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Letter: Education reform

To the editor:

I am writing in response to the numerous letters to the editor that have appeared regarding the competencies, the strategic plan and the conflict between the Douglas County School District and the Douglas County Professional Education Association.

In January, the teacher’s union president, disgruntled at the unwillingness of the district to use “ending fund balance” for teacher salary increases, advised the union membership to “turn their attention to real methods which will change the composition of the district administration and, if necessary, the Board of Trustees (Teacher Advocate, January 2000).” The recent advertisements endorsing the union candidates and attacking the Board of Trustees and the administration, as well as many of the letters to the editor are the culmination of this challenge.

This campaign has also resulted in letters to the editor written by teachers and spouses of teachers – some not quite factual. A letter which appeared in the Oct. 28 Record-Courier written by Doug Reynolds is a perfect example. Mr. Reynolds speaks about the February school board meeting in which a single track “family friendly” calendar was presented and advocated by parents and teachers. Mr. Reynolds claims that Dave Brady was the only board member to “want to hear us.” I pulled out my minutes of that particular meeting and found that the “family friendly” calendar passed by a 6 to 1 vote -in fact, I made the motion to accept it.

Over the past 10 months, I have seen many issues and concerns come before the board. Many of these concerns have been addressed or are in the process of being addressed. The DAC (district accountability committee) will meet in November and will look at student achievement data and possible modifications that should occur in the area of curriculum and competencies. The DAC committee consists of educators, community members and business representatives. The Strategic Planning Committee will meet in January to update and amend the district’s strategic plan. In true education reform, there are always adjustments that can and should be made -all in the best interest of the students and student achievement.

Education has an incredible ability to adapt to its own inability to change. Ninety percent of all education reform efforts throughout the country fail – usually because the effort was only rhetoric and not real, true education reform. Real reform means rolling the efforts through the classroom door to affect instruction and student achievement for all students. For years, schools across the country have provided a rigorous curriculum to the top 20 percent of our children – those identified as college prep. The rest of the children – the neglected majority – have been served a watered down, dumbed down version of the college prep material. This polarization dilemma of “educate the best and forget the rest” has resulted in education systems graduating kids not prepared to go on to further education and not prepared for work. By not serving a more challenging and rigorous curriculum to this huge population of students, we are doing a terrible disservice to them. Employers continually tell me that today’s high technology business world needs employees who are competent in the basic skill areas such as reading, writing, communicating and math. As a school board trustee, I like the idea of guaranteeing to the taxpayers of Douglas County that all graduates will be competent in the basic skill areas.

Our students must be prepared for the numerous challenges they will face upon graduation. As a school board trustee in Douglas County, I am proud that we are one of the few districts in the nation to step up to the plate and say, “We will no longer overlook that huge group of students – the neglected majority.”

Please join me in voting for Charles Pullen, John Raker, George Echan and David Brady on Nov. 7. These individuals have assured the public that they will focus on student achievement and competency attainment for all students of Douglas County.

Michele Lewis

Douglas County School District

Board of Trustees, Member

Oct. 31