Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Just Keep Swimming

Yes, I am still alive ... have been slaving to produce the First Ever Harrisburg Public School Foundation (HPSF) GALA -- me, an event planner? Egad! Yet with the help of Takia Colston, Bradley Krow, Joyce Davis, and Stephanie Kalina-Metzger, it is going to be a huge success, with many announcements of merit, a speech by Mayor Reed, remarks by Allison Keyes of NPR/Good Morning America/World News Tonight, and presentations to deserving students, teachers, donors, and volunteers. I'm very excited. Yesterday, however, was spent fuming over an editorial in The Patriot-News that you can read at this link: http://www.pennlive.com/editorials/index.ssf/2009/06/regions_students_need_to_do_be.html A diploma is a diploma is a diploma is evidently not true to these writers, who haven't of course set foot in a Harrisburg School District School since 1991 ... if at all. I went to a large public school in a relatively urban middle to lower class suburb of Boston. Did I have the best preparation for college? Certainly not. My daughter went to a private school right here in Harrisburg. Did she have the best preparation for college? Certainly. And it cost us. The editors challenge us to do more -- what more can be done except on a better budget? We need the community to support what the District is doing on a shoestring. Check out how much is spent per pupil in the top school districts in the country, where children are already enriched daily by families who have the means to do so. It makes me mad. There is no more a level playing field in education today as there was in 1865 or in 1965. The myth needs to be dispelled. And those who are struggling to level that field should be commended. Ahem. Thanks, Mayor Reed. Thanks, Gerald W. Kohn. Thanks, Harrisburg teachers. Thanks, donors like Derek Hathaway, Penn National Insurance, Giant Foods, Commerce Bank, PHFA, Highmark, WITF, NPR, UPS, M&T Bank, Members 1st, and all the members of the HPSF Board of Directors. Just thanks. Yet, I still had that rotten taste in my mouth. Our students were bashed. And they're all our students. So, I submitted the following today. And consequently felt somewhat better. But not completely better. That will take a while. And some good reporting on what's really going on, and why Harrisburg School District administration, teachers, and students don't get nearly the credit they deserve, whereas hatchet women like Michelle Rhee blame the teachers for not knowing what they've never been taught and then, smiling a self-satisfied corporate cat-grin, she poses on the cover of The New York Times Magazine. Fired a bunch of teachers, yep! That'll fix it all. The secret, which really isn't one: Work with the dedicated people you have to help them do what they have always hoped to do. Help the children want to learn. Lift them up, don't beat them down. June 2, 2009 Dear Editor: As Executive Director of the Harrisburg Public School Foundation (HPSF), I’m responding to your recent op-ed on the Harrisburg School District and its so-called failure to improve PSSA scores. In fact, when the Mayor took over the District, only 11 percent of the students were passing, and the District at that time had 7,000 students. As of last year, 28 percent of the students scored “proficient” and above, and another 22 percent “basic” – both of which categories are passing according to most states – and the District now has 9,000 students. For the first time, last year, fewer than 50 percent of the students scored “below basic.” While this result is still not satisfactory to teachers, District Administration, or the Mayor, it is solid progress that all involved parties are building upon in hopes of accelerating improvement. Parents and teachers know that A Child Is More Than A Test Score. Any reader interested in seeing everything first hand should call me – I’ll give you a tour. I have never seen teachers and administrators who are so dedicated and passionate about learning and their students. Otherwise I wouldn’t work to raise funds and build partnerships to help the District provide what the students need. Instead of tearing down the accomplishments of the students just before graduation, how about commending them for their resilience and determination? Also, you state that more must be done. What, exactly, beyond the intense efforts of all concerned, can be done, beyond more involvement from the community? That’s what the HPSF encourages. Visit http://www.hbgpsf.org/ for more information. Blog readers: Thanks for looking. I hope it meant something to you.

3 comments:

LCollins said...

Hear Here! Thank you for having the courage to stand up to those who say our district is failing when it is not. Thank you for being our voice a midst the shouts of those who wouldn't step foot in our schools, much less walk a mile in our shoes. Thank you!

The Writer said...

C'mon, we have to stop defending our district even when we know things are going wrong. Loyalty is a dangerous thing. Money helps but it's not the answer to why are kids are failing to be educated. We and millions of Americans from previous generations were better educated without the money or the use of technology. I am a Harrisburg City grad with a degree from a top university. There comes a time when you have to just want more for yourself, and despite the disadvantages, will yourself to succeed. Money can't buy determination. If you want to lay blame, start with the parents, then attack the mayor and dr. kohn...

George Nagle said...

I disagree with response of "The Writer." I too am a city grad from way back, and there were also major problems in 1975. We were not better educated then. I never saw a school counselor once during my four years at Harrisburg High, except when I was called to his office to register for the draft. My parents told me to forget about college because our family had no money. We are much more proactive now in the HSD, and contrary to popular bootstrap philosophy it does take money and technology, and lots of it, to counter the huge barriers of poverty, crime and apathy.