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January 21, 2013

School System's Insulting Propaganda

Cindy A. Rose

Heart strings, shoe strings and purse strings, what do they have in common? They are the instructions on how to get the community to request more money on behalf of Frederick County Public Schools.


Pull at the heart strings by trotting out the talented, adorable, attractive and disabled children. Then imply success is happening on a shoestring that is about to break, thus encouraging the community to opening its purse strings. They are also known as puppet strings.


Frankly, I’m tired of being manipulated by everyone in politics. Make no bones about it, school governance is political.


I’ve been to two of the three events for the “Promise of a Public Education.” Oddly, there was little talk about academics. You know, the thing education is supposed to be all about. However, there was a ton of talk about how schools are the mechanism to level the social playing field.


At the “Rally for the Promise” last week, the keynote speaker, Joshua Pedersen, president and CEO of United Way of Frederick County only mentioned education in the context of being the best mechanism to keep people out of poverty. I agree 100% with that sentiment.


He is either confused or mistaken, though. That is not the promise made by a public education. That was the request approved by our citizens when we decided social services were necessary. I couldn’t agree more, and I hope we have that conversation. It does not belong in the one about what does a public education mean to you during budget talks.


Heck, the employment status of the keynote speaker is in and of itself a red flag as to what education has become.


I know why he was chosen. We all know how politicians and bureaucrats like to use children as props in order to garner sympathy with their supporters. Getting money for social programs is more difficult than getting money for education. Hey, maybe that’s why they are melding social services with education! What better way to get funding for these items than to disguise them as part of our schools responsibility?


Education dollars are getting harder and harder to come by. The money we do get needs to go to our children for academics. That is where the promise was made – that every child, regardless of economic and social status would have the education that only the affluent were getting.


In essence we are, once again, denying them that education because we are funneling those funds to social programs and then scratching our heads wondering why Johnny and Suzie can’t read, write and calculate. But, hey, they sure do feel good about their ignorance, are lowering their cholesterol and they know how to recycle. Just don't ask them who James Madison was, or what the capital of Maryland is.


I was disappointed in the public turn out at both 0f the events I attended. A friend said the first event was the same. Eighty percent or higher participation is from Frederick County Public Schools staff, the remainder is parent with a few local business people.


The ratio of staff to parents (read, parents who do not work in any capacity for our school system) indicates to me that Dr. Theresa Alban, our superintendent, has yet to obtain parent participation.


Parents don’t participate because we already know the drill and are bored, angered and frustrated by it.


I’ve mentioned to several school system administration what parents want to talk about. It's not necessarily related to their budget directly. Parents have a casual interest in the budget categories only as they related to the education their child is receiving or will receive.


Their direct interest is in the academics, the curriculum, the resources, the ability of the teacher and staff at their child’s school. They don’t care about the Taj Mahal, unless you are talking about how much money it took out of the classroom to build it.


I will give half a credit for the public meeting this past summer on Common Core. I’m giving only half a credit because only half the information was given to parents. Since I did not attend, I am going on third-party information. It’s my understanding that the pros were shared at this meeting, but the cons were not.


In my personal experience I have yet to see evidence of administration actually “hearing” what parents are saying. When Dr. Alban removed the parent trigger from the Textbook Reconsideration Policy and denied requests to record “Curriculum and Instruction” meetings (and the other meetings as well) that reinforced my opinion that Frederick County Public Schools doesn’t want parents to know the details of the inner workings of our own schools. They do not want "real" participation.


So, I’m insulted, and I am sure other parents as well are insulted, that Dr. Alban is soliciting our input on the budget after ignoring our true concerns.


I’m insulted that she is asking me to contact the Frederick County Board of Education and the Board of County Commissioners on the schools behalf to ask for more funding.


I’m insulted that I’ve gotten a dozen “factoids” using Find Out First, on school system statistics ranging from poverty to how “lean” the administration is. Yet I couldn’t get one notice to be sent pointing out to parents that there were some concerns about the content in a text book.


I’m insulted that the information given at these events is self-serving and lacking the total picture of what our schools are really doing.


I’m insulted that the data is manipulated to paint a picture at budget time that more money is needed, other counties are doing better and we need to keep up.


When it’s not budget time, we hear – at the Board of Education meetings – how our students are over-achievers, our teachers are fantastic and we are the Number One school in the state that is Number One in the country.


To recap, we are only Number One until budget talks begin; then we are in horrible shape and need more money to move “forward.” Maintaining the “status quo” is unacceptable.


I don’t know about you, but to me, when you are Number One and you no longer wish to maintain the status quo, the only way to go is down.



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