Much like the line for popular concert tickets or Black Friday sales, the line for student applications to the recently approved West Ridge Academy is expected to begin forming outside the night before. Why would parents stand in line all night just to get an application to a school? The answer is as easy as it is sad. Parents are desperate to give their children a “good education”, an education that District 6 is failing to provide.
District 6 has long been criticized and avoided by as many parents as possible. Parents have moved to nearby communities known for their “good schools”. Many who couldn’t move, instead commit to driving their children out of district every day or have opted for private schooling or homeschooling. This exodus has not happened overnight, but over time has gone from a trickle of students leaving the district to a flood. All the while, the District 6 Board of Education has continued to turn a blind eye to the reasons parents are removing their children from our schools. They continue to pat themselves on the back and to talk long and loud about how much our schools are improving and what a good job they are all doing as a board. Why then are students continuing to leave here as fast as they can? Past and present school boards have been unable or unwilling to address the issues plaguing this district and to change and innovate to make District 6 schools not only better but the best in the state.
This current board seems to think their petty personal issues are more important than actually addressing the serious issues, including crime/violence in our schools and low student engagement, facing this district.
If the BOE members, and their willing accomplices in the media, would put half the effort they expend attacking Mr. Reese into innovation and discipline our district would be a much better off. The most recent attack on Mr. Reese over attendance at meetings is hypocritical, disingenuous and provides a convenient distraction from the very real failures of this board. Dr. Brioderius can have a red-faced, temper tantrum where he yells at a member of the community for commenting during a meeting and the board, and media, are silent. Mrs. Kron can miss all the meetings in February and yet the rest of the board deems it important to attack Reese for his attendance.
Whatever your opinion of Mr. Reese, he has at least been trying to move the district ahead. Mr. Reese has not been content to settle for the same tired arguments (more like excuses) including the idea that we must settle for lower performing schools because District 6 has more minorities and poor children. Those arguments are patently false as some of the best performing schools in the country are in some of the poorest neighborhoods in the country. Those schools succeed because they believe it is possible, they will settle for nothing less than success and they are willing work hard and to think outside the box to accomplish success.
One example o f thinking outside the box is the notion of purchasing laptops for students instead of hardbound textbooks. Laptops can store all of a student’s textbooks and class assignments, be easily updated to the newest versions and can provide interactive content to supplement lesson plans. Laptops have been shown to increase student retention and engagement. Many computer companies have started programs to offer substantial prices breaks to school districts to provide laptops to students.
After seeing a presentation detailing the success the Gilcrest school district has had with student retention and engagement using laptops and the savings over traditional textbooks, Mr. Reese contacted the rep from Apple Computers to see if he would be willing to present the same program to the District 6 board. The rep was willing and eager to give a presentation, yet the BOE said “no” without a second thought and continues to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars every year on textbooks that will soon be outdated and that most students will never even open.
Why would anyone say no to a proven program without ever even hearing a presentation? Was it simply that the idea came from Mr. Reese that caused the knee-jerk reaction against this idea? This is just one example of the inexcusable self-centeredness of these board members who have proven themselves to be uninterested and incapable of anything but protecting their little fiefdom of power. Does a board that continues to promote failing policies and erects a barrier between teachers and administration really have any credibility in the community? If these board members are unwilling to focus on addressing the real issus of this district, then perhaps the voters will appoint someone who will.