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Having been a teacher for over 33 years, I am concerned about the issue of school governance and, in particular, I take issue with the extent mayoral control of the city public school system has affected our children’s education over the past several years.
These are some of the points I question:
1. The mayor appoints the schools chancellor and other school leaders to the Department of Education. He boasts he is treating the school system like a business. But the people appointed have little or no classroom experience. The mayor and his appointees do not understand how schools and children function.
2. Because of mayoral control, principals have absolute power. If he or she chooses, teachers can have little or no say in the running of the school. This leads to poor staff morale. Teachers are trained experts in education and their input is valuable.
3. There is a great fear in schools of test results. Test results are used to evaluate and rate schools. Administrators and teachers are under pressure to get good scores. Teachers and parents report that test preparation is the main learning goal much of the time in schools. How can children learn to think “outside the box” and use their creative talents when so much time is devoted to test preparation exercises? How can teachers use their own talents to motivate and excite children to love learning when so much emphasis is placed on test results and the repercussions that will occur if scores do not measure up?
4. I have heard many parents complain that they have no place to go if they have a concern or problem. If the principal does not satisfy the parent, that seems to be the end of the road unless the parent wants to take the issue to the chancellor. District superintendents seem to be figureheads. They have lost most of their authority under mayoral control. Individual school districts have also lost their identity. Everything is orchestrated by the mayor and chancellor.
Before mayoral control became law, there were some very serious problems with our school system. There are still serious problems and issues under mayoral control. A balance is needed when it comes to the way our school system is run.
We need a strong central figure, but we must also listen to teachers, parents and other community residents who have worthwhile ideas and suggestions to contribute so we can create the best school system and best learning environment possible.
The law regarding mayoral control expires in June. The new law must concentrate on what is best for the students throughout the city.
©2009 Community Newspaper Group
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