Wednesday, January 23, 2008

A tale of two schools - part 3

I worked with McKell Withers, Superintendent of SLC Public Schools, on the SLC Reads Together Book Club, which I co-chaired for a season. I even prepared a letter for his signature and the Mayor's to attach to a grant application for the NEA, taking care to hand carry it to his office at the Administration building, not trusting the precious document to the inept US Postal Service. The state of Utah is historically underfunded when it comes to NEA funding - I wonder why? More dichotomies......

I digress - the grant was awarded in October of 2006 - the very last (major) thing I accomplished as a staffer in the SLC Mayor's office. It was quite a coup - I had coralled a group from Huntsman's staff, the SLC Library and SLC School District representatives - the grant is in excess of one million dollars.

I also met with Dr. Withers with my son Tye in person to speak with him regarding the ineptitude of the staff at West High which caused him to skip class repeatedly without consequences, not even in school detention, or cleaning up of cigarette butts - anything to provide a natural or imposed consequence for missing school.

Interesting to note that I have yet to hear back from him in response to the missive that I sent two days ago.

On the other hand, the superintendent for Kalamazoo Public Schools whom I have never met, but is clearly more responsive has already responded to me that he is having a staffer review my concerns.

Why are America's public schools failing again? Why is SLC School District allowing 40% of minority students to drop out of school? Why was Michael Clara not elected to the school board? He could see the writing on the wall and was advocating for kids at West High and he is not a "father", but he takes parenting/mentoring seriously.

Remember the referendum on vouchers? The owner of was hugely invested in the campaign - he spent a significant portion of his monies to fund the education campaign. I recall his disgust when he was interviewed on local TV after the defeat - His words resonated in my ears - I think he called the parents of Utah children - misguided, or something like that.

We are not all misguided, but that was a campaign of misinformation that was leashed on Utah's public like never before. I wonder if Gayle Ruzicka's hand was in it.

Check out Utah Council of Educators - I served as an advisory board member. I suppose I am still even from a distance. There is a force in Utah known as the NEA - -they can't quite seem to get much done for the students or teachers, except NEA week. A friend of mine is working on his Master's degree and teaches in a public school somewhere in the Wasatch Front - his wife just had a baby and is taking time off from teaching in a parochial school to be a full time mum. He will make some $39,000 with a Master's Degree. Lower than the national average, and certainly less than a superintendent of schools.

Who is doing the real work in Utah's schools? Who is in the trenches getting it done?

The parents, volunteers and those who are sick and tired of excuses - "No more excuses, invest in charter schools!" I like the sound of that.

I think I will email my friend, Laurie Fue and see what I can do to help UTCE from the other side of the country - amazing what some distance and perspective can do.

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