Thursday, February 26, 2009

Who Rules the Roost?

Okay, Spot...Today's Lesson:

The Board of Education. A number of us were gathered together...a kind of faculty think-tank, puzzling over this topic at lunch. We've become increasingly interested in the concept of governance that rules our system of education, making critical decisions related to final approvals of curriculum and programs, books read and staffing. Recently, our school system began the turbulent process of budget proposals and revisions. Times are tough, we all know that. Members of the board of education have had their plates full this season. Concessions are in the air. We know that. But what we can't seem to get our heads around is how do these decisions actually get made?

The Board of Education. Many a child of the sixties knew the 'board of ed.' to be a plank in the principal's office used to whoop the butt of any kid that couldn't behave in school. Today's board of education is comprised of many community members of varied backgrounds and credentials, most often professionals. These are wonderfully committed individuals. I am not questioning that. Who else on earth would sit in these long evening meetings if it were not for the sake of our student population? Although none of them are educators, they are mostly supportive of the system. Our wondering is this: How is it that so many decisions are made without teacher input? "We have to come to grips with the hard choices ahead," said President Obama. How can we come to grips with our hard choices without ambassadors from the frontline? 

When a surgeon approaches her patient, she gathers a team of consultants from the health 
field, nurses and doctors, who she can count on for good solid advice. Why wouldn't she? The patient's life is at stake. After a total of nine teacher cuts (seven made the end cut) were proposed, we of the teaching world, sat helpless. These decisions that affect the lives of children in the classroom are being made by people who have not set foot in a learning environment with the exception of their own schooling a lifetime ago. We know what staff cutting means in today's classroom. 

But then, just when the bleeding was about to stop,  a member of the board of education proposes randomly cutting six additional teachers! Four teachers at the middle school: thus 100 students to mix into the fray, and 2 more at the intermediate school; an added 50 students to be eased into the mix there. Why? How? Is this even justified? Others on the board were equally horrified. It's pretty embarrassing. The board of education is no longer used solely for whooping the butts of the children, it's now used to whoop the butts of the educators too. Where is the advocacy here? Sometimes politics comes into one could become suspicious in this one case. We won't. Instead we raise only one question.

My question Spot then is this: When will we, the educators, be invited to the table to bring some sense back to the dialogue? After all, we are not children, we are the educated ones, field-tested and in the know on the day-to-day basis.


  1. The link between those of you on the front lines (teachers) and the decision makers (Bd. of Ed.) is the administrators. And that's precisely where the system breaks down. Why isn't the superintendent advocating for you-or is she? Why aren't the other administrators coming forward with their objections over board members who make such absurd motions with no thought behind it. It's like Mike Portnoy on the Board of Finance making arbitrary motions to cut education funding by 2 million dollars!! Where's the outrage? Where's your union? Where are the parents? As Thomas Wolfe said in "Look Homeward Angel", "Oh, where?".

  2. It sounds as if your cuts were for one school, is that correct?
    We are also being hit hard here.
    Read this article, from nearby Clay County schools- they may cut 450 teachers and sports!
    But I live in Duval County, and work for the Diocese of St Augustine.
    The news cameras were in my classroom yesterday. Get a glimpse of me teaching near the middle of the video.