really wasting a lot of out money. Even if we accept the $426,125 figure as accurate we must also ask what Dr. Price considers “total expenses?”

I have an analogy.  Let’s say you took your son to a Reds game. I might ask you how much it cost you. You might think, two seats at $22 each, the game cost $44. In a way that would be accurate. Maybe you bought some sodas and a couple of hot dogs. You bought a hat and a program. You paid to park and burned a few gallons of gas going down there, so what did you really spend on the Reds game? Maybe it was more like $150. I am just wondering if during the equity training, Dr. Price bought any hot dogs.

Does Dr. Price include textbooks bought for the equity program for teachers and students as part of total costs? Does it include expendables like workbooks and other material which get used up? What about airfares, hotels and meals? Have teacher spent time away from their classes to participate in equity work? If so are the expenses for substitutes included? Does he include other professional development activities that grow out of the equity work like trips to present papers about “othering” at conferences?

Dr. Price also shows us something about the way he thinks about our money. He makes three references to federal grant money as if that is somehow “free” money. Where does Dr. Price think federal grant money comes from? Federal dollars are also our money, Dr. Price. The federal government doles a few of our tax dollars back to us as grants and in programs and we are supposed to think we are getting something for free.  This Washington D.C. run Ponzi scheme makes Bernie Madoff look like a small time grifter.

There is more important question here than the money spent; does this program produce results? I think most of the citizens of Middletown would pony up a more that few extra dollars if they had some solid evidence that their schools were producing real improvements. In my articles I have asked Dr. Price to show data from his tenure as our superintendant supporting that what he is doing actually works.  As of yet I have seen no data. I have e-mailed PEG and asked them to reference any independent studies that support their program. As of this writing I have received no reply.

I did however find some information about a program that is closing the achievement gap. I hope you saw the column by New York Times writer David Brooks touting the Harlem Children’s Zone charter schools that was reprinted in the Middletown Journal on Monday May 11th.  If you missed it please find it online and read it!  These schools, in an urban area, are producing real results. The secret to their success isn’t cultural awareness but an emphasis on basics and creating, “a disciplined, orderly and demanding counterculture to inculcate middle-class values.”  The schools are also described as, “no excuses schools (that) pay meticulous attention to behavior and attitudes.”  At the end of his piece Mr. Brooks challenges other cities to adopt this system. I say, why not here and why not now.  Let’s bring this system to the attention of our school board and our next superintendant. The original column by David Brooks was printed in the New York Times on May 8th, 2009. The same date as Dr. Price’s latest reply. Again, I love irony!


The Vast Right Wing Conspiracy: An Educational Statement

March 5, 2009

Writers Note

I wrote this editorial as a reply to an article in my small town local paper. As background I will tell you that in the past few years our school district has spent millions on re-educating white teachers so that they are culturally “sensitive” to minority students. Meanwhiloe our schools are rated slightly above our states lowest level. If you wish to read the entire article you can follow this link.

http://www.middletownjournal.com/n/content/oh/story/news/local/2009/03/04/mj030409mccrabbharvard.html

 

If anyone in our city is unsure as to why our public schools are among the lowest rated in the state they need look no further than Rick McCrabb’s article of March 4th.

In the article Mr. McCrabb profiles Anedra Million an assistant principal from Amanda School, who will be participating in the “Alumni of Color Conference”  at Harvard University. Why we sending one of our administrators to this type of meeting, at taxpayer expense, is unfathomable. While test and achievement scores in schools continue to tumble our superintendent continues to waste our dollars on the outdated and false idea that the lack of achievement among minority students is due to a “lack of cultural understanding,” by “middle aged white woman” teachers. Over the past few years the leader of our school system has squandered millions of our dollars on what Dr. Price describes this way in his latest newsletter:

“District staff continues to work on issues of race and equity to try and understand and eliminate the racial achievement gap while at the same time raise levels of achievement for all students. Addressing why these gaps exist is difficult and discussions are often emotional. We conduct many courageous conversations that often start with an examination of self and how one’s own culture can act as a barrier to all students learning at high levels. These difficult conversations will continue.”

If achievement could be explained by “culture” it would seem to logical to separate students and teachers by race and have white teachers teach white students and have black teachers teach black students. Do black students who have black teachers achieve at a higher level than black students taught by white teachers? No! Do Asian students who are taught by white teacher find it culturally difficult to learn? No. Do white students who are taught by black teachers suffer academically? No. So where does the notion of cultural sensitivity come from? It comes from outdated and mostly disproved educational theories developed in the late sixties and early seventies. So why does this type of antiquated thinking continue to exist in our schools? The answer is that most of our upper echelon administrators and education professors are steeped in the radical liberalism of that era. William Ayers is their poster child.  They seek to use the public education system not as it has been used for centuries, to reinforce the fundamental values of education and citizenship, but rather as a mechanism for liberal social engineering.  

I want to be clear that this opinion piece is not intended to be a personal attack on Ms. Million. I am sure she is a dedicated and hard working teacher and administrator. I am sure that she is a woman of high intellect and her achievements speak for themselves. I am sure that her presentation to the conference at Harvard was written with sincerity. I am also as sure that she is just as sincere in her beliefs that our educational system is failing due to “ …systemic racial disparity”, and therein lies the problem. Ms. Million has been victimized, but not by those she believe she have done her wrong.  She and many other people have been educated in a public school and university system that has substituted feelings and antidotal evidence for scholarship, the use of strings of important sounding words for substance and political correctness for common sense.

Examine the title of Ms. Million’s presentation: The Social Construction of “other”: A Critical Analysis of Language and Imagery in Education Policy.  I have a degree in Education, two years of graduate school and thirty years of professional writing experience and I have no idea what that means.  This is an example of a close relative of psychobabble which I will term edubabble”. Shouldn’t educators speak in terms that mothers and fathers can understand and use strategies that enable parents to reinforce education in the home? The home is the center of all education. Our schools and test scores will improve only when our administration makes parents accountable for their children’s work and behavior. Public schools are not a babysitting service and children who do not respect the right of other students to learn should be forced to seek alternative education at their own expense. 

The old saying tells us that the fish stinks from the head down, my fellow citizens, and until there is a housecleaning on Girard Avenue our city schools will continue to fail all of us. I don’t know what others intend to do but I will vote for no school levee until this happens. I will support no school board member who does not understand change starts at the top.  


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