We have an Education commissioner designee who has already come under attack. The attacks I have seen are not based on facts. In fact, some of the attacks are coming from those in our community who actually think that we really don't have serious problems in education.
Governor deJongh searched for the best candidate to implement his vision of reform for the department of education. Dr. Lynn Spampinato is his choice. If at any time, she is failing him, he can replace her. In the meantime, I urge the senate to focus on relevant issues. Sen. White and cronies will probably lambaste her for being a statesider, for having several jobs in the last decade, and who knows what else. The relevant question is: "Can she do the job?"
I read about Dr. Lynn Spampinato on the Internet when I heard rumors of a checkered past, and instead of being turned off, I said to myself. "Now here's a professional who we can count on to make changes and not back down when the going gets rough." She has experience in all the areas we need.
Dr. Spampinato is obviously going to make some in our community uncomfortable. But to fix our educational system is going to require some discomfort. When you go to the doctor, sometimes it hurts, but then you feel better later and you know it's good for you.
I can go along with the status quo with a lot of things, but I cannot abide letting our youngsters continue with a substandard school system.
When I was in the senate, I vividly remember the face-off between Sen. Davis and Commissioner Michael. It started when he asked her in August 2005 if the schools were ready for the pupils. She said, "Yes". He asked her about the specific physical facilities; she indicated everything was fine. Then the legislature videographer rolled video of the absolutely horrific problems in multiple schools, video taken that morning. Dr. Michael said she was unaware. We asked Dr. Michael what she would do about them, and she said they would have to be "addressed". We senators repeatedly checked up on the schools throughout the two years, and many of the problems were never repaired. She was called to the senate frequently, monthly for a while there, and always she gave the same stock answer, "The problems need to be "addressed".
Folks, our kids are smart enough to know if we are being straight with them or are feeding them a line. When toilets are still hanging off the walls in a St. Croix school six months into the school year, what do the kids think? They see what "real" schools look like on TV or in books. Compare modern Lockhart Elementary with crumbling Adelita Cancryn…don't you think our children know the difference? Not every school needs to be brand-new, but they all must be maintained and well-equipped.
Children think we adults are not serious about their education. They draw this conclusion by what sacrifices we make to ensure their success. If we adults give them a sharp, modern school with all the tools of education, they know we are serious. If we join the PTO, and participate in parent-teacher conferences, and help them with their homework, they know we are serious.
When we have shown them we are serious, THEN when we tell them that our family value is that our children do well in school, the children will believe us.
Children are alert and aware when it comes to detecting hypocrisy. You cannot B.S. them. Adults must walk the walk, not just talk the talk. Remember, we are their role models. They emulate us.
Consider the Dept of Education's legacy over the past six years: Lost accreditation, loss of Federal funds, failure to fulfill the Compliance Agreement, loss of financial autonomy, institution of a third-party fiduciary. Teachers are forced to work under sub-optimal conditions, and often cannot even get the paper they need to mimeograph study aids for their students. And the senate appropriated over $150 million for Education!
Some years ago I asked Ms. Eulalie Rivera if our school system really was better in the 30's, 40's, and 50's. I asked if the reports were true, or if it was just nostalgia. She said they schools had much less to work with, but the parents and children valued the school experience, and the schools produced a superior education back then. I have asked the same question of Mr. Guy Benjamin and other educators from backtime, and they agree with Ms. Rivera.
It is time to return to excellence by going forward to excellence. This is not going to be a feel-good experience. It is probably going to be like going to the doctor or dentist. But we've got to do it to return to educational health.
A Governor or Commissioner can only lead us where we're willing to go. Such is the nature of democracy. Are we willing to be led to Educational Excellence, or will we wallow in the status quo?
Let us support our Governor and his Commissioner designee in order to give our children an excellent education.
Craig W. Barshinger
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