Saturday, June 1, 2013

Remarks as presented to the SBCSC Board of Trustees re: appointment

Since I knew our time would be limited today, I previously sent you a bit about who I am and what I work on when it comes to public education.  As you’ll remember, my involvement in the school corporation is not limited to just my own child, but others I’m responsible for as their CASA as well.

I’ve spent many of my working years as a front line manager for various service industries.  My days were filled with giving direction to staff members who encountered problems, and to a lesser extent, addressing issues brought to me by customers.

Over time I learned techniques to prioritize the challenges brought to me; differentiating between what was urgent vs. important, identifying where a partial solution would mitigate the immediate problem, allowing for further study for complete resolution, and the like.  I would imagine it is a lot like that for you.

In fact, you’ve had one of those thorny issues presented to you recently. I believe that the community is going to need some better account regarding the issue of grade changing at Washington High School.  I’ve read the lengthy South Bend Tribune article multiple times and, as a community member, I don’t feel any confidence that I know what happened.  The Board cannot allow the article to stand as the public record of the matter.  There must be an investigation and there must be a report.  There also needs to be a policy adopted on whether grade changing is ever appropriate, and if so, when and how.  A proactive approach would make a repeat of this sort of issue unlikely, and could serve to reassure citizens of the school corporation.

I know that your particular challenges have been made much more difficult by injurious decisions made in state government.  Failure to restore past funding levels, instead choosing to lower taxes and making Indiana’s voucher program the most expansive in the nation certainly makes clear the lack of regard for public education by our decision makers.  I want to work with you to change these priorities.

I do think that the community needs its school board to at least challenge these policies.  And maybe this board should join with other boards in large communities to issue some joint resolutions expressing dissatisfaction with the state.  They are, after all, financing their priorities at the expense of our children’s needs.  It’s hard to calculate what the cost of that will be.

But here’s where you’ve distinguished yourselves, in my view.  We know that the two most significant indicators of student success are first, the family situation of the child, and second, class size.  You folks can’t do much about the former, but you have held the line on the latter.  I read about class sizes of thirty to forty-five kids elsewhere and wonder how teachers can possibly be effective in those situations.  I am grateful you have not allowed that to happen here, and would pledge to stand with you to keep that the case.

So I am here asking to join you.  I understand the degree of difficulty, but it is work I wish to do. And for anyone who wishes to know what I would like to accomplish as a member of the Board of School Trustees, it would be this:  Up to now, our daughter has had a fantastic experience as a student in the district.  She runs up the steps of the bus every morning – she’s that eager to get to school.  I want that for every parent’s child.

Don Wheeler

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