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YEAR'S END

6/25/01

 

    There’s no question but that the Plainview-Old Bethpage Schools are better off today than they were a year ago. This time last year we witnessed the welcomed departure of almost the entire central office staff that had ceased to function and which at time seemed to be practicing a scorched earth retreat. The current central office team has returned bureaucratic competence to the operation of the district. The official papers of the district are in better shape than they have been in for a long time. This is no small accomplishment.

    This central office administrative team is also composed of nicer people. We are no longer plagued by the angry and downright nasty people who appeared to take pleasure from going after innocent people and hurting them. No longer is the district led by an individual who took inspiration from Machiavelli’s The Prince, giving gift copies to members of the Board of Education.

    There is a larger and more important sense, however, in which critical issues remain unaddressed. I begin to fear they will continue to be ignored. Our class sizes in POB are too high, particularly at the secondary level (The opening of the Pasadena school has a salutary effect on class size without requiring the leadership to take a policy decision to reduce it.). They would have us understand that unless we change the way we teach, reductions in class size don’t accomplish very much for students. Do you suppose that if they spent some time teaching they would change their view?

    The same people who won’t hire the teachers necessary for children to flourish in small, intimate classes are not averse to spending scarce dollars to hire more administrators. Why is it so difficult for people to understand that the addition of more bureaucrats to a school district almost never accomplishes anything good for kids. In fact, it robs them of resources that could be used to help them. Whose interests are served by all of the levels of administration in public schools? Why do we tend to use the word "educator" to describe these paper-pushing potentates instead of for the people who actually do the teaching? Why are central office administrators threatened by thoughts of organizing schools differently, creating workplaces in which teachers manage the work they know most about, teaching?

    Local academic standards, student attendance, the appropriate role of parents in the education of their children, creating a sane and coherent reading program, encouraging innovation, organizing and funding a sensible staff development program and figuring out, once and for all how to work with a well organized union with over forty years of aggressively fighting for teachers and kids. This is some of the heavy lifting that needs to be done. Very little is being done elsewhere. Little will probably happen here.

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