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Chatham Schools reorganization plan is a bad idea for our children

By Jeff Johnson
Posted Sunday, February 6, 2011

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Siler City, NC - To the Chatham County Schools Superintendent Robert Logan.

What is the hidden agenda?

What do you intend to accomplish by eliminating a highly functional K-8 program and disrupting our kids’ education as well as our communities?

If cost savings is the goal, make available to the public, cost/benefit analysis, with multiple options showing all money gained and lost and allow the public adequate time to review and respond. It appears to most of us that your proposed redistricting plan will be more costly as opposed to saving money as has been claimed. Substantiate the claims.

To the Board

Administration

Years ago, a friend of mine proposed a solution to the education problem. He proposed that the School Board impose a requirement that every four years the school administrators (including the superintendent) be required to teach at least one or more classes. The theory being that a large percentage of administrators would quit because it would be too much work, resulting in the administrative machine ridding itself of unnecessary dead weight. Secondly, it would re-educate those administrators that decided to stick around, and keep them current in the challenges that teachers, students and parents face daily, making them better administrators as a result. It would likely also improve the relationship and communication between the school staff and administration.

So far, I haven’t heard a better plan.

Budget

As far as the budget problems, my solution is simple. This could be applied to any budget across the globe.

Itemize the budget so that each expense is easily identifiable, assign the annual costs to each item and organize it in order of priority top to bottom. If the budget has a 10% shortfall, cut out the lowest priority items, from the bottom up until you reach ten percent. Chances are, those items were unnecessary and wasteful to begin with, and would never be missed. If not, the budget was not properly prioritized.

What appears to be done more often than not is to fund the low priority programs first and put the important items at the end of the list to invoke public passion and emotional responses to a proposed cut, thereby making it easier to sell a tax increase or new bond referendum to the public. Also, only fund programs that are working, government has a history of rewarding bad behavior by assuming that if something is not working, it is because it wasn’t sufficiently funded. Subsequently more money is poured into a program that is a failure from the jump. This false logic is absurd and a drain to our economy.

Lack of Communication

The lack of communication from the County School System to the Chatham County communities regarding the discussions of redistricting is unbelievable. We have every media outlet known to man at our finger tips, as well as e-mail, facebook, twitter, and an automated phone message system in place that will notify us at a moment’s notice of a school delay, school function, lock-down, flu outbreak, or a short message to look in our student’s backpacks for a report card.

With all of the aforementioned forms of communication and technology, we have received no such notice of the plans to redistrict our schools and disrupt our lives.

Apparently, the redistricting proposal has been on the table and the topic of conversation and communications amongst the school board and administration for months without being communicated to the public. The recent mantra among politicians appears to be to keep any proposal under your hat until such time that you ram it down the public’s throat. Heaven forbid that we have adequate public hearings, discussions and debate prior to submitting a proposal to the board in consideration for a vote.

Culture of Intimidation

Worse than the lack of communication, is the intimidation of our teachers, staff, and PTA if they dare to speak out against the proposed plan. Whether perceived or threatened, there is no place for a culture of intimidation between our administration and the school teachers and staff. The entire framework of our country was founded on freedoms such as the freedom to express one’s ideas without fear of persecution.

Many of our teachers are against this proposal but are afraid to publicly speak out for fear of losing their jobs.

I, for one, am disappointed that communication and debate is not encouraged among the teachers and administration, as well as the public. Education is by definition, the process of learning. What better way to learn about something than to allow all parties involved to express their ideas and opinions and debate these based on their merits? It is a shame that this type of open discourse is discouraged.

Surely, serving on the School Board is a thankless job. True service, requires a tremendous and potentially exhausting amount of time, work, thought and consideration, with arguably little reward. Obviously the School Board has some difficult decisions to make and many other proposals to consider. From an outside observation, it appears that the proposed redistricting plan is more of the Superintendent's agenda than the Board’s agenda.

The Superintendent is entitled to his opinion and, as all of us, should be allowed to express his ideas. However, the Board is in no way obligated to accept the proposal and should require and verify that the proposal stand on its own merits. The school board should also provide communication and enough time to allow the public to evaluate and debate the proposal based on its merits. In addition, other proposals should be considered, such as following the K-8 model county wide. If you are going to hold a discussion of making the county consistent for parity reasons, why not fully consider and compare both models (traditional and K-8). Most research would indicate that the K-8 model provides a better educational experience for less cost than the traditional school model. Many school systems across the nation are converting back to K-8. (Google it)

Consider the superintendent’s proposal, but be reminded, that the school board does not work for the Superintendent. Don’t be a wind vane.

To the Teachers

Keep doing a great job, but don’t forget what you are teaching. “Give me liberty or give me death”, no job is worth losing your freedom of speech.

To the PTA

What is the purpose of the PTA? The following Mission Statements were copied from the PTA Website:

NC PTA Mission Statement

NC PTA is North Carolina's oldest and largest volunteer organization advocating for the education, health, safety, and success of all children and youth while building strong families and communities.

Moncure School Mission Statement

Believing that all children can achieve, it is the mission of Moncure School, in partnership with the home and community, to provide quality instruction and educational opportunities that will assure that our growing, diverse population of students are challenged with a curriculum that will allow them to reach world class standards.

It is incumbent on the PTA Board to pass along any information to its members that may affect the members or students without delay. For issues that are potentially controversial, logically, the PTA should involve the community, hence “in partnership with the home and community”. The PTA Board needs, deserves, and should require support from the families and the community and vice versa. The current reluctance to organize meetings to discuss the proposed redistricting plan baffles me. If the PTA does not have its finger on the pulse of the community, how can it effectively support the students and families represented?

cOnce the community has expressed their opinion, the PTA Board should be able to represent the community’s position as well as communicate dissenting opinions if they exist. To avoid engaging in the conversation in an attempt to stay neutral, does not serve the Mission of the PTA or its members.

To the Parents and Community

I am glad to see that our Chatham County communities stand for something. In this world of political correctness, it is easy for people to be mistakenly identified as negative. For fear of being categorized as negative, and for the sake of political correctness, many try to put a positive spin on everything. Forgive me for being naive, but where I grew up, being on the side of good was not considered taking a stand, it was assumed. To say that you stand for the elderly getting the medical attention they need, people being able to feed their family, and our kids getting a quality education, in my opinion would require a response or tag line of “so what?” or “that goes without saying”. In my opinion, that is not a stand, but a response that is assumed, or should be. To make a stand, is to hold firm against something that is bad, and not allow it to bowl you over, harm, or affect in a negative way anyone near and dear to you, or anyone else for that matter, except for the possible exception of those threatening to inflict harm.

The proposed redistricting plan will not be an improvement to the quality of education that our kids receive. It will not be an improvement to our community, will not offer cost savings to our county, and will create a decrease in safety for our kids by increasing the travel distance and time on the roads (not to mention increasing the potential for bullying on the school buses because of the age range). It will increase the personal costs to the public because of increased travel and therefore discourage community participation in curricular and extracurricular activities.

Conclusion

The proposed plan is a bad idea and should be dropped in its tracks. I know that this slang or improper English, but “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.” We have enough to do if we stick to solving problems that actually exist rather than creating new ones. Budget cuts need to be made for a fact, but redistricting our schools is not the answer.

 
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