I am one member of a five person board. The opinions I express on this forum are mine only, and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the Escambia County Staff, Administrators, Employees, or anyone else associated with Escambia County Florida. I am interested in establishing this blog as a means of additional transparency to the public, outreach to the community, and information dissemination to all who choose to look. Feedback is welcome, but because public participation is equally encouraged, appropriate language and decorum is mandatory.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Is it Really Everybody Else's Fault George?

This is my response to George Hawthorne's disingenuous editorial from Sunday's PNJ: George-your use of selected quotes of mine, taken out of context, then re-constituted inappropriately to cast me in a false light is both disingenuous and disappointing. Let’s get the facts straight. I have never said I believe the District is perfect or even blameless when it comes to some issues. To the contrary-there are many things I know we need to be doing to continuously improve for all students. I’m not shy about it either-just peruse the videos of our workshops and meetings over the last few years if you don’t believe me-I constantly urge the district to try new ideas to improve, and that’s not going to stop anytime soon. However- with respect to your editorial on how we’re somehow to blame-I’ve got to take issue with you on that. Because I know that to develop successful students requires a strong partnership with the family. You see, George, the lion’s share of the problems with some students at some schools (the 12 schools in our district with the highest levels of social dysfunction) is not a problem with poverty as much as it is a problem with the families of these students in these schools--families that in many instances have abdicated all of their parental responsibilities. Then, when their children do not succeed, these same people engage in a systematic blaming of anyone that will listen and give them an audience. But they never own any of the problems as their own. George, if you can’t see this, don’t see this, or won’t see this- then we can’t have intelligent discourse on this or any subject-as you are intellectually dishonest and engaging in blame shifting in order to dodge uncomfortable realities you simply never will admit. Be that as it may, let me ask some rhetorical questions of you George. 1. If we are such failures as educators in this district—as you put it---how do so many students (including MANY students who live in poverty) in our district achieve stunning successes yearly, winning more national merit scholarships than any other panhandle district, multiple appointments to military academies yearly, and admission to some of the finest universities in our nation on a consistent yearly basis? By contrast-how do some students who have the same access to all the same resources that produce these many highly successful students referenced above-how do these others not achieve? (hint: family support plays a role) 2. How do we succeed at bringing Limited English Proficient students who arrive in our district from out of country yearly-how do we succeed in many instances with such students to a point where they are tops in their classes in English and writing within 2-3 years? (hint: we impart the same teaching and provide the same resources, but family support plays a critical role) George, if your doctor told you for decades and decades on end to quit smoking but you didn’t-- and you found yourself dying of lung cancer—would you be the guy who would blame the doctor and hospital? George, if crime in your neighborhood remains rampant but nobody in the neighborhood cooperates with police investigators-are you the guy who would blame the police on the beat for your high crime neighborhood? George, above all else, please just have the intellectual honesty to keep it real. Blaming imperfect governance for the failures of whole neighborhoods for decades running is ridiculous. Quoting gobbledygook, mumbo jumbo from business books you brought down from your shelf and dusted off to make points that are meaningless to this discussion—this impresses no one and in many ways just illustrates to a greater degree the level to which you are detached from the reality of the situation. George, here is the way this works: We will keep trying to reach all students as best we can, no matter what, and no matter if their own families check out altogether( which sadly is a common occurrence) Along the way, however, I will never allow people like you to misappropriate blame to hard working teachers and administrators for the failures of some parents and some communities that do not, apparently, place high value in education. George, there are teachers, administrators, community volunteers, and other partners throughout our district that are working themselves to death, killing themselves slowly while trying to teach every student everyday no matter where these students come from! Do you get this? I won’t let you spit in the collective faces of these dedicated employees as you attempt to tell them they are failures! You know where the real blame lies but cannot bring yourself to name it which is sad but not surprising.

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