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Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Straight dope about Superintendent Pratt-Dannals (rough draft)

A letter praised Duval County’s superintendent the other day and I have to say I disagree. The superintendent does have a tough job and he may deserve a lot of things but praise is not one of them. Now it is true, the state with its unfunded mandates, slashed budgets and high stakes tests has done the superintendent and our school district no favors. Furthermore more and more parents have abdicated their responsibilities and laid the problems this creates at the feet of the district and this hurts too. Then there is also the community which is great at brainstorming and creating committees or blue ribbon panels but at the end of the day other than saving a few sports and programs, it hasn’t help much either. Heck even the city council is slashing millions from the library budget in a city where reading or lack thereof, is the school systems biggest problem. All of these things hurt our school system and I don’t think any of these things are the superintendent’s fault.

However just because the job is difficult and he has managed to keep the district’s head above water it doesn’t mean he deserves any praise; you see the superintendent is failing to give our kids the one thing he has the power to give and that is a snap shot how the real world works. He is failing to give our children consequences. If a student misbehaves there should be consequences, if a student doesn’t show up there should be consequences, and if a student doesn’t pass the material there should be consequences. Right now kids are passed along without the things they need, not just in school but in life as well, to be successful. They get to high school without discipline, a work ethic or the prerequisite knowledge and by the time that happens, it is game over.

The superintendent could say, we are going to follow the code of conduct and hand out meaningful consequences for bad behavior and he could say we are going to have rigorous classrooms and nobody passes unless they master the material, and he could get rid of learning recovery and make attendance count too but he hasn’t.

He could allow teachers to teach instead of allowing them to be burdened them with superfluous material and he could back them up when they have the audacity, because that’s what it takes now, bold action on the teachers part, to fail or discipline a student. It would be nice if he didn’t treat teachers like replaceable widgets too.

At the end of the day, I don’t care if he is affable, works hard, gives a good speech, helps old ladies across the street or adopts puppies. I care that he does the right thing by our children and when he robs them of consequences he is not doing that.

I read the recent report by the independent auditor about the state of Jacksonville’s education system and where there was a lot of good information in it, it failed to answer the key question facing our city and that is how do so many kids get to high school so unprepared. The answer is because that’s how the superintendent wants it.

The state, the community and the families of the students didn’t tell him to be more preoccupied with appearances than doing what’s right. No friends he chose to and for that reason, as he gives away control of our most struggling schools and allows more and more kids to graduate ill prepared for life because he won’t have the schools do the bare minimum of what they should be doing, he doesn’t deserve our praise. Not mine anyways.

1 comment:

  1. Also he retaliates and allows his administrators to retaliate against employees who voice concerns about issues that hurt students and teachers.