What? No More Board Meetings?

Where did eight years go? After serving two four-year terms, ending June 30th, I feel that no time at all has passed, but according to my calendar, a significant portion of my lifetime has indeed gone by.

My fellow retiring Board member John Peterson and I left behind some unfinished business that I will address in subsequent posts on my local ed blog, but in spite of the seemingly glacial pace of change in [local] education, the Board has posted some significant gains for the District, which I will also deal with later.

Right now I’m interested to see how the new Board will function. Seven individuals have to learn to function as one.

But the Board is currently — as it has been for the last two years — a mixture of independent thinkers and ideologues. The thinkers are independent learners and respect the expertise of fellow Board members. The ideologues follow partisan party and/or special interest lines, and seem incapable of accommodating wisdom offered by fellow Board members if it diverges from the “party line.”

If you’re local, check in with me once in a while at Straight Talk, and you’ll get stories that are beyond the purview of The Oregonian or the Hillsboro Argus.

Veteran’s Day

Let’s take a moment to give thanks to the extraordinary women and men who served us, under fire, so that we may live today in the land of the free, home of the brave, and vote on Election Day.

Regardless of our positions on current or past war politics, there’s one thing we can agree on…an attitude of humble thankfulness to the women and men who have served our country by placing themselves at risk to to do their duty as members of America’s armed forces. We have them to thank for the potential that our political and economic system offers to women and men pursuing their destinies limited only by their own talent and drive, operating within the law and guided by strong ethical codes of conduct.

My father , Hugh J. O’Donnell, served in WWII, entering the military with the rest of the Fordham University Class of 1943. He served a full year of combat in Germany with the 104th Division Timberwolves as a machine gun squad leader.


I was privileged to serve in my Dad’s unit, the 104th, twenty-some years after he was mustered out. That was the Viet Nam era and the Timberwolves were still a training division. They never called us up. I never faced  enemy fire, and to this day I am in total awe of the man or woman who wears the Combat Infantry Badge (CIB — Kentucky rifle on blue background, above) on their uniform. (Other branches of service have similar badges.)

God bless you, Dad. You put in the hard time so your kids could live free in peace.

Hugh J. O’Donnell, 1920-1987, was a Latin and Language Arts teacher in the Hillsboro High School District who served his students well. He taught “critical thinking” before it became a course name or a buzz word. If you want to know more about my Dad, the teacher, just ask one of his former students.

On Merit Pay for Teachers

meritstandard

I don’t know how long this link will be available, but Eric Schopmeyer, a Portland, Oregon music teacher speaks about, not the impossibility of instituting merit pay fairly across the board, but of the disrespect to our profession by pushing the issue.

Right on, Eric!

For another view on merit pay, which highlights how the federal government (a government that intrudes on the constitutional right of the states to handle public education) views the issue, check out Larry Ferlazzo on In Practice.

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Should Eric’s link become history, here’s the text from “The Stump,” opinion from The Oregonian online.

Education, In My Opinion, Sunday Commentary »

Merit pay for teachers

By George Rede

March 21, 2009, 6:46AM
Eric Schopmeyer

Count instead on real incentives to help kids achieve

Implicit in the idea of merit pay is the notion that teachers would work harder at their jobs if only they were motivated by the promise of more money. This misapplication of market principles is utterly disrespectful to our nation’s educators. At best, it reads as a dark, satirical joke.

A scene in such a black comedy might open thusly: A classroom of 32 second-graders struggles in a futile attempt to complete an assignment while a teacher leans back lazily in her chair, ignoring them, counting out a neat stack of twenties thinking, “No, still not enough. Oh, if only someone would make it worth my while, I could easily get all these kids to pass the test. But until then … .”

Any cursory examination of our education system will turn up a group of serious and dedicated professionals who pour their hearts and souls into their jobs, working countless hours of unpaid overtime, dipping into our own pockets for needed supplies and tirelessly shepherding children toward academic success.

We do all this in an environment of essentially untenable conditions caused by the toxic dichotomy of ever-increasing demands and ever-diminishing resources. And it shouldn’t come as news to anyone that people don’t go into teaching for the money. We work our hardest every day not for the promise of the dollar but for love for the children and a deep belief that education is the key to a healthy society. You could give us a million dollar bonus every year, but it wouldn’t make a difference without a substantial investment in improving the fundamental conditions under which we are made to work.

A parallel scene might take place on the battlefields of Afghanistan. A small battalion, outnumbered and unarmed, is deployed behind enemy lines. Their commanding officer promises each of them bonus pay should they reign victorious. They’ll fight because they have to. They’ll fight for survival. They’ll fight out of loyalty. But without proper weaponry and ample reinforcements, the battle (and their survival) is a lost cause. The motivation of bonus pay is moot.

If you want to spend money to improve teaching and learning in the classroom, spend it on reducing class size, spend it on the resources and materials that we desperately lack, spend it on upgrading our crumbling facilities, spend it on programs to end the poverty that prevents so many of our kids from succeeding.

Sure, teachers deserve more pay — all teachers do. That’s a simple matter of respect for an extremely challenging profession that is so vital to our society and our economy. But I’d take a reduction in class size over an increase in pay any day.

Eric Schopmeyer is a music teacher at Marysville Elementary School in Portland.

Save the Oregon Historical Society’s Research Library

cenexpo

Today a fly fishing friend of mine who volunteered at the OHS museum and research library from 1979 to 2000 clued me in that the research library may be shut down for lack of funding. That would be a disaster.

Please visit the petition site to weigh in on the matter, and then let everyone you know about the opportunity to keep Oregon history available.

This resource must remain accessible to keep Oregon history alive. One of the first steps to obliterating a culture or a people is to cut them off from their history. We can’t have that happening in Oregon. Or anywhere else, for that matter.

Anyone else have any ideas on how to get the word around? Please comment here and I’ll do my share to spread the word.

As of tonight, only 20 people had signed the online petition. Surely more of us must care.

Amnesty for the Field Negro

field-day

The edgier section of my blog roll includes a formidable voice for justice, not just in the city of Philadelphia (my wife’s hometown), but in America and the world.

“The Field” as he is known to us all in the blogoshere, is currently at risk. He allowed his optimism about Barack Obama’s election to be overshadowed by his cynicism about the country in general, and bet that Obama would lose. In fact, he proclaimed that he would run down Broad Street in Philly in the buff if Obama won. Field is in a tough spot today.

Field’s heart is in the right place, but he was a reluctant believer. But because he became a believer before election night, I hereby proclaim amnesty for the Field Negro.

If you wish to join me in forgiving his cynicism because his heart is pure, please visit his site, then come back here and join me with a comment supporting this amnesty. Hell, he could get fired from his day job, and we don’t want that!

Photo from the Field Negro’s web site.