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Letters                                                                 Page 4

 

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Courageous Superintendents
The exemplary examples of leadership of superintendents in “Courageous Acts: Personal Tales” (September 2011) hopefully will be an inspiration to future top-level education leaders. Exceptional superintendents are those who stand up for principles and ideals regardless of the consequences. 

The article models what superintendents must be all about.

JOSEPH P. BATORY
Retired superintendent,
Upper Darby, Pa.

I can only imagine the personal and professional stress and frustration that superintendent Terry Furin faced in the situation involving neo-Nazi sympathizers (“Confronted by Hate,” September 2011). It was great to read about him standing up against racism and about others who stood to support the less privileged.

I can relate to the prejudice that Furin dealt with. Prejudice is the underpinning of most nonacademic issues that some of us in school system leadership face today.

WILLIAM J. ZELEI
Superintendent,
South Euclid-Lyndhurst Schools,
Lyndhurst, Ohio

I really related to Charles Fowler’s article “The Right To Attend School” (September 2011) on keeping children with HIV in school.
Years ago we faced a similar situation. A child was HIV positive; we decided he should be in school and not isolated in some way. We knew we needed an open parent meeting at the school.

The day before the meeting I received a phone call from a parent with a child in the infected child’s classroom. He said that he was an M.D. and his specialty was infectious medicine. I thought to myself, “Oh, my.” He calmly said, “Dr. Hertz, I think everything you are doing about this matter is appropriate and would be happy to help. Please feel free to call on me tomorrow night if needed.”

You can well imagine what a relief that was. Of course, there were still frantic parents, but this doctor’s influence and assurance that his little 2nd-grade boy was going to be right there in the room was powerful. The HIV child is now a minister.

KARL HERTZ
AASA Past President
Theinsville, Wis.

Accurate Profile
I am not at all surprised to read that Tim Jenney appeared before his executive staff in a long red leather coat and performed a rap piece! I only regret I was not there to observe. What a fantastic response to a cheap shot.

Thank you for your excellent profile about Jenney (“A Bagful of Tricks in Fort Bend,” September 2011). He was once my boss. It was a sad day when he left our school district. He introduced academic, administrative and financial management modifications that actually worked.

He was great to work with — fun, challenging, exciting, surprising and enriching to my own growth. His remarkable intellect is matched by his creativity. He settles for only the best one can produce. And those who get on board are in for the ride of a lifetime.

JANE KINARD RAGAN
Retired Executive Assistant,
Greenville County Schools,
Greenville, S.C.

Rural Gifted Students
Superintendent Donald Kordosky’s guest column, “Attending to the Gifted in Rural Schools” (September 2011), hits the mark according to our 30-plus years of experience at the Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth running summer programs for highly gifted students. At more than a dozen of our sites, most students come from the suburban or exurban rings with many fewer from authentically rural areas.

Our experience suggests, however, that gifted rural students have options. One is to use their summers to attend academic summer programs, where they can keep their skills sharp. Some of these are public and some private, and a few offer financial aid. And there are also fine resources available all year round, without leaving home. Today, a good online connection is all it takes for gifted children in rural districts to unlock the mysteries of biology, writing, AP Calculus and myriad other subjects. Online courses can serve individuals and can also benefit school districts, too, by making more advanced options available at a lower cost.

Gifted students and online learning naturally fit together. Far from being static information platters, the best of today’s online courses let self-directed and motivated students begin at a level matching their advanced abilities and proceed at the pace that is optimal for them. The best courses pair this material with a highly trained instructor who guides and shapes the course experience based on the learner’s capacities and needs.

In addition to courses, online communities and websites can put rural students in direct contact with peers and teachers all over the world who share their interests and will enrich their learning.

The world changed in the mid-15th century when Gutenberg’s printing press democratized knowledge. We think the online revolution provides today’s breakthrough opportunity for children in rural schools.

ELAINE T. HANSEN
Executive Director,
The Johns Hopkins University,
Center for Talented Youth,
Baltimore, Md.

Hewitt’s Argument
I was delighted to read Paul Hewitt’s views (“Why I Don’t Support Charter Schools,” August 2011) and compelled to respond to extend some real-life experiences dealing with cyber and charter schools. It is refreshing to know that some individuals working in higher education have remained loyal to our core values of public education.

I firmly agree that charter schools are causing a plethora of situations that many politicians and higher education officials choose to ignore.

First, the segregation of students is quite obvious (haves vs. have nots). Second, many charter or cyber-school students return to our public schools further behind than when they left. During my 14 years as a high school administrator (before moving this year into the superintendency), I found the majority of our charter and cyber students returned to us having wasted a semester or an entire year. The oscillating of students from public to other educational options is caused by a plethora of factors: Parents have lost control, judicial intervention and changes in family structure to name a few. Unfortunately, my experience has been that the vast majority of the students did not complete the courses, failed courses and/or returned to our school behind in credits.

Additionally, those who are making educational decisions and policies (politicians) want to overlook the failures of these “touted” educational options. Unfunded mandates and these “free” educational options are siphoning away resources (funds) from public schools. The general public would be appalled at the tuitions charged by these institutions and the requirement that public schools must pay regardless of the success of the students.

If school choice continues to be the political football, then accountability should be consistent among all institutions (public and private).

MICHAEL O'BRIEN
Superintendent,
Ridgway Area School District,
Ridgway, Pa.

Starting the Year
After reading Tom Guskey’s column (“Starting the School Year,” August 2011) in your online edition, I handed it out at the first faculty meeting in September. Thanks for granting us the permission to do so.

MARGO ROSS
Principal,
Nate Perry Elementary School,
Liverpool, N.Y.


Boot Camp
The guest column “Kindergarten Boot Camp? About Face!” (January 2011), co-authored by Edward Miller and Joan Almon of the Alliance for Childhood, validates what I have been saying for a long time.

I teach 5th graders who lack basic socialization skills, fine motor skills, creativity or a love for learning because they have been drilled to death since kindergarten. What happened since the passage of No Child Left Behind is that 1st grade has been pushed down into kindergarten in an effort to raise test scores by giving students an additional year of reading and math instruction. While this may look good on paper, in practice it has been disastrous.

Many, if not most, 5-year-olds are not developmentally ready to begin drilling on reading or math. By skipping this important year and forcing kindergarteners into the same drill-and-test routine that students in all the other grades must endure, we have turned these kids off to learning and left them without the skills they need to get by in the world. It's no wonder my 5th graders hate reading and math and can't get along with each other.

If we want to reduce discipline problems in school, prepare kids for life and increase their love for learning, (which also would raise the almighty test scores), we need to stop the drill-and-test cycle and let kindergarten go back to being kindergarten, where they can develop the readiness skills they need to be successful.

MARGIE ADKINS
5th-grade teacher,
Dubois Elementary School,
Springfield, Ill.

Corrections
The item about Thelma Melendez on the People page in November failed to mention she also held the superintendency in Pomona, Calif.

The e-mail address for John T. Lawrence at the end of his Focus article in November was erroneous. The correct e-mail is cpwfitz1@aol.com.

Letters should be addressed to:
Editor,
School Administrator,
1615 Duke St.,
Alexandria, VA 22314
Fax: 703-841-1543
E-mail:
magazine@aasa.org

 

 

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