Total Pageviews

Search This Blog

Sunday, September 25, 2011

W.C. Gentry looks at the school system through rose colored glasses (rough draft)

With all due respect to school board chair W.C. Gentry he sees what he wants to see from his ivory tower at 1701 Prudential drive, where I am in the classroom and I get see what is actually going on. He looks at reams of data and draws a picture, where I look into the eyes of the kids and they show me their picture. Mr. Gentry relies on the district personnel to get his information, I rely on what happens in my classroom and the voices of the teachers, the people in the trenches to get mine and I have to say he couldn’t be more wrong about the superintendent when he defends him and in a way himself in an op-ed in the Sunday edition of the Times Union.

W.C. Gentry starts with letting the public know they don’t have the prerequisite knowledge to understand how the evaluation tool works. Well this system would know about people lacking prerequisite knowledge as most of our high school kids arrived there without the knowledge they need to be successful. Here is an idea, W.C. instead of explaining the public’s limitations how about you eliminate them by educating us.

Three of the categories used to judge the superintendent were board relationships; community relationships and personal qualities and they only have a peripheral relationship to education and personal qualities?!? REALLY!?! I don’t care if the superintendent is affable, helps old ladies across the street or rescues puppy, not when it comes to his job anyways. Can you imagine a businessperson using that as a category to evaluate an employee? Well Mr. Smith you are terrible at your job but hey you got some good jokes have another year to see if you can turn things around.

Let’s examine some of the superintendents accomplishments, the ones the board likes to ignore. Seven of our schools have been taken over by an education management company, and of those six are neighborhood high schools. Well friends we only have 14 of those to begin with. After his one idea of moving staff around continued to fail he through up his hands and said you know what lets give those schools away.

Grade recovery has morphed into learning recovery, which means attendance, behavior and work ethic no longer matter. It used to be that only kids that worked hard and didn’t quite get it or kids that legitimately missed class could use it to make up a class they failed. Now any kid can take it regardless of the reason. They know this and many play this to their advantage. Some kids have been told to just go ahead and fail their class(es) because they can make it up on compass odyssey (and it will be easier).

Despite the fact the amount of tasks teachers have been required to do has increased exponentially over the last few years, two page lesson plans, phone book sized data notebooks, complicated agendas that only district personal look at, test scores have remained flat. Instead of encouraging teachers to be creative and flexible, to spend their time connecting with the students, the district under Pratt-Dannals has doubled down on this and sent board police into classrooms. Administrators don’t care about effective instruction, they care about whether the artifact map is up to date or not.

Speaking of teachers, their morale is way down as they have gone from valued partners to replaceable cogs, who can be cajoled and intimidated by administrators, told to shake things up. Teachers are told with a wink and a nod not to write referrals and not to fail kids because if they do they will be caught in the cross hairs of an administration more concerned with appearances than doing what is right.

More kids are taking AP classes but sadly more kids are not passing them, some kids go from their intensive reading class to their AP literature class. Since each of the high schools has an advanced academic program, why do we have advanced academic high schools? Furthermore a cynical person might think they were put in the neighborhood schools to improve FCAT scores there. Imagine what the intervene schools grades would be like minus the fifty or so kids in the advanced academic programs pulling them up. We should all be cynical by now.

The teaching of trades, skills and the arts has been gutted because for some inexplicable reason the superintendent thinks every kid is going to go to college. Well sir, and Mr. Gentry, this is for you too, they are not. We don’t have the kids we wish we had, we have the kids we do and we should start planning accordingly.

Continuing, far to many kids don’t have a work ethic, they don’t have discipline and they don’t have the knowledge they need to succeed because passing kids along is what has become important to the district. As for the graduation rate going up, well you might not know it but they changed the formula and every districts graduation rates went up and as for drop out rates going down, well who knows because it is nearly impossible to remove missing kid from school rolls.

These are the accomplishments that were obviously not considered when most of the school board was doing their evaluations. And Mr. Gentry it’s laughable to say Martha Barrett has the most insight when evaluating superintendents because she has never met a superintendent she didn’t like or if she did she never let her evaluations reflect it.

Mr. Gentry you do not represent the superintendent, he works for you. You represent the children of Jacksonville and their families. You represent the business community and you even represent the teachers too. It’s time you started acting like it and told your one employee that he had better start doing what is right, even if it is messy and even if things get worse before they get better.

And friends it will get worse before it gets better. It will take our school system a decade to recover once Pratt-Dannals mercifully retires. There are children in middle school and high school right now who don’t know it yet but they have had their lives retarded by the superintendent’s policies and decisions and it may take them a lifetime to recover if they ever do. We are graduating children without a work ethic, without discipline, without skills and without the knowledge they should have received and this will lead to many of the working menial jobs, or living on government assistance, more than a few will go to jail too. The superintendent’s policies are ensuring many of our children will live a life without hope. Mr. Gentry thinks that means he is high performing.

No comments:

Post a Comment