Thanks, JCLifer. I guess "where" and "why" aren't on the list of journalist questions these days. At least we got the "who" "what" and "when".
...and it costs how much? And there is/is not a limited printing? And the contact information for the Foundation/Book Project is? And the Foundation will use the proceeds for what?
Hopefully, the "more reliable measurements of public opinion" the "intelligent people who are involved and in a position to get things done will use" include the election results.
For me, there is no difference in the content of what I post here and what I share elsewhere. While some do use the comparitive anonymity to their advantage by posting under nicknames, I do not. WHile some do use the comparitive anonymity to engage in personal attack, I do not, though I do hold people accountable for what they say and do.
As I shared with the editor of the paper, letters to him do not afford a sufficiently large forum to address the complex issues the district faces.
Many of the points I raised in this forum during the past 90 days were presented directly to the Superintendent of Schools last fall, in writing, from professional educators, and he elected not to respond. They remained therefore unanswered in the minds of voters, and doubt about their answers was expressed by others in this forum and in the letters to the editor as lately as the weekend prior to the election. Management 101: fail.
Ballot issues are not a dice toss that we throw in the air and hope will randomly fall in favor of our views. Campaigns are won and lost because of the strategies, actions, communications, oversights, and silences proponents and opponents choose to make. The election results prove that this was not a closely contested issue. Hotly contested, yes; closely contested, no. When campaign leaders state the day after such a defeat they would not change anything they did in the campaign; when the Superintendent states the day after such a defeat that "the people weren't ready to accept" his losing proposal; and when the JCPS spokesperson saturates television media the day after such a defeat by predicting that now the voters will have to support a $1.10 increase per $100 of assessed valuation instead of the $.55 increase they just resoundingly defeated--in those circumstances, with those words, with those actions, with those choices, the proponents of the failed measure and the district leaders demonstrate a profound lack of sophistication and understanding as to the effective execution of the tasks before them.
Regarding several of the comments in the preceding thread, the voter turnout and the margin of defeat for both school issues clearly show that many thousands more voters than the posters here did not support those issues, and that many thousands more voters opposed those issues than supported them.
Sour grapes, no matter the passion that informs them, are no more constructive than gloating.
Though there are many elements of the failed campaign that the Superintendent and School Board (not three local women, but the Superintendent and School Board) should examine and revise before appealing for public support again, one of them has already displayed itself in this thread.
Respectfully, the school district does not have a monopoly on forums used to discuss and debate school issues. Meaningful, effective community engagement by public school districts is a much larger, more complex, and more challenging realm of work than merely inviting folks to district-run meetings or to participate in district-structured committees. Public comment forums, editorial and op-ed letters, etc., are just as impactful and valid a method of expression and influence than district meetings. Districts that truly have public support understand this, and would recognize JCPS' approach in this election as a decent effort on about 25% of what should have been done.
Simplistic, reductionist thinking is not helpful in these efforts, even when it is the recommendation of fee-paid consultants. I understand the common belief among school boards and superintendents that by controlling process they can control outcome, and I have even used that belief in my own professional work, with more success than the district needed here. But where that belief is only superficially applied, or treated as a perfunctory obligation, or pursued as if it could be totally addressed through a series of scheduled, agenda-controlled, heavily formatted, PowerPoint and handout-driven "work" meetings, common sense alone allows citizens to see right through that curtain and identify those approaches for what they are--uninformed, simplistic, arrogant, and unlikely to convert critics to the cause.
Sancho, please follow the lead of the Superintendent and the Board, and take some time to consider and closely analyze real and alleged missteps in the conduct of this campaign (starting with the less-than-unanimous support for these issues on the Board itself), before admonishing others as to what they "must" and "should" do to satisfy you next time around.
Thanks to all who voted, on both sides of this issue.
Not exactly accurate, kentheco, but there is some kernel of truth. When the district sold the two Middle Schools proposal to the voters, one of the persuasive points at the time was that, due to their thoughtful design, the two middle schools could at a future time be easily converted into two High Schools. All that would be necessary, we were told, would be things like raising the water fountains in the 6th grade wings, etc, and "voila!", the city would have two fairly modern, identically equipped, perfectly suitable high schools, conveniently located on opposite ends of town. At that time, we could simply build a new middle school or else convert the High School campus to a middle school, and get on with teaching and learning.
Somehow, all that good planning evaporated as the district geared up to sell yesterday's soundly defeated proposal.
I could not in good conscience vote for or recommend others vote for a ballot issue driven by a campaign as poorly conceived and executed as this one. No focus on student learning; no meaningful data; no valid, reliable research; an expensive dog-and-pony show overly reliant on local personalities and their repetitive expression of uninformed opinion to take the place of meaningful public dialogue; a proposal vetted for "financial sense" by a private organization that cannot meet its own operating costs; a Superintendent who did not even galvanize unanimous support on his own Board before driving the campaign public; it's just too much.
I am more profoundly convinced than ever that the administrative leader of the district does not understand how to guarantee learning, how to improve levels and rates of learning, or how to lead others to do the same.
For me, the only possible credibility-regaining act the Board might pursue to pull the district out this nosedive of competence would be to use a defeat of this bond proposal as the point of departure for a thoughtful, data-driven, research-based, cost-effective, common-sensical approach, led by the Superintendent himself, to do what is needed to improve learning first, and to address magically lavish capital campaigns second.
Be sure to vote!
Two other differences between those forums are these:
1. To the degree that they elicit readers' interest sufficient for them to part with money, Letters to the Editor assist the newspaper in its primary mission, which is not to publish truth or news, but rather, to sell newspapers.
2. Unsullied as they may be by the distracting influence of the author's name, online comments assist the reader to focus on the ideas presented and the issues discussed, rather than the personalities involved.
JC teachers are terrific people, and some are also highly effective instructors. There is no data however to support the contention that as a group, they are among the finest teachers in the country, and currently, there is no data-based system of evaluation or comparison in place that would support that assertion. You are welcome to your belief, of course, and as I acknowledged above and do so here again, JC teachers are terrific people.
There IS firm data however, generated by the district itself, to show that JC's terrific people are not necessarily highly effective instructors. This does not make them bad people, or worthy of ridicule or derision. It is however an alarming indicator of a lack either of understanding or leadership or both, on the part of building and district administrators and the Board of Education, as to how a publicly supported high school of any size or organizational model guarantees effective learning for all.
Honorable personalities and well-behaved children are worthy of celebration, and JC residents are rightly proud of both.
The fundamental task of schools however, is to guarantee learning, and with regard to that topic, JC residents have cause for concern. The insistence by some community members, including some school personnel, that different buildings and a marginally-proven operational model will somehow elevate the learning of students who continue to be taught by the same teachers, who are in turn managed by the same leaders, seems far more deeply rooted in hope than in likelihood. When such magical thinking is proposed in the absence of serious, data-driven conversation about what instruction is NOT working, in which buildings, in which grades, in which subject matters, in which classrooms, district and building credibility are at risk.
Other Missouri districts do better, with older buildings, with conventional operational models, and with multiple high schools, every day.
Be sure to vote.
If the current JCHS facilities are no longer suitable for instruction, someone should probably alert Linn State and Lincoln U, since they will no doubt want to reconsider their purchase options, even at the fire-sale prices they obtained.
If the current JCHS facilities are no longer sufficient for effective teaching and learning, someone should probably alert the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, since (as the state's accreditting agency for k-12 schools), they conduct annual data-based reviews and periodic in-person reviews of all public school facilities in JC and in all the rest of Missouri's 522 districts, and they have made no indication of any such facility-based problem.
If the current JCHS facilities are not conducive to safe learning as a consequence of their electrical infrastructure, someone should probably alert the Fire Marshal, as he and his staff periodically inspect every classroom there right down to what extension cords are and are not permitted, and they have made no public indication of any such infrastructural insufficiency or problem.
JCHS teachers are fine people, to be sure, but if Brenda Hatfield thinks that they include "the finest teachers in the country," someone should probably alert JCPS HR director Penny Rector, since in the absence of any performance evaluation system, professional assessment, cross-state or national means of comparison, or any objective standard from which to draw such a conclusion, such information would certainly be news to her, and something she would no doubt want to publicize.
Some clasroom spaces at JCHS have been redesigned, reconfigured, and re-wired to permit more electrical devices than others, to be sure, but if Shane Williams thinks that his current ability to use his district-provided computer and his district-provided web access, (connected to a district-provided projector and a district-provided screen or whiteboard) limits his capacity to teach Spanish, he should probably alert the majority of classroom teachers in Mexico and South America, who seem to do alright in Spanish instruction without any of those indulgences, and who also (by the way) live in the 21st century.
If readers feel JCHS teachers "know what is best for kids", they should probably visit with the 17% of all JCHS students and the 31% of African-American JCHS students who don't graduate, or with the 40+% of JCHS students who score only "Basic" or "Below Basic" for math skills, science skills, and social studies skills, where "Basic" and "Below Basic" are defined by the state as "Not showing mastery" or "Showing limited mastery" of those essential skills.
We need to remedy absent instructional leadership and ineffective instruction INSIDE the buildings, before we blame the buildings themselves for low levels of learning.
Districts across Missouri do better, with more challenging students, in older buildings, and with multiple high schools, every day.
"I think we have a proposal that will help us build the facilities we need. We then need to make sure we provide our kids the best education we can."
Well, I don't think the proposal you have is the one that will build the facilities the community needs, and even if you did, I think you have the order of those two efforts exactly wrong.
And real research (not field trips), says you have it wrong also.
Filling new, purpose-built buildings with leaders who have already demonstrated they are powerless to improve learning, and with teachers unprepared for the purpose of those buildings, will not help students, their families, or the larger community. Honest disclosure of the district's own data, and of the state's data on the district, clearly shows that district and building leaders have not succeeded even in conventional approaches to education--approaches being used elsewhere, in Missouri, by districts both larger and smaller than JCPS, with success.
This is the time for common sense, for pragmatism, for accountability, and for facts. This is not the time for wishful, magical thinking.
Be sure to vote.
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