Wednesday, October 28, 2009

One More Reminder

It is easy to say throw "the school board" and the superintendent out. The latter has a contract that does not expire for a couple more years. "The board" is made up of whatever nine indivduals are serving at the time.

Let us look back to August 2007, when the New Jersey Quality Single Accountability Continuum (NJQSAC) report on Plainfield came out. A monitoring team had studied the district through early 2007. In April 2007, Wilma Campbell and Martin Cox won re-election to the school board and Christian Estevez came aboard. The state gave the district only 11 percent for governance, among other low scores. Should Estevez have shared the shame?

Looking at school board election results online at the Union County Clerk's office, one can see that among sitting members, Cox was on the board at least from April 2001. Agurs Linward Cathcart Jr. won first in 2002. Lisa Logan-Leach was among winners in 2003. Wilma Campbell won in 2004. Bridget Rivers and Patricia Barksdale won in 2005, Estevez in 2007. The newest members are Brenda Gilbert and Katherine Peterson, who won in April. Many, many others have served and are gone.

So how to sweep away the school board?

Why don't we stick to the old-fashioned way? Four seats will be up in April 2010 and three more each in 2011 and 2012. Those whose terms are up next year are Estevez, Campbell and Cox, along with an unexpired term resulting from Rivers winning a City Council seat. In 2011, the successor to Rivers will have to seek reelection, along with Peterson and Cathcart.

Anyone who wants to serve on the school board starting in April 2010 should start now to get a campaign together and seek support of like-minded people. New members are required to take training and commit themselves to a rigorous schedule of meetings. It takes a while to understand the role, as older members can attest. Doing away with a sitting board, even if possible, might result in a loss of knowledge and experience that Plainfield needs.

If you really want change on the board or feel certain members deserve re-election, please consider taking part. School board election turnouts are notoriously low. Do you want to have a say? Plan ahead.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Regarding the 2 (two) administrators and some missing textbooks, there must be a more current way of saying tempest(s) in a teapot, but I can't think of it.

So someone(s) made an error in hiring, or not following up on re-certifying some new hires – so what? Why is that criminal? Why is it even a big deal? How many workers are there in the Plainfield School System? 1,100? That makes the disputed workers about .1% of the total. Despite being Halloween season there's no reason to lop off anyone's head. Stop talking foolishness about throwing anyone under buses (how quaintly brutal). Get it resolved and move on.

Has anyone thought for a minute about the complexity of textbook purchasing and distribution? There are 14 grade levels, plus special eds, each of which has what, 8 subjects? At 2 books per class (text and workbook) that's at least 224 titles, plus who knows how many for smaller specialized classes. Let's say 500 books minimum spread over 14 grades in 12 buildings.

Each title must be cleared for purchasing by several committees, adhering to local, state and national standards. Budgets must be set and maintained. An accurate count must be divined for each title, and each must to be ordered well in advance from the publishers or distributors, who also have to guess at how many to manufacture well in advance of the delivery date. It's a complex system and mistakes will happen.

In a complex business system, when minor mistakes happen, they are examined and the system is adapted to prevent future mistakes. What doesn't happen is a public pillorying of those "responsible". What's the point? except to vent anger, or to embarrass someone.

Try to think of shared textbooks as a opportunity to strengthen the class community through cooperation, rather than a tragedy that demands an employee sacrifice.

10:00 AM  
Blogger Maria Pellum, Plainfield Resident said...


I am a parent of a student on PPS, and I would agree with you on the textbook situation if this was the first year it has happened, unfortunately this is my fourth year here and the district is still trying to resolve the textbook issue. As for money, we are a district with a multi-million budget of over a 100 million dollars, I find it insulting to our students, and teachers, that year after year we face the same dilemma. Not enough textbooks and not enough classroom materials for the teachers.

As for sharing a textbook I also see it as great opportunity to tighten the classroom community, but without each student having their own textbook how do you get students to do some of the homework that require the help of their textbook and/or to study at home for any given test? And how do you help a parent whose limited schooling, or limited language skills, make them rely on a textbook's help?

If you can shed some light as how we can help this situation it would be greatly appreciated. Just keep on mind that virtual textbooks are not a viable option for our community, not yet, since not everyone has access to a computer or the internet, and the Library has a limited amount of computers.

10:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Take the emotion out of it. Assume that there was no blame, that properly ordered books were lost in a fire at the printer and there were no new replacements available. What could be done then?

To start, the district could have a small discretionary budget to purchase emergency materials on the secondary (used) market, let's say 1 for every 5 affected students. Alternatively, parents could pool their own money to buy used texts to share. Or they can pool their money and copy an available book.

The district leadership could reach out to neighboring districts to see if any were available. If they don't feel comfortable doing this why are they going to the networking conferences? Let the union reps make the requests of their peers.

A class in another school within Plainfield could share half of their texts with a class in the affected school, with one book per 2 students.

As others have commented, there should be 1 or 2 of all texts available at the library as reference books. The internet could be used by those who have easy access, not as a cure for all.

Yes, special needs of all kinds would have to be dealt with. Homework should obviously be assigned with text availability in mind.

Is it fair to pay taxes and have to buy your own books or share? No, it's not, and it makes life harder than it need be. Is it a good system that fails to deliver what's needed for all? No, probably not, but what's the rate of failure? How many children don't have the ordered texts? How pervasive is the problem? What's the data?

1:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with the previous poster. How pervasive is the problem? Is it as bad as previous years? Is it better? How much worse or better is it? If it is the same or worse, then there should be outrage. However, if it is better, then we shouldn't be so up in arms just because it isn't perfect. Progress is just that. It is a progression from one point to another. I think that great progress has been made on the textbook issue. The Superintendent and the school board stepped up to the plate and allocated more than any previous year on textbook in order to remediate a problem we all agree existed. A process was set up to select textbooks that was inclusive. Textbooks were purchased and distributed. There was a breakdown somewhere in the distribution system. That needs to be fixed. Is everything perfect? No. Was Maria's front yard garden perfect when she first moved into her house? No. However, it is much improved now after several years of hard work and investment (except for those Republican yard signs) :-). Well, a school district is kind of like a front yard garden. You work to improve it every year. You think you are making progress, but everyday, thousands of peoplevdrive by and ignore that progress and instead focuss on what you did not do right. Well that's what you get for putting your garden in the front yard!

2:17 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

1:59 - I seem to read over and over again, in various blogs, that parents and/or teachers should copy text books if there aren't enough to go around. Copyright guidelines make that illegal. Copying because there weren't sufficient numbers of books ordered or because funds ran out, do not meet the parameters of Fair Use. As a university librarian, I would find it very disturbing that a public school district would advocate that. Be careful.

10:39 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree, you cannot copy books! The copy could make it's way into the hands of someone wanting to report and the district would find itself in a great deal of hot water and a heck of a legal battle.NOT a good idea.Perhaps the district needs central office staff that has knowledge of how to order books correctly!

8:13 AM  

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