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Sunday, February 26, 2012

Why John Meeks should run against Martha Barrett

John is a long time teacher and education advocate. This is what he said about finding a new superintnendent. -cpg

Transformation of our school system can be accomplished without spending one more cent on 'transformational' ideas and programs that end up draining our coffers and end up being dumped for the next big thing.

As a public school teacher, I think that we can transform our schools for the better by implementing three important things:

1. First of all, Duval County Public Schools can take a stand for the students who wish to learn. Through perception or reality of general safety in our public schools, parents do not wish to send their children to schools where they believe that safety is an issue. Real transformation would empower schools to handle disciplinary issues firmly and fairly. Real transformation would not turn a blind eye to disruptive and/or violent students, but would look for ways to correct their behavior in the best interest of all students. The same applies to finding ways to reach out to students who have been retained in school and are considerably older than their classroom peers. Many behavior issues stem from students who have seen the same grade level material for two or more years and need a setting in which they are not stigmatized for being 'over age' and have no other outlet but to act out in the classroom.

2. Second of all, Duval County Public Schools can streamline the programs that it is implementing in schools. In my nine years in the classroom, I have seen programs and initiatives come down the pike. The school system likes purchasing and launching, but fails to see the cumulative effect of it all that is putting an undue burden on those who are trying to get the job done of teaching our children. It is time for a transformational leader to take stock of all that is done in the schools and to help set priorities for teachers to focus on and to remove what is just window dressing.

3. Speaking of window dressing, we need to best identify what is helping our students in the classroom and how to better help our teachers help our students. As it is today, we have people from the district offices who go into classrooms and seem to be more interested in playing 'gotcha.' These classroom 'walk through' sessions are needed to keep teachers accountable, but they seem to always be heavy on the criticism and intimidation. I say this because adults are putting on shows for other adults with clipboards simply to avoid reprisals from their administrators. Real classroom walk through sessions would take into account what the schools can do to best serve their children without belaboring the kind of minutiae that only the folks from downtown seem to care about.

We are making positive steps toward a more transparent school system in which parents have real time access to their children's grades. We are making positive steps toward a more cooperative school system where teachers are working in Professional Learning Communities (PLCs). We are making positive steps toward a more literate school system through implementing reading strategies that work for all. It is up to us, however, to advocate for real transformation so our work is not in vain.

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