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.

Friday, July 25, 2014

I’m Willing to Give the Task Force Idea(s) a Chance……

…….But I love how there are already people in the peanut gallery pre-judging what the School Board will or won’t do with the “closing the achievement gap” task force’s recommendations.
Some think a 20 minute discussion is insufficient.  I disagree.  I think 20 minutes is more than enough time to hear the recommendations and consider the ideas--as many of these very same issues already consume hours upon hours of meeting time in our district on a yearly basis.  Having more meetings about meetings about ideas will not solve one damn thing; most importantly-- more meetings will not solve the severe problems in some dysfunctional areas of our community that perpetuate the atmosphere that fosters the achievement gap’s existence.  


To solve these MASSIVE social problems will require a sea-change in the entitlement system from the Federal Government downward, to break the cycle of dependence on government largess that from 1965 onward has dis-incentivized family, work, religion, and personal responsibility-destroying the family unit nationwide in the process in some communities.  Until that reform occurs, most of what we can do locally in

 the schools will have marginal impact because it all starts with families and support at the home. Absent that- results will be minimal and difficult to sustain given current financial constraints.

Like the Geico commercial states emphatically-“Everybody knows that!”

Be that as it may, however, I’m all about supporting creative ideas to solve tough issues.  In this regard I’ve brought many ideas over the last few years, including following the Roland Fryer/Geoffrey Canada HCZ model and paying students/parents for grades and attendance, instituting an 8th grade gate for entry to HS-as have Chicago Public Schools, New York Public Schools, and the entire state of California as of 2014- (incentivizing at-risk students who want to play football and basketball to make sufficient progress in middle school in order to enjoy the privilege (not a right) to participate in sports in High School),creating boarding schools to separate at-risk students from their dysfunctionalhome lives, and paying good teachers that want to work in the 12 local schools with the highest levels of social dysfunction a recurring, cumulative salary differential to reduce staff turnover at such schools.  I’ve brought other ideas as well-but most get swatted aside as being too “radical.”   Radical ideas?  Maybe.  But this problem of social apathy in some areas of our community is acute, and requires a mixed cocktail of new targeted solutions for any chance of a cure.

As I have followed the deliberations of the task force group locally and read their narrowing list of recommendations, I do feel like several of the ideas are very worthwhile and deserve consideration/implementation.  I especially like the high school students as tutors idea (which is already happening in pockets of our district, by the way).  Let’s expand that!

I like the idea of mandating parental participation as well, however I’m not sure how such a recommendation could be implemented or enforced—but I’m all for it if it can be done! Perhaps we can intensely focus promotion decisions based upon benchmarked standards in every grade, as we currently do for promotion out of first grade.  This might curb the insidious practice of social promotion that occurs frequently in our district today.

In truth-it does not matter what idea is brought forth; I’ll support any and all effective and workable solutions that will help all students be successful.

I’m just not overly optimistic that any one of these currently proposed ideas will solve  the issues of social blight and apathy that consume large swaths of the community.  But I’m willing to try just about anything to help make a dent in the problems.

As I read comments in the PNJ and from blogs, I see that everyone and his brother have a list of things that “the board ought to be doing!”  Funny thing is we’re doing the lion’s share of these things already.  And we will continue to do these things.

As I read these lists and ponder the good ideas and mentally discard the ridiculous ones, one thing keeps coming to my mind, from my early childhood in CCD in the Catholic Church—the first stanza of the serenity prayer:

“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, Courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

My hope is that more people would come to know that prayer and understand what that first stanza means, and have the courage to change their own paradigm, developing a more highly internalized locus of control, understanding that as human beings it is our choices, our actions, and our efforts that shape our future in the vast majority of instances in America today. 

Refusing to assign blame to the responsible parties for their inaction and apathy, while simultaneously blaming those well intentioned folks who are trying to help students locally-- will not solve problems.

 That liberal mindset does not lend itself to finding real solutions that are sustainable over the long term.

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