The state’s report on our school children’s performance must concern students, teachers’ administrators, support staff, parents and grandparents. The citizens and community leadership responsible for economic growth must also be taking notice.
There are examples of cities that declined to the point of no return. Research will show that in many cases it began with the regression of the school systems. Crime rates rise, home values sink, businesses move out and families move. I submit that the aforementioned stakeholders are not concerned enough to take assertive action.
There were four examples of successful school districts. In Luzerne County, one was the Dallas School District. The district’s superintendent states that part of the reason is “we hire the best.” By employing the best teachers and administrators you create an efficient think tank of problem solvers. By hiring “the very best” you have on hand professionals who truly care about children; be assured the students are the first to recognize this and will respond accordingly. The Wilkes-Barre Area School District, following the appointment of the board member’s kin states they hired the “most qualified.” I prefer “we hire the best.” The Dallas district is ranked nationally!
It is frustrating to read what school leadership identifies as the reasons for poor district achievement — special ed and transit students. Of course they are part of the equation, but there are just too many examples where model programs/schools have recruited the at-risk students to enter their school and have experienced phenomenal success. One such program was in Williamsport. Designed after the German apprenticeship the program for at risk students excelled to the point that Peter Jennings’ “American Agenda” evening newscast featured the program for five minutes. The Smithsonian magazine printed five pages on the success of this program. What’s more three of the highest achievers were invited to the Rose Garden to meet with President Bill Clinton; this program is just one example of many across the United States.
I observed this program first hand that enrolled attendance/discipline problem children, academically deficient students and some potential drop outs bored with traditional education.
An outstanding journalist, now retired, has championed the consolidation theory for communities and school districts. In small school districts students are short changed as resources are limited by a small tax base. A 900-student district has a board of education, a superintendent, at least two or three principals. A business office with a business manager adds to the cost of operation. I am a strong supporter of the neighborhood schools and districts. But unfortunately it is apparent at this time we can’t afford to operate at this low level. Not only does this affect the operational budget but student achievement as well.
The Wilkes-Barre acting superintendent states the State’s cuts are devastating. What is devastating is the cost of fraud, the over-payment of the district’s solicitor, and investing three million dollars in a football stadium at a school being considered for demolition. Then there was spending $10,000 paid to recruit a superintendent and hiring an in-house person who declined the position — that is devastating. Think any of the aforementioned may be the reason the Wilkes-Barre Area school district students missed 20 of the requirements?
What are the results of unacceptable student test scores? Families leave the district. This further exacerbates the budget shortfall. When students enroll in cyber or charter schools the state funding follows the students. It is a fact that not all departing students are the low achievers, in fact it may be a majority of average or above average, further contributing to test score declines. Consolidation of facilities must also be considered as enrollments continue to decline with charter schools and families leaving the city. It is incomprehensible for educators to say the charter and cyber schools are ruining the public schools. The public schools are ruining the public schools. If students are fleeing, they better find out why.
Richard A. Holodick, Ph.D. is a retired education administrator. He lives in Wilkes Barre.