To the Editor:
It was Twain who said, “Never pick a fight with someone who buys ink by the barrel.”
But the paper seems to have taken a technique from the extreme ends of our politics: polarize an issue, report only a small sample of the information, and then attack a group or individual.
The Lakeland Union High School District serves a diverse group of students from 12 townships. There will be conflicts and errors will be made. Public review and comment is appropriate. However, the issues in public education are complex and the community is not helped by attacks that limit thoughtful discussion.
First, participation in the Model Schools Conference has been a key piece of bringing best practice back to the area for nearly a decade. The administration at LUHS is executing the directive of the board to improve achievement. This year, the board supported including staff from all four elementary schools. Ideas brought back include: better use of student data, professional learning groups and appropriate use of technology to help in the classroom.
Do we want staff to stop going out to find new ideas because they fear that their menu choices will be another way that the local paper ridicules public employees for doing their job?
Second, the board is aware of the multiple open records requests made by the paper. One recent request was for more than 1,000 emails. Each document needed to be reviewed to protect student privacy etc. As required by law the records are then released.
Do we want parents to stop contacting teacher and staff because they fear the local paper will harass them once their email address is revealed?
There is much work we need to do at LUHS if all students are to achieve excellence. As a district we need to recognize that many families have financial problems. More troubling is that only 54 percent of entering ninth-graders are ready to enter the regular classroom. Students from all four elementary schools make up a part of this gap.
Yet it is worth noting that over the last 15 years administrators (Kleinhans, Bouché and others before them) as well as teachers have worked with parents and students to move the school forward. Graduation rates have moved from the low 80s to 95 percent. Student performance on the national ACT test is near the top of all schools in the northern half of the state. Since approving a referendum for a field house 15 years ago, the district has been a good steward of the taxpayers’ money.
Going forward our community has several tough issues to address. How do we accelerate achievement while students are at LUHS? The curriculum committee is looking at data and course sequencing to help each student prepare a career path. Poor student participation and attendance accounted for 10 percent of the deduction that LUHS received on its first report card. How do we, as a community, improve hour-by-hour attendance of all students? There is an ad hoc committee looking at this complex problem.
Finally, with state support moving away from public schools to private corporations, how does LUHS use resources wisely?
I can only hope that the attacks by the paper do not silence participation on these issues.
LUHS School Board
Editor’s note: Mr. Gabert suggests that this newspaper may have or might intimidate parents and cause them to pause in communicating with their students’ teachers. This newspaper has never harassed parents nor have we ever asked for or revealed their personal email addresses – nor do we plan to ever do so in the future.