High School Journalism Gets the Ax In Hillsboro


Those of us then serving on the HSD 1J Board of Directors, i.e., the school board, were somewhat stunned to learn recently — via letters of protest and/or appearances at school board meetings from/by students, teachers, parents, a USAF officer, two professional journalists (who are alums of the Glencoe journalism program), and other Glencoe graduates — that although the District had been able to backfill some of our cuts, including some athletic programs that had been consigned to fund-raising, high school student newspaper advisor stipends (and thus the newspapers) remained on the cut list.

The high school community, the current Board and former Board members, and I suspect the entire District community, would like to know why…

John Peterson, a local trial attorney and fellow Board member emeritus (we both declined to run again after two four-year terms ending June 30th) frames the issue well in his letter of July 28, 2011 to the current Board…

From: John Peterson
Sent: Thursday, July 28, 2011 2:17 PM
To:schoolboard@hsd.k12.or.us
Subject: Plea for Journalism

July 26, 2011

To:  Hillsboro School Board

Re:  Cancellation of Journalism Advisor Stipends at High Schools

Dear Board Members:

It is with some considerable disappointment I address you on this subject once again.  After receipt of grateful news the State of Oregon would be providing slightly more funding than originally projected, we had a discussion of where to “backfill” budget cuts already planned.  I then made the statement such decision-making should be pursuant to a prioritization of deserving programs.  I urged programs supporting our academic curriculum should be of the highest priority.  My failure was in not insisting we have a debate then and there about what we believed as a board should be funded once again with these unexpected revenues.

I apparently placed too much faith in the belief that anyone with an educational background would recognize that the school district is first and foremost an academic institution.  It was with great dismay the next word I received was that our district administrators had decided non-academic athletic stipends were apparently to trump the stipend for academic faculty support and supervision of journalism.  The budget document does not require administration to spend allocated money as it might appear in the document.  The funding of stipends is entirely a decision of administration unless the board specifically directs a reversal of a decision made.  It is just such a reversal I urge upon you.

No one enjoys high school athletics more than I.  However, that is not the issue.  We should be ashamed of ourselves in the decision to fund any non-academic activity before we assure that those traditional and excellent activities directly supporting and complimenting our academic curriculum are first served.  Are we or are we not an academic institution above all else?

As the sports editor of my high school newspaper I can attest it was one of the most enriching educational activities of my life.  Concise writing, persuasive writing, deductive reasoning, appreciation of access to a broad working vocabulary were but a few of the skills acquired from my experience.  Organization of thought and words to state a point succinctly and accurately is a skill honed well in the pursuit of a journalism experience.  Writing under time deadline and pressure is yet another.  Confidence to interview others and speak for and against and defend positions is likewise fostered by an experience with journalism.  I was certainly impressed by the young lady from Glencoe who eloquently explained to us the disappointment over loss by her and many others of the ability to continue to develop their journalistic skills.  I found her arguments extremely persuasive when she shared how much of the funding for the newspapers is raised by the student’s own efforts and the large number of students directly involved in the production and publication of a newspaper.

Far more students are involved in this activity than are involved in many of the athletic programs we offer our students.  If you want to count heads you would find far more students are served by the journalism advisor than are served by coaching stipends for small team sports.  I hate to make this a contest over numbers as I would hope we could fund all stipends to maximize what we offer to all students.  But, I feel compelled by our Strategic Plan Mission Statement to make the point that sports coaching stipends should never trump the funding of stipends for traditional academic support of activities such as journalism.  The classroom in which journalism is taught and will continue is but a fraction of the learning associated with journalism.  The journalism laboratory, where the nitty-gritty real world lessons are learned is in actually assembling and publishing a newspaper.

Why would this school district choose to abandon decades of journalism excellence exhibited by those of our schools that still have a student newspaper?  Alas, I suspect principals are not excited with the prospect of conflict possibly arising over issues of censorship which has afflicted some schools in this country.  But, this is another compelling reason why we should embrace and encourage student newspapers.  It is the very reason we have faculty advisors to instill a sense of responsibility in our students and accuracy in the written word.  In my opinion this decision to abandon student newspapers is a “cop-out” on the part of district administrators and high school principals of this district.  It should not be permitted to stand.

I can only now speak to you as a concerned patron of the district.  I beg this board to reconsider the defunding of the journalism faculty stipend and support the publication of student newspapers.  Our mission as stated in our current Strategic Plan is to “Engage and challenge all learners to ensure academic excellence.”  Glencoe’s newspaper is a model of academic excellence.  With the many student members of newspaper staffs we were engaging and challenging them as our mission statement would charge us to do.  Now, we have chosen in this instance to ignore our own mission by elevating funding of non-academic pursuits over those of direct support of curriculum and the classroom.  Shame on us!  It is not too late to reverse the course and decisions of principals.  Abandonment of student newspapers is not chiseled in stone.  I remind everyone, demanding accountability and adherence to our mission statement is a board responsibility.  In fact, as this board learned from the last two years of involvement in the Lighthouse Project, it is school boards who demand accountability and adherence to their mission who govern the most successful schools in this country.  Please direct a reversal of this wrong-headed decision.  Do the right thing!  Following the spirit and intent of our mission statement is always the correct path to take.

John Peterson

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Not On the Test Revisited

NCLB (the federal No Child Left Behind law) makes me grind my teeth for lots of reasons.

This very cool song pretty well sums them up…

Now go visit Tom Chapin’s web site, Not On the Test.

For those of you who want the lyrics, Tom generously published them on his other web site, tomchapin.com.

Not On The Test
by John Forster & Tom Chapin
© 2007 Limousine Music Co. & The Last Music Co. (ASCAP)

Go on to sleep now, third grader of mine.
The test is tomorrow but you’ll do just fine.
It’s reading and math. Forget all the rest.
You don’t need to know what is not on the test.

Each box that you mark on each test that you take,
Remember your teachers. Their jobs are at stake.
Your score is their score, but don’t get all stressed.
They’d never teach anything not on the test.

The School Board is faced with no child left behind
With rules but no funding, they’re caught in a bind.
So music and art and the things you love best
Are not in your school ’cause they’re not on the test.

Sleep, sleep, and as you progress
You’ll learn there’s a lot that is not on the test.

Debate is a skill that is useful to know,
Unless you’re in Congress or talk radio,
Where shouting and spouting and spewing are blessed
‘Cause rational discourse was not on the test.

Thinking’s important. It’s good to know how.
And someday you’ll learn to, but someday’s not now.
Go on to sleep, now. You need your rest.
Don’t think about thinking. It’s not on the test.

Thanks to Tom Brandt for hooking me up with the video!

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.

*****************************

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.