A New Year’s Wish List
At the dawn of 2009, I’m filled with promise. It’s true that we’ve rarely lived in more perilous times; we’re dealing with international terrorism, war and global economic crisis. In New York, we are confronting severe reductions in school funding and in many services to children and families. But we are also witnessing the fledgling administration of our 44th President, a transcendent figure who ran for office on a platform of hope and built a Cabinet on an enlightened theory of pragmatism. As a witness to Barack Obama’s triumph, as well as his dedication to education – including a nearly unprecedented emphasis on early childhood education – I’m going allow myself to indulge in a little optimism and take a leap of faith.
While I’m allowing myself this moment of belief in infinite possibility, I’ll refrain from prioritizing four of the wishes I hold in my heart. Every wish is equally important:
At the top of my list is the wish to put the “public” into public education in a more meaningful way. Yes, our school system recognizes the value of family and community involvement. But children will benefit greatly if that recognition grows and the system allows families, as well as the community, a greater voice in the appointment of community superintendents and development of district budgets, safety and policy. Engaging families in children’s education is particularly important for student achievement. Those who know our children best have a great deal of wisdom to impart on their behalf.
At the top of my list is the wish to introduce an independent evaluation of our schools, which would be a boon to our children, families and educators, as well as to the Department of Education, which is often accused of manipulating the data that it gathers by itself. I would like to see the Legislature create an Independent School Performance “Data and Budget Office” that would collect, analyze and provide timely information about school performance. Independent evaluation would strengthen public faith in the integrity of the system and provide an extra layer of protection for children.
At the top of my list is the wish to appoint one Assistant Principal into every school. Let’s listen to our new Education Secretary, Arne Duncan, who has referred to APs collectively “as a great pool of talent” that hasn’t been noticed nearly enough. One role of the AP is to provide leadership in the absence of the Principal. In addition, the AP plays an indispensible role in helping teachers with planning, curriculum and classroom. APs also serve as beacons to parents as they strive to become involved in their children’s learning. Already stretched to the limit, our Principals should never have to serve without an AP.
At the top of my list is the wish that school leaders be recognized as educators rather than mere CEOs. Schools don’t exist to make money and manufacture products, but to teach children and help them fulfill their potential. Considering the recent Wall Street collapse, and the revelation of corporate Ponzi schemes, perhaps we can finally put to rest the myth that CEOs know how to run things better than anyone else. It is educators who have the training and inspiration to help transform children into the most successful, productive and happiest citizens they can be.#