Sep 12 2016

OPINION: Press Criticism of School District Is Not Justified

       “The Beat (down) goes on”

I recently attended a beautiful memorial service for a 93-year old aunt, a much-beloved and longtime elementary school teacher. Her son, a senior member of the US State Department and ambassador to an eastern European country spoke eloquently about his mother’s influence on his life. In their last conversation, he thanked her for making him the man he is. In her infirmity but ever the teacher, she corrected him by saying she did not make him the man but rather allowed him to become the man he is.

I bring this up because the school district recently reported stellar results from last year’s CAASPP tests which replaced the previously administered STAR tests. Like our aunt, we can’t claim credit for the success of our great students. They do the work and put in the effort to excel in school and on these tests. It is the role of the district and the school board, like the mother cited above, to allow the students to become the individuals they are.

Our schools continue to shine and thus, attract families moving to the area. As they do, the demand bolsters local housing values. Good for the kids, good for parents, good for taxpayers with and without children in school. A win, win, win scenario. In other words, something to celebrate.

I’d like to thank The Piedmonter for recognizing this extraordinary success with their September 2 front page headline: “PUSD Student Test Scores Tops in Nor Cal.” In contrast, I continue to be baffled at the hostility leveled at the district administration and board by the Piedmont Post. Their latest page one featured a full color, detailed street sweeping schedule change and an assault on our superintendent. The CAASPP results, buried on page seven, paragraph four portrays a twisted sense of priorities for the paper.

Previously, the Post suggested the school administration is top heavy and the board is not scrutinizing district decisions. To the contrary, in anticipation of sweeping curricular and technological change, the board approved and the district created two director-level positions, Curriculum and Instruction (C&I) and Technology to prepare for those pending challenges. The tests, which our students just nailed, are in a new format covering new material. To achieve this result, common core standards were introduced as mandated by the state. Our fantastic, hardworking teachers incorporated those changes in their classrooms. And the tests were administered in a new format requiring computer competency. We took these measures by relying on the experts in the district office to educate us about emerging trends, articulate the needs for the district and identify the talent to insure continued excellence in our schools. And we now have results to support those moves.

Over the past year, the drumbeat of ongoing attacks from Post editorial staff with misleading or fabricated data, false allegations and sloppy reporting has endeavored to undermine Piedmont’s faith in the school board’s stewardship. Meanwhile, our schools continue to produce fabulous outcomes in graduation rates, college acceptances, student wellness, state testing and national rankings. This is tremendous success for which we all should be proud. And like our recently deceased aunt, we don’t claim to have made these students who they are but we believe we are providing a platform from which they can soar. I hope you’ll agree.

Doug Ireland, PUSD School Board Member

Editors Note:  Opinions expressed are those of the author.  
The Piedmont Civic Association on August 31, 2016 published an article on the CAASPP scores which can be read here< “Piedmont Schools Show Excellent Results on Statewide Tests.”

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