We will do anything for our
By Al Johnson
May 28, 2007
Geoff Brandt make a kind comment regarding the school board I
shared with four other like minded members. We were politically
incorrect. We did seek to establish excellence with no excuses.
Individually we did deep into the background on educational matters.
We sought out those teachers and administrators all across the
nation and even in foreign countries. We made individual contacts
with National and internationally recognized leaders on the subject
of reading. They most willingly shared what worked in their area
All of this positive data and
information formulated a plan to address the year after year
45-50% struggling and failing primary grade children who were
eager to learn reading but not being reached.
Our common goal and a board goal was to have 95% of our students
exit the third grade reading at grade level or above. It was
and is achievable. The plan, put together by Mr. Martin, the
recently sacked superintendent and Superintendent of the Year,
combined huge amounts of the information gathered by board members
away from the table and on our own personal time. We were inspired
that the plan as outlined and given to the general public would
garner the support of the community. That Ketchikan would be
on the map for educational excellence across the State.
What happen? Well, to make something successful, all the parties
have to be on board. We had the majority of the board, the administration,
and many community members aware what was being offered would
be successful for our children.
They and we all know that a
child that can not read will suffer a lesser level of educational
success than one who can. During our adventure, Commissioner
of Public Corrections, Ms. Pugh, addressed the district staff
and board. She stated flatly that when schools finished with
their students and they could not read at a level to obtain employment
or be of community contributor, these young people would, out
of necessity, turn to crime or become a burden on the social
services of the community. She confirmed that a high number of
incarcerated prisoners were illiterate or so substandard in reading
ability as to not be a contributor to society in a positive way.
As a result the Correction department has to remediate these
people at a huge expense, attempting to bringing these non-reading
prisoners up to a level that they could survive in society.
Every primary teacher in attendance heard this message. She
concluded with, every dollar spent in the Department of Corrections
remediating these folks, denied those dollars for public education.
We did not have, sufficent support of the district teachers.
We did not have the full support of the building principals.
Most important we had a good dose of "Me-ism". The
teachers union corralled the building PTAs and convinced them
that placing the plan we developed into action would deny their
children, who were the readers and achievers, in jeopardy as
the classroom teacher would be spending more time with the non-reading
children. Because their children could read due to attentive
parents and happier home life, the thought of children of lesser
family life where children are not exposed or nurtured to the
degree the successful children are, the PTAs opposed the effort.
A classic case of "My child first".
For those that are new to the community and are curious as to
why we are having the current educational Brew-ha-ha, an effort
to enlighten is made.
When our board hired Mr. Martin, who we knew had an extensive
background in primary grade reading, the goal given to him was
to develop a plan to address the dropout rate, which included
specifically, the 45-50% struggling and failing primary grade
children. He indicated, and later demonstrated with his plan,
that given three years he felt that he could achieve the 90%
goal of primary grade children exiting Third grade reading at
or above grade level.
The plan Mr. Martin, the recently sacked superintendent, developed:
(1) Convert Houghtaling to
a full primary grade building. Grades Kindergarten through third.
All primary children in the district in these grades would be
bussed to Houghtaling, with the exception of Point Higgins.
(2) Fully train both the building administrator, and all staff
in the curriculum Reading on the Road to Writing a curriculum
commonly called "Spalding" , the district had record
of the success of this curriculum within the district and research
of the curriculum confirmed that astounding results were to be
expected and proven with will trained staff. (The district had
on board an instructor rated Spalding teacher. She acquired this
level at her own expense continually passing on 80-90% of her
students reading a grade level of beyond)
(3) Teachers would be "Looped" with their classes.
Kindergarten teachers would move with their class into first
grade and so on till ending with the third grade.
There it is, a concise sturdy,
no nonsense plan that would have developed continued stream of
successful students learning to read from the Kindergarten through
the third grade, ready to read to learn from the Fourth grade
Often we hear the cry to address the dropout rate. There is
wringing of the hands, great sighs and every excuse to cover-up
the inability of the public educational system to prove successful.
The commissioner of public safety, Ms. Pugh was emphatic that
the huge numbers of her inmates were dropouts, the same who can
not read at a social level to succeed in society.
What is the biggest reason for dropouts? Bored, these children
reach a level of education that has them far behind those who
can read. They make trouble in the classroom, disrupt the halls,
and in general are in trouble. I know, because I was one. Till
a Fourth grade teacher addressed my inability to read and held
me back, much to the chagrin of my University graduated Mother,
that her trust in the system had a failing child. I was held
back and Ms. Hughes, taught me with phonics. Then there was no
holding me back! I am not unique in this; it is a common situation
for a large number of struggling and failing students. They
need more. Spalding gives that to them and all students. There
are other mitigating issues that contribute to the dropout rate;
however learning to read will lessen using those excuses. If
90% of the children are able to read, what other issues cloud
the goal? I submit none, other than the severely handicapped
Our board was attempting to
address this issue while struggling with the common community
standard that we will do anything for our children EXCEPT change
an adult's schedule.
We were asking for adult parents indulgence in our attempt to
present to the general public what, we believed was the intent
of public education. That ALL students are given the opportunity
to achieve to the best of their ability.
Our board did not fail the children, the community chose to fail
the board, hence our recall based on unfounded and unproven allegations.
Sad and tragic, and now Mr. Martin, the author of the plan and
scourge of the current board save a couple members, has been
He can hold his head up high, the five of us certainly do. We
were recalled not for some flimflam allegation, but for doing
what was right for our community children.
I thank Mr. Brandt for his recognizing that effort.
A.M. (Al) Johnson
The Pencil Man
Received May 27, 2007 - Published May 28, 2007
About: "Recalled school
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school board has sure deteriorated By Geoff Brandt
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