(Editor's note: This column is written by High School English teacher Jerry Heverly. Its tag line is inspired by education blogger Joe Bower who says that when his students do an experiment, learning is the priority. Getting the correct answer is entirely secondary.)
The School Site Council is a sort of board of directors for the high school. Membership consists of teachers, administrators, parents, and students. They meet once a month.
Three years ago I volunteered to sit on the Council for a two-year term. Last year there were more candidates than openings so I ran for another term and was defeated. I continued to attend the meetings this past year.
The principle duty of the Council is to approve a budget of about three hundred thousand dollars. But, in truth, the Council has no independent staff and generally follows the lead of the school principal, who generates a proposal that the Council modifies.
I’ve never heard of anyone running for this office. There are no candidates’ speeches or campaigning.
I thought it might be interesting if I tried to change that. So I’ve penned my own “Candidate’s Position Paper”. My thinking is, if folks who know my views elect me then I can feel that I represent more than just myself. If I’m defeated then I know that my opinions are not representative of teachers at the school.
I’m looking for a mandate.
Here is what I plan to put in each teacher’s mailbox tomorrow morning.
San Leandro Teachers:
School Site Council elections are upcoming. I am a candidate for one teacher position. I thought it would be prudent if I talked about my own views on the issues that will come up in Council in 2012-13.
The Council controls a budget of just over $300,000. High School Prinicpal Linda Grainger presents a proposal and the Council has the power to approve or disapprove.
The most exciting development on the Council in the three years that I’ve been a member or observer has been talk of creating a fundraising mechanism within the Council.
If the Council could raise $50,000 or more this year—which seems possible based on what I’ve heard at meetings--then there would be money, possibly, to support my other idea.
I voted against Reading Apprenticeship two years ago. Since then we’ve spent approximately $100,000 on RA with another large sum likely to be allocated this year. (Reader’s Apprenticeship is a teacher education program. Approximately twenty staff per year received training from an outside vendor at a cost of $50,000/year.)
Some of my closest friends within the faculty are enthusiastic advocates of RA. Yet I still think such expenditures aren’t a good long-term investment.
Hardly any teacher at SLHS has not had at least one experience with outside training. You leave the sessions very excited and eager to try out what you’ve learned.
And my experience is that the benefits (and I acknowledge there are some) of are ephemeral. I think there is an inherent weakness in top down efforts like RA.
My idea is to take the $50,000 from RA, add it to another $50,000 raised by the Council, and create a School Site Council Innovation Fund. Teachers or groups of teachers could then apply to the Fund for grants to carry out worthwhile projects intended to benefit students.
For me the chief benefit of this approach is that it encourages bottom up initiatives. It also would mean that the people responsible for any ventures would be here every day to create conditions for lasting change.
I believe there are tremendously talented teachers here whose skills haven’t been really tapped because we constantly look outside for the magic system.
A wise person at the last Council meeting said that we have “bet the farm” on one approach to raising test scores--pacing guides, and other efforts to get us all doing the same thing, in the same way.
I think an effort to nurture some different ideas, and to provide the funds for true, self-generated innovation might offer a safety net if our present approach doesn’t work out.
If you support some or all of these ideas I hope you’ll vote for me.
Read other columns from the Entirely Secondary archive.