Archive for Thursday, May 18, 2006

Letter to the Editor

May 18, 2006

To the editor:

The purpose of this open letter is to encourage Baldwin parents and patrons to examine the school board's 5-2 decision on May 8 to remove two honors classes at the high school (Honors Geometry and Honor World History). In my opinion, poor leadership in our district has resulted in fights over what route to take without a clear destination in mind. The honors class fiasco is one example.

School board member Alison Bauer articulated the "fiasco factor" nicely when she said, "It seems like we offered the classes, had kids sign up for them and then we took them away and said the process was failed, so you can't take the classes." (Right! It seemed that way to me, too.) I found the explanations Mr. White and Connie Wehmeyer offered to encourage the board to dump the honors classes inaccurate and misleading.

First, Mr. White claimed that 1.) There was no process for adding the classes; and 2.) The math PLC (Professional Learning Community) "never discussed" adding an honors geometry class. His first point is inaccurate because there is a process in place through the PLCs. Perhaps there are not yet enough mandated details to suit management, but there definitely is a process mechanism in place. And that brings me to his second point, which was spoken as a rebuke to BJHS Vice Principal Joe Gresnick's suggestion that the "process problem" should be resolved in the PLCs. Mr. White responded by saying the Math PLC did not initiate, let alone discuss adding an honors class at the April 17 collaboration meeting That is not true. Talk to the math teachers who were present. Ask to look at the official math PLC minutes from that meeting.

Second, Connie Wehmeyer's comments were misleading when she warned the school board that it would be "creating two separate tracks" by adding "those classes." She has a point if honors classes are the only additional academic options offered, but it seems to me that Wehmeyer changed the subject altogether when she suggested honors classes at the high school would lead to tracking. The issue at hand was exactly what board member Bill Busby tried so gallantly to keep foremost: Give the honors classes a try since they have already been offered.

As I said before, the honors class fiasco is just one example of what I see as a much larger problem in USD 348: a vision void in district leadership. Our leaders should be inspiring all of us to find the ways and means to increase academic options for all high school students. The more options the better. (Read the May 8, 2006, "Newsweek" cover story entitled "America's Best High Schools: The Top 100," and the April 17, 2006, "Time" special report, "Dropout Nation.")

The high school teachers tried to start a process for increased options, and they were shot down.

Donna Pratt

Baldwin City

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