This what I said to the Clark County School Board at last night’s public meeting:
My name is Jamie Huston and I am here to ask you to let me serve as the next superintendent of our school district. I was raised here myself and have two children in school now, with a third starting next year. Like all of you, I have a great interest in the success of our school district.
But to solve our problems in student achievement and budgeting, we need to return to common sense.
As superintendent, I will vastly scale back the elephant in the room of this budget crisis, the rampant bureaucracy in our school district. I will champion teachers and administrators in more effectively handling discipline. I will end all the insidious ways that low expectations have crept into out policies and have hurt student achievement.
Some have told me that it’s tilting at windmills for a teacher to campaign for superintendent, but this is a chance to show our children that we have the courage and integrity to do what’s best. We can select a new leader based on merit, not any other criteria. If the American political ideal is a citizen legislator, then the educational ideal is a teacher-superintendent.
I have here for each of you a folder that better introduces me, including some of my ideas for fixing the budget and improving academic achievement [the folder included my resumé and my list of 21 ideas], and to show how serious I am about fixing the budget and serving our community, I’ll state publicly that I will perform my duties as superintendent for the same salary that I make as a teacher. Thank you.
It’s hard to say exactly how the speech was received. One board member smiled the whole time, the others held poker faces. I did leave my folders for each of them, and I intend to follow up and keep spreading my message.
This was actually the first school board meeting I’ve attended, and it was surprising in a few ways. First, I was impressed by the school board. I disagreed with a lot of what they said, but they were fair and clearly understood and listened to both sides of issues. One board member supported year round schools but actually corrected an argument that a parent made in favor of it that was flawed. That kind of honesty is awesome. When was the last time you heard a public figure correct a supporter who agreed with him or her? It shows integrity.
However, I was discouraged by the huge, obvious disconnect between campus personnel and non-campus personnel. It’s a whole different world in the various offices where actual teaching of students doesn’t take place; they seem to have a ton of their own concerns that have little to do with actual academic training of the young. There was so much mutual back-slapping of committees, projects, programs, and warm fuzzy fluff, that I wonder if they’d still get along just fine without teachers and students altogether. The celebration of unbridled bureaucracy was disheartening.
What really bothered me, though, didn’t come from the agenda or the school board. It came from a couple of district employees who spoke in favor of keeping our elementary schools on a year round schedule because (they passionately argued), it’s needed to keep children well fed and safe from the gangs and violence in their communities.
That’s a dangerous philosophy. It’s too close to saying that we outrank parents and families, that we have a responsibility to students beyond their education. (I always correct people who say that teachers are “partners” with parents for their children. No, we’re not. We’re just employees who work with your kids briefly. You are God to them. Don’t ever try to abdicate that.) This mindset that we need to be holistic care givers clearly nurtures the pervasive programming that so many suffer from in our society, that the government is there to take care of them, that they even have a right to demand such a safety net. (This is why I was so disturbed last month when Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman–a man whose work I generally respect–unwisely made this analogy about his confrontations with city employee unions: “It’s like a parent with a child. If the child keeps doing something wrong, you have to spank them.”) The single biggest factor in student success–and the single biggest failure of our society now–one that Las Vegas seems especially afflicted with, is family breakdown. Far be it for we public employees to further foster such decline.
As superintendent, perhaps I’d spread that message. It might be the best thing any of us could do for the success of our children.