Wednesday, December 17, 2008

A few thoughts on our abyssmal education system and what needs to happen

I just read that the Yonkers superintendent of schools makes some $261,954 annually in his compensation package. Why do we need these individuals? Can't school boards do an adequate job of supervising schools? If we multiplied this two hundred plus thousand dollars a year by all school districts across the state, we could put that money to use in classrooms, not in the pork belly that is administration.

I would like to see male teachers, or those desiring to teach - be offered the benefit of having their education paid for if they teach in an inner city school for 5 years post graduation. This would ensure that we have some of the brightest and most dedicated students coming to the program and also provide our unmentored youth the opportunity to have a male role model in their lives on a regular basis, particularly in these days of rising divorce and single parent statistics.

As a mother raising 3 sons alone after a divorce, I was so very grateful to teachers, male and female who mentored my 2 sons (one was not as lucky and slipped right through the cracks to the bottom rung of the ladder, which subsequently broke and did not catch him when he fell). I was appreciative of late night phone calls to advise me of missing assignments and other pertinent information.

I have spent years volunteering in public schools and taught in a private school for a season. What I learned is that there is a tremendous amount of waste that takes place in the office of administration/superintendent. The salaries are about 5 times what a teacher makes, granted, years of experience and in some cases, a PhD are required to be a superintendent, but when schools are struggling and classes are too large, teachers overworked and underpaid, we need to revisit the structure, do we not?

I had the fortune of attending a private girls school in London, England - I was then moved to a public school. I recognized immediately the difference and even had the audacity to go to the principal to voice my concerns over what the problems were that appeared to be limiting learning for students.

What I learned in Europe is that 6 weeks' vacation in the summer is just the right amount of time off. A few weeks interspersed for spring break and fall break provided the balance for the remainder of the year. The long breaks in the American school system are no longer in line with how we live our lives - the American farmer is all but obsolete with no need for children to be home an entire season to help with planting and harvesting of crops. What I subsequently learned as a volunteer and then educator in American schools is that students spend from September to December catching up on what they "forgot" or unlearned over summer vacation. This is not acceptable and as long as we refuse to address this inequity, we will never be able to compete with our scholastic counterparts in other parts of the world.

American schools clearly need an overhaul - I look to the Obama administration to correct this imbalance.

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