Local Schools are the "windows" to the soul of a community. A local school district's perspectives, processes, and practices also reveal resident leadership's political agendas. This is certainly true in Gulf County.
In George W. Duren's Dec. 6 Letter to the Editor, "Raising academic expectations", he stated: "I personally don't believe that this problem will or can be remedied by only our school system."
Successful initiatives or enterprises always start with "ONE". Gulf County School District is an ideal ONE.
George Duren also stated, "I don't feel that it is always fair to blame our school system and administrators."
Superintendent Jim Norton is paid $90,000 per year and his instructional Assistant Superintendents must collect another $300,000 per year in personal compensation, and they should not be held responsible for the performance of their schools?
GCSD administrators are in the top 1 percent of Gulf County wage earners. If the people who are paid to run the schools are not responsible for the performance of GCSD, who is?
George Duren says, "an ongoing problem that has lingered in our school system for decades...low academic expectations by students and parents of Gulf County schools" and "students must commit themselves to learning and parents must commit themselves to supporting this process."
Can it really be the parents, none of whom have teaching credentials and who must work to support their family and pay the taxes that pay the public employees that staff GCSD? Or, as he suggests, is it the students, who don't know what they don't know and come to school hoping to find out? Excuse me!
Why is the failure of GCSD schooling processes and practices the parents' and students' fault? To a "blow-in", it looks more like the adult male leadership of Gulf County has traditionally lacked the intestinal fortitude necessary to protect the county's children from exploitation by Gulf County's Public Parasites. No business in America could survive with GCSD's lack of quality control standards and product rejection rate.
In over 40 years of classroom teaching, I have never expected parents to do anything except provide their children with a quiet place to study, adequate sleep, and breakfast before they come to school. Ensuring that my students learned what they had to learn to move up the schooling ladder was my job, my responsibility, and what I was paid for. My students always overachieved.
GCSD's inept performance is not the parents' or the students' fault.
Students are students. Physiologically they are more similar than different.
Yes, students' home nurturing makes a difference. However, effective schooling can overcome almost all socio-economic deficiencies. Students don't come to school to fail. Schools fail students, literally and figuratively.
Test scores indicate that attending GCSD is a dumbing down process after the 9th grade. Jim Norton has rejected the 21st Century Real World's Tech-sTem perspectives and practices in order to stay in his comfort zone hugging his 19th Century Trade School mentality. In the Real World's private sector, Jim Norton and his assistant superintendent instructional administrators would be removed for their inept performance. This may be the only remedy for GCSD. Perhaps, after the holidays. However, there may be another way -- underway.
In the Real World, School "STEM" and Tech "sTem" are only related by spelling. Tech-sTem is workforce related and can bring jobs to Gulf County.
Here's how --
Frank Brogan, Chancellor, Florida State University System, the Board of Governors of the Florida State University System, and the Board of Trustees of the new Florida Polytech University are considering a proposal to incorporate "Tech-sTem" perspectives and practices into staff and curriculum development at the new Florida Polytech University. Tech-sTem's perspectives and practices drive Silicon Valley and the 21st Century global economy.
This "opens the door of opportunity" for GCSD. There is no Tech-sTem teaching in Florida's K-16 schooling. GCSD can become the "model" K-12 Tech-sTem "prep" school for Florida Polytech. A direct Florida Polytech/GCSD connection could go a long way toward creating jobs-with-a-future for Gulf County residents and their children.
Mrs. Weston's third-grade science class at Wewahitchka Elementary School illustrates what a Tech-sTem class would look like. ("WES students study butterflies"; The Star, Dec. 6) The difference would be that a Tech-sTem class would choreograph the cogitative content of the incidental learning as well as the cognitive content of the intentional learning.
The Good Old Boys of Gulf County (GOBs) have in-hand a "Plan" for GCSD to become a "model" K-12 Tech-sTem "prep" school for Florida Polytech. The Plan is doable, affordable, and would enjoy the unqualified support of Gov. Rick Scott. Actually, the Plan is so doable and affordable that the only way it can fail is if the GOBs of Gulf County refuse to participate and lobby against it.
The current economic and schooling situation in Gulf County is Gulf County GOBs' fault. It is time for them to fix it. The ball is in the GOBs' court, as is the future of Gulf County.
John M. Comer
Port St. Joe
P.S. "School-STEM" programs are not complementary or compatible with "Tech-sTem" programs. For a definition of "Tech-sTem", and more than you may want to know about Tech-sTem schooling, please visit www.SchoolingForAllStudents.com. A casual visit can be painless. The definition of Tech-sTem is on the first page (Home Page).