When School Matters was created, I pretty much stopped writing about school topics on this blog. As the site has gained users, I realized that I was spending more of my time nudging discussions and calming tempers than just writing what was on my mind. That ends now.
When the Superintendent search was narrowed down to a handful of candidates, I googled each finalist. The candidate who once complained that Boston’s $832M school budget needed more money seemed like a very bad fit for Knoxville’s $360M school budget. I guess I should have considered that our school board would see him as someone who could convince Knoxville to put more money in our schools. Knoxville schools need more money. Our businesses in Knoxville are laying off employees and folding faster than new jobs are being created. How are we going to provide more money when we all have less money?
So, here we are 6 months into the new Knoxville Super’s reign and his “vision” is being presented to Knoxville. He asks “How do we transform our system from a very good one to a better one?” In one KnoxViews thread, commenters praise the improved academic requirements in our system. In multiple School Matters threads, the discussion keeps returning to the fact that TN is 38th in the nation in ACT results and things like zero High Schools in TN making the list of the state’s best. Are we a “very good” system or a failing system? Of Knoxville’s 13 high schools, only 5 are not on NCLB’s naughty list. Our new Super wants to add a STEM high school. The school system’s budget for the next year can barely afford to replace one leaking roof. How are we going to build a new high school and where will it be?
The new Super has been visiting the schools. Everyone in the school has been told to smile and agree with everything the new Super says to them. They have also been told to keep their mouths shut about anything that is bothering them. With this absence of honest communication, anything that is not working optimally in our system is going to be kept that way.
The new Super has an assortment of other ideas, like giving teachers and students mentors. We already have that. His primary focus is on getting parents and students to change. He has a great plan to get parents more involved in their children’s education. He wants parents to learn how to continue the school day at their kitchen table. Seriously? What does he think we have been doing since we became parents? I don’t deny that we have a culture of ignorance in this area, but there are a LOT of very involved parents who have been working hard to supplement their children’s education and we want to be HEARD by school board members, not condescended and told that everything is great.
Here’s an idea – Let’s start by honestly and accurately stating out loud the current status of our school system. Then, let’s do a complete inventory of what we have in our toolbox. Be sure to recognize that toolbox includes parents and teachers with ideas for how we can see all of our children achieve their highest potential. Now, take that toolbox and let’s ALL start fixing what is broken.