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Scott Parks’ Wish List for Dallas Schools

Scott Parks’ Wish List for Dallas Schools

Scott Parks is the education columnist for the Dallas Daily News. He had some interesting items on his January 2007 wish list for the Dallas schools. Some are poignant and in dire need. Some are possibilities during this new year. Others are down right wishful thinking without much chance of succeeding, regardless of the need. Here are only a few items from his wish list for 2007:

o Bilingual Education Programs. Parks would like Governor Rick Perry and the Texas legislature to standardize the teaching of bilingual and “English as a second language” students. Currently, the bilingual education programs are different from district to district. All students should learn English as soon and as quickly as possible. Otherwise, the bilingual students are held back from succeeding only because of the language barrier.

o Dallas Schools Leadership. Parks cited several wishes from the Dallas schools leadership:

o Board of Trustees & Superintendent Hinojosa. Though the Dallas schools’ board of trustees is stronger now than in the past, Parks believes that Superintendent Michael Hinojosa is the district’s best hope for getting the Dallas schools back on track. Hinojosa also has the support of business leaders and the public. Parks was encouraged that trustees Edwin Flores, Jack Lowe and their board colleagues now are focused on education, rather than politics, as in the past.

o Texas Association of School Boards. The board of trustees should reject the TASB’s recommendations. Instead, board members regularly should visit individual Dallas schools, themselves, speaking with both teachers and staff. Then, they will know firsthand what is truly happening within the Dallas schools. Parks makes an accurate point that the Dallas schools’ superintendent and Dallas schools’ board are not a team. The Dallas schools’ board is the boss, and the superintendent is “a valued employee” — and the TASB is not part of the Dallas schools district.

o Special Education Students. Parents of these children have enough to do above and beyond the typical parent. Dallas schools’ administrators need to team with these parents to help them understand what the law requires the Dallas schools to do for their special needs children. The current attitude that parents of special needs children are the enemy, who may potentially bring lawsuits against the Dallas schools district, is only hurting the children and their education. As Parks noted, “It’s the right thing to do.”

o College Preparation. Somewhere along the line, someone decided that if a child did not attend college, he/she would not succeed in life. Not all children are meant to go to college. Some do very well in careers that began in high school vocational education programs. Neither my daughter nor my son graduated from college — their choice, even though we discussed at length the benefits of a college degree. They each earn more than $60,000 a year — one is self-employed and the other works for a computer-related company that nearly rivals Microsoft®. My children proved me wrong and proved Parks correct — not all children are meant to go to college in order to succeed. So, stop focusing only on college preparation and refocus some of the energy and resources to provide solid vocational education programs.

o Textbooks. The law requires that every student receive a textbook for the course they take. Some secondary Dallas schools fear too many children will lose or damage the books, costing them some of the precious funding they receive each year for their meager budgets. Children learn better, when they can take textbooks home to study — give them out.
Additionally, lawmakers continually advocate the replacement of textbooks with laptops. Stop it! I fully agree with Parks’ assessment of the situation. He believes a course in media literacy should be required for all high school students within the Dallas schools. They need to be able to analyze the barrage of advertising aimed at them now and in the future, as well as to understand current events and the unobjective biases built into the reporting of the news by the owners of the media.

o Freebies to School Leadership. Nothing should be taken from companies wishing to sell products or services to schools, even a free lunch. This should apply to administrators, superintendent and board members. As Parks cited, “It looks bad”.

o Teachers. It is understandable that teachers are under a lot of pressure to meet prescribed standards set by federal, state and Dallas schools’ officials, not just to meet funding requirements but also performance goals to keep schools open. Because of this, the Dallas schools are losing many excellent teachers to the business world, where they are amply compensated for the headaches. Parks wish is for these great teachers to focus on the challenges and rewards that first got them interested in teaching, continue teaching because so many children need them, and stop obsessing about those things that have little to do with the reason they became teachers in the first place.

o Parents. Too many times when a child gets into trouble at school or receives an undesirable grade, some parents conclude that the teacher is at fault or picking on their child. Like you, parents, the teachers have a hard job to do in seeing that your children obtain a valuable education. It is time for parents to team with the teachers to ensure each child works hard and receives an education that will take them far in life. I remember my son always complaining that a particular teacher was picking on him. When his report card arrived, he was failing English and reminded me that the teacher did not like him. Unfortunately for my son, I had this same teacher in seventh grade English and knew the integrity of the man. His next report card had a much better grade on it. So, parents, first assume the teacher is right and then discuss with them and your child how to resolve any problems with grades or discipline.

One of Parks’ best points concerns private sector companies and volunteers. Dallas schools’ students need as much encouragement to succeed as can possibly be given them. Presentations and mentoring by these private sector volunteers will give our Dallas schools students not only encouragement but ideas for opportunities that come from those who are there.