A PR person or a policy maker?

11:52 am

When David Wynde, wearing a Hawaiian shirt, used his single question last night to ask prospective board members to name a positive thing the district has done during his five years on the board, you can’t help but think of all the irrelevant — often disrespectful — questions asked during the presidential primary debates.

It is not the role of school board members to give warm fuzzies. Their role is to make policy.

I haven’t watched the forum yet, but Beth Slovic has a write-up online in which she takes the analogy to Democratic presidential candidates a step further.

Any reports from those who saw the forum are appreciated here.

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Steve Rawley published PPS Equity from 2008 to 2010, when he moved his family out of the district.

filed under: Media, School Board

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6 Responses

  1. Comment from Lakeitha:

    I saw a large amount of the forum on TV. It’s a sad day when I would rather watch Hillary Clinton on TV than to be engaged in PPS Politics. Thanks to Steve B for saying some of the things that need to be said. There were one or two answers by different candidates that shows that they had done some of their research but no one who stood out to me as someone who would take the lead on really addressing equity issues. No one who was clearly committed to being there for the long haul.

  2. Comment from Steve Buel:

    I usually don’t comment on this type of thing, but I have been working on school board issues since 1975 and I first campaigned for the school board in 1976. Kind of sounds like the long haul to me. Hopefully I will be around for the next few years at least, or did I look that old on TV?

  3. Comment from Steve Rawley:

    Okay, now that I’ve watched the thing, I think David’s shirt might not have been Hawaiian.

    Also, I appreciate that his question gave Buel an excellent opportunity for the last word in the forum.

    After personally thanking David Wynde for getting the district’s financial house in order, Buel delivered the zinger of the night.

    “We’ve done a very good job of keeping the Grant, Lincoln, Wilson and Cleveland clusters solid. Solid as a rock, those guys, and they’re doing well. We’ve done a great job in that.”

    Gonzalez came off as warm, sincere, open, well-informed on dual language immersion programs and the Latino community, and completely non-confrontational.

    There certainly can’t be much question who this board, which has distinguished itself by fetishizing consensus and eschewing public deliberation, will choose.

    Rita Moore and Buel alone showed a thorough understanding of how the student transfer policy, in combination with the school funding policy, are the prime source of inequity in the district.

    I would have liked to hear more candidates hammer on the point, both when talking about equity and “achievement,” that we’ve got to quit obsessing on equity of outcomes when we have such little control over the inputs in a student’s life.

    Buel hit on this a couple times, but I’m afraid the nuance may have been lost on those less familiar with the issue.

    “Closing the achievement gap” is like the “war on terror.” The proponents of this war understand it can never be won, but it serves the agendas of those who would privatize our schools through charters and vouchers.

    (This is a national issue, and our board and administration seem to be just going along with the trend, whether or not they personally want to privatize our schools).

    If we really want to close the gap in test scores between poor students and rich ones, we’re going to have to invest in affordable housing, family wage jobs, family counseling, drug prevention, teenage jobs progams, etc. It’s beyond the scope of what we can realistically accomplish as a district.

    Instead, we’ve got to focus on the inputs we do control — that is, educational opportunity — and admit that our focus on outcomes has resulted in a dramatic erosion of opportunity in our poorest neighborhoods.

    I believe this board is extremely reluctant to publicly debate their transfer and school funding policies, which is why I believe they are extremely unlikely to appoint Buel of Moore.

  4. Comment from Lakeitha:

    Steve B,I didn’t mean you,I meant that none of the other candidates other than you seemed to be committed for the long haul. As a person who was born in 1976 and attended Humboldt Elementary School, Thank You Steve for your commitment to students like me who would have likely fell through the cracks had it not been for advocates like you. I said a few times during the broadcast, he hit the nail on the head, unfortunately, they won’t appoint him.

    Steve R, I agree with much of your post. The only difference is that I don’t even want them to close the gap in test scores (I am not a fan of standardized tests). I want them to acknowledge and close the education gap between rich and poor children and white children and children of color. Even gifted children who are able to pass the test are not being taught or encouraged to think critically, they are not being given opportunities to explore music, art or engineering.
    There were two defining moments that caused me to finally say enough is enough. The first was when my gifted child came home with a sheet of paper cut in a rectangle printed to be a million dollar bill. On the bill, it said congratulations, you exceed your score and listed her standardized test scores. She was proud because the students had compared their scores and according to the numbers, she was “The smartest Kid in 5th grade”. My first issue was that she has exceeded the required scores on the test the first time that she had taken it so, why was she being required to take it again? Second, I had to remind her of the community service project that she had done the weekend prior and how proud I was that she had held lead the effort to create the project. I wanted her to know that those types of things were more valuable than any test scores. Third, I wonder how the student who had the lowest scores on their test felt, I wonder if they went home thinking that they were the dumbest kid in the 5th grade.
    My second incident involved a student in my after-school program who was sent to me for acting out in class, he was crying and hitting himself on the head and extremely upset, he was saying everyone hates me,I am so stupid and things like that, after reassuring him that there were people who liked him and attempting to reassure him that he was not stupid, he said I am stupid, I don’t understand my homework and I can’t do math, I said well, let’s talk to your counselor and let her know some of these things and we can see we can do. He said, ” no one believes me. I have told them, but they don’t believe me because I keep passing the test.” What this young man was saying to me was that, I know that I don’t really understand this stuff and I keep reaching out for help but, no one does anything because I can pass the test. I sat in my office and cried when he left because it saddened me to know that he was going to continue to struggle but recieve no real help because he could pass the test.

  5. Comment from Steve Rawley:

    Lakeitha, I think we’re in agreement. I don’t think we should be focused on test scores at all.

    My statement beginning “If we really want to close the gap in test scores…” was intended to illustrate the folly of trying to equalize outcomes when the schools can never equalize inputs.

    What we can equalize is opportunity, but we’ve done just the opposite over the last 15 years.

    Thanks for your anecdotes. Too often the way these tests affect students is completely overlooked by the grown ups who have become obsessed with them.

  6. Comment from Terry:

    Wonderful comment, Lakeitha. You move the abstract to the personal.

    Steve R., I love your analogy –closing the achievement gap is as futile as the war on terror. It’s striking that you accuse the proponents of the “war” on the achievement gap of understanding that it can never be won, but they forge ahead with it anyway because it serves their interests.

    Brilliant insight!

    But you may give the school board too much credit. Surely Ruth realizes the impossibility of equalizing educational outcomes between privileged and at risk students . Perhaps David Wynde does as well. And Dilafruz (I would hope.)

    As for the rest of them, I have my doubts.

    BTW, Lakeitha, we need someone with your keen insights and experience on the board. I hope you decide to run. Sincerely.