The picture above comes from Northpontotoc Upper elementary school in Ecru, MS. Ecru has less than 1,000 people and is in Pontotoc County just west of Tupelo.
Here is what accompanied the photo. “These trees were 17 years old when harvested. The smaller one competed for space in a large plot of other trees and the large one was planted out in the open area. What if these were students, one in a crowded classroom with a high student/teacher ratio and the other in a smaller classroom with a low student/teacher ratio. Think about this!”
Think about it indeed. A graphic message of what is really, really important when trying to educate children.
It is far too easy to get all caught up in education “stuff’ that in the long run, doesn’t really matter so much. (Include me in this group sometimes.) But we fret about what happens at the state department of education, maybe even in Washington with the U.S. department of education. We wring our hands about whether we should have an appointed or elected state school board.
However, education is all about what happens between dedicated teachers and their students in thousands of classrooms throughout Alabama. There are no classrooms at the state department, at the statehouse where the legislature meets or even in the great education bureaucracy in Washington.
Liz Hill is an excellent principal—and a good friend. She works at Bear Elementary in Montgomery. A super school. She recently was on leave for medical reasons and when she came back to school, she found the note above from a fourth-grader.
It is a wonderful reminder of what is really and truly important. The interaction between students and the adults in their building.
Like all good schools I know, there is a culture of expectations at Bear. It is a happy place where smiles and laughter are common. With less than 500 students, it has 800 PTA members who go above and beyond for this faculty and students.
Probably 95 percent of all the educators I know tell me they were “called” to work with children. As a child they sat their brothers and sisters down and was their teacher. They arranged their toys on the bed and read to them.
And bless their hearts, they ignore the noise coming from the state department and the legislature and do all they can to better the lives of the young people in their classrooms and schools.
Right now, state superintendent Eric Mackey is promoting another state strategic plan. But long after it gathers dust in schools and is discarded, notes like the one above will be remembered and cherished.
Which is the way it should be.
Soner Tarim created Unity School Services in Sugarland, TX. This is the company with management agreements with Woodland Prep charter school in Washington County and LEAD Academy in Montgomery.
According to the contract Tarim has with Woodland Prep, he gets 15 percent of ALL the revenue the school gets. (I have no idea what his contract with LEAD Academy says, but I have a copy of the Woodland Prep contract.)
So, this is how this works in the case of Washington County. Woodland Prep has told the state charter commission they will open this fall with 260 students. The most recent numbers from the state department of education show that Washington County spends $8,510 in state and Federal funds for each student.
Since the money follows the child in the case of charters, 260 students times $8,510 equals $2,221,600 lost to the local public school system. And since Tarim gets 15 percent, this is $331,890.
Which should be enough to make a few payments on a home valued at $650,000
No wonder public school supporters in Washington County object to this charter school. The financial impact will be devasting.
And compounding the Washington County situation is the fact that Power South will close a generating plant in the county in 2020 which will cost schools $770,000 in revenue.
Editors’ note: Mark Hall is the film maker from Austin, TX who was in Chatom April 29 to show the movie, KILLING ED. Since then he was in Houston and looked up the offices for Unity School Services. He told me that while he did find the office, the only thing there was one woman answering the telephone. No employees, no desks, no filing cabinets, no nothing but the lady.
How can we not have questions about this whole mess?
Editor’s note: An earlier version of this post incorrectly included local funds from Washington County. This has now been corrected. However, it should be pointed out that because of the lack of a local tax base, local funding in this system is only $1,010 per student. This ranks 121 out of 137 Alabama systems. By comparison, Baldwin County has $2,477 per pupil in local funding and Shelby County has $2,736. Like Baldwin and Shelby counties, Washington County is a B ranked school system.
There is presently a bill pending in the legislature sponsored by Senator Del Marsh that would also give local funding to charter schools.
Tammy Waddell taught fifth grade at Sawnee elementary school in Cumming, GA. Unfortunately, she recently lost her bout with cancer.
Obviously loved by many, her on-line obituary had page after page of remembrances from co-workers, parents and former students. Many said she was the best teacher they ever had.
A teacher to her dying breathe, Tammy requested that instead of flowers at her service people should bring backpacks of food for needy students at her school.
As the picture shows, her wish was granted.
I never knew Tammy, but I have met many of her counterparts in the last decade. People who give so unselfishly to the young lives in their care.
The same people politicians seem so intent on denigrating over and over and over.
Diane Ravitch, former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Education under President George H. W. Bush, has endorsed me in my campaign for the Montgomery school board.
I am honored and humbled by this endorsement, because, without doubt, Diane Ravitch is one of this country’s leading advocates for public schools. The fact that she was an assistant secretary of the U.S. Department of Education under President George H. W. Bush, gives this endorsement tremendous credibility.
Ravitch, whose last two books about education were New York Times best sellers, endorsed me on her blog, which receives 100,000 views per week. She says in part:
“Larry Lee is the real thing. He is running for the school board to fight for better schools. I hope the people of his district elect him to stand up for their children and their public schools.”
Ravitch has been a member of the National Assessment Governing Board and held the Brown Chair in Education Studies at the Brookings Institution. Nine universities and college have recognized her with honorary degrees.
She is also founder and president of the Network for Public Education. I was on the charter board of this national organization.
For someone of this stature to endorse a candidate for a local school board is highly significant.