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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

W.C. Gentry reveals school boards shortcomings...

In an article detailing the fact our most struggling schools are manned by novice teachers, W.C. Gentry said, it's "startling and totally unacceptable" that there are so many novice teachers in low-performing schools. Whats startling is he had no idea. I would say this was one of the worse kept secrets around accept it wasn’t anything close to a secret. Our most experienced teachers don’t want to work at our most struggling schools and the reasons are legion.

Mr. Gentry is the chairman of the board and has been on the board for eighteen plus months, how didn’t he know? This also comes on the heels of last weeks Betty Burney debacle where she cherry picked stats to try and make some self serving point. She was then quickly and summarily debunked by state officials. Friends, she is the vice chair of our school board and has been there six plus years, how didn't she know?. These are two of the people we have chosen to lead us out of the mess we are in and at the same time are two of the reasons we find ourselves in that exact same mess.

I will give Mr. Gentry and Mrs. Burney the benefit of the doubt and say their desire to help children is sincere. The problem is they enter their offices not knowing anything about the public schools and the system they are representing. Neither were teachers in Duval and their prior relationships to our school system are tenuous at best. It would be like me joining a law firm because I watch a lot of Law and Order. Whether it is hubris or they think the school bard would be a nice stepping stone to other political office as many other board members have done, they have put themselves in the position to lead us and it’s a position they are ill prepared for. Is it any surprise that their best solution for our intervening schools not only violates the law but doesn’t deal with the real issues facing the schools.

The situation is made worse by the fact that they get the vast majority of their information from the administration at 1701 Prudential drive who has every reason to put a positive slant on things. That must be where they are getting their information from because we know they are not in the schools every day. Whenever they do go all it is, is a photo op.

This truly is a situation that is startling and totally unacceptable but it’s not for the reasons W.C. gentry would have you believe.

Chris Guerrieri

1 comment:

  1. Chris,
    Even more revealing is the lack of a comprehensive strategy for staffing any school, let alone the lowest performing schools. This same School Board trumpeted the arrival of the Teach for America Corps last year. Do they not remember this? Don't they know that all of those wunderkinds are fresh out of college? I thought those same kids were the saviors of our system.
    Also, let's hope that the response is not an overly-simplified knee-jerk policy of "let's put all of the experienced teachers in the low performing schools." Teachers are not cogs in the machine without specialized skill sets. I don't entirely disagree with the idea that we work for the district and not for a particular school, but I question the wisdom of sending an AP Calculus teacher from Fletcher with 22 years of experience to teach Geometry I at Jackson. Can we expect that the Calculus teacher should also be able to teach Geometry? Absolutely. But is it really the best move for the teacher or the students? Will the replacement Calculus teacher be as effective? Can we even find a replacement? What if the newer teacher has more impressive credentials for Geometry? More and more I am coming to see these problems as failures of Administrations. Perhaps the district has been wrong to try and rush new leaders into the schools and has been wrong in their philosophy of not keeping principals and vice-principals at one school for longer than five years. Maybe what we need is more continuity and less "change for the sake of change/permanent revolution" mindset.