Wednesday, July 1, 2015

When Politics Wins, Children Lose

Second only to the feuding between rival political parties, is the in-house feuding of 'educational politics'. In this, small school systems seem to excel.  One only has to look at what has been happening in the Colbert County and Muscle Shoals City school systems to see the validity of this claim.

I've had conversations with numerous friends over the years regarding the seemingly endless list of problems the school systems in The Shoals area continue to have. Without fail, the topic always gravitates towards the same question: Why don't all of the systems in Colbert County ' consolidate'?  It would make sense.  There could be one superintendent and four assistant superintendents.  The combined schools would move into different athletic rankings (Face it. That's where the REAL money is.).  Combined funds could allow for more options regarding school improvements, course offerings, increased teacher and staff salaries, etc. 

Ahhh....but then politics rears its ugly head.  Combining the current school boards would be the easiest of the transitions required.  Each community would still have a voice (They do now. Don't they???). Getting the area superintendents to back such a plan would be the greatest  hurdle.  What is that old saying?  Oh, yes: 'Power corrupts.  Absolute power corrupts absolutely.'

Another question also pops up:  Who hires the teachers for our local school systems?  Traditionally, it has usually been left up to each individual school principal to interview prospective teachers and then make a recommendation to the system's superintendent, who then presents that recommendation to the school board for approval.  Here is where 'politics' again rears its ugly head.

Several years ago a local system's board was the subject of a 'micro-managing' complaint.  The complaint was filed by the system's teachers with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, a prestigious accreditation organization, of which every school system wants approval.  After an investigation, evidence of micro-managing of the system by its school board was found.  The results indicated that the system's principals were not allowed by the board to make decisions affecting the day-to-day operations their respective schools.  The board received a 'slap on the wrist' by SACs and promised to behave.  Yeah, right........  On a side note, one local school system recently terminated a well-respected and popular principal.  Rumor has it that this principal wouldn't cave to one school board member's 'demand'.  How refreshing.  A principal with principles.

But I digress.  This particular system wasn't/isn't alone in these transgressions.  Every system in the area is guilty.  Prospective teachers are interviewed by principals, or in some cases, a committee.  A recommendation for hire is made and submitted to the superintendent.  Then the recommendation is received by the school board....and overruled, often in favor of a lessor-qualified candidate. Why?  Politics. 'Someone' wanted a 'favor'.  This 'favor' often involves someone's relative, who just graduated from college,  'needing' a teaching job, effectively nullifying the hiring of more experienced, and better qualified, candidates.  In some cases, the individual to be hired has been 'decided' even before the interviews occur.

As in all things associated with life, there are winners and losers.  In these scenarios, the winners are easy to determine.  But who are the losers?  Answer: In almost every case it is our children.  Our children lose by not having the absolutely best qualified, and most experienced teachers in their schools.  Is this to imply that all recent graduates of a state-certified teacher education program can't teach?  Of course not.  But the deck, as currently being dealt, is definitely stacked against our children.


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