This Is What Education Is REALLY All About

This Is What Education Is REALLY All About

It is far too easy to get all caught up in education “stuff’ that in the long run, doesn’t really matter so much.  (Include me in this group sometimes.)  But we fret about what happens at the state department of education, maybe even in Washington with the U.S. department of education.  We wring our hands about whether we should have an appointed or elected state school board.

However, education is all about what happens between dedicated teachers and their students in thousands of classrooms throughout Alabama.  There are no classrooms at the state department, at the statehouse where the legislature meets or even in the great education bureaucracy in Washington.

Liz Hill is an excellent principal—and a good friend.  She works at Bear Elementary in Montgomery.  A super school.  She recently was on leave for medical reasons and when she came back to school, she found the note above from a fourth-grader.

It is a wonderful reminder of what is really and truly important.  The interaction between students and the adults in their building.

Like all good schools I know, there is a culture of expectations at Bear.  It is a happy place where smiles and laughter are common.  With less than 500 students, it has 800 PTA members who go above and beyond for this faculty and students.

Probably 95 percent of all the educators I know tell me they were “called” to work with children.  As a child they sat their brothers and sisters down and was their teacher.  They arranged their toys on the bed and read to them.

And bless their hearts, they ignore the noise coming from the state department and the legislature and do all they can to better the lives of the young people in their classrooms and schools.

Right now, state superintendent Eric Mackey is promoting another state strategic plan.  But long after it gathers dust in schools and is discarded, notes like the one above will be remembered and cherished.

Which is the way it should be.



This Is Soner Tarim’s Six-bedroom Home In Texas.  Now Some Folks Want Alabama Taxpayers To Send Him Money.

This Is Soner Tarim’s Six-bedroom Home In Texas. Now Some Folks Want Alabama Taxpayers To Send Him Money.

Soner Tarim created Unity School Services in Sugarland, TX.  This is the company with management agreements with Woodland Prep charter school in Washington County and LEAD Academy in Montgomery.

According to the contract Tarim has with Woodland Prep, he gets 15 percent of ALL the revenue the school gets.  (I have no idea what his contract with LEAD Academy says, but I have a copy of the Woodland Prep contract.)

So, this is how this works in the case of Washington County.  Woodland Prep has told the state charter commission they will open this fall with 260 students.  The most recent numbers from the state department of education show that Washington County spends $8,510 in state and Federal funds for each student.

Since the money follows the child in the case of charters, 260 students times $8,510 equals $2,221,600 lost to the local public school system.  And since Tarim gets 15 percent, this is $331,890.

Which should be enough to make a few payments on a home valued at $650,000

No wonder public school supporters in Washington County object to this charter school.  The financial impact will be devasting.

And compounding the Washington County situation is the fact that Power South will close a generating plant in the county in 2020 which will cost schools $770,000 in revenue.

Editors’ note: Mark Hall is the film maker from Austin, TX who was in Chatom April 29 to show the movie, KILLING ED.  Since then he was in Houston and looked up the offices for Unity School Services.  He told me that while he did find the office, the only thing there was one woman answering the telephone.  No employees, no desks, no filing cabinets, no nothing but the lady.

How can we not have questions about this whole mess?

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this post incorrectly included local funds from Washington County.  This has now been corrected.  However, it should be pointed out that because of the lack of a local tax base, local funding in this system is only $1,010 per student.  This ranks 121 out of 137 Alabama systems.  By comparison, Baldwin County has $2,477 per pupil in local funding and Shelby County has $2,736.  Like Baldwin and Shelby counties, Washington County is a B ranked school system.

There is presently a bill pending in the legislature sponsored by Senator Del Marsh that would also give local funding to charter schools.

A Teacher To The End

A Teacher To The End

Tammy Waddell taught fifth grade at Sawnee elementary school in Cumming, GA.  Unfortunately, she recently lost her bout with cancer.

Obviously loved by many, her on-line obituary had page after page of remembrances from co-workers, parents and former students.  Many said she was the best teacher they ever had.

A teacher to her dying breathe, Tammy requested that instead of flowers at her service people should bring backpacks of food for needy students at her school.

As the picture shows, her wish was granted.

I never knew Tammy, but I have met many of her counterparts in the last decade.   People who give so unselfishly to the young lives in their care.

The same people politicians seem so intent on denigrating over and over and over.

Former U.S. Secretary Of Education, Diane Ravitch, Endorses Larry Lee

Former U.S. Secretary Of Education, Diane Ravitch, Endorses Larry Lee

Diane Ravitch, former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Education under President George H.  W.  Bush, has endorsed me in my campaign for the Montgomery school board.

I am honored and humbled by this endorsement, because, without doubt, Diane Ravitch is one of this country’s leading advocates for public schools.  The fact that she was an assistant secretary of the U.S. Department of Education under President George H. W. Bush, gives this endorsement tremendous credibility.

Ravitch, whose last two books about education were New York Times best sellers, endorsed me on her blog, which receives 100,000 views per week.  She says in part:

“Larry Lee is the real thing. He is running for the school board to fight for better schools. I hope the people of his district elect him to stand up for their children and their public schools.”

Ravitch has been a member of the National Assessment Governing Board and held the Brown Chair in Education Studies at the Brookings Institution.  Nine universities and college have recognized her with honorary degrees.

She is also founder and president of the Network for Public Education.  I was on the charter board of this national organization.

For someone of this stature to endorse a candidate for a local school board is highly significant.

A Picture Is Worth A 1,000 Words

We recently blogged about the need for young children to have time to themselves, and their friends.  Times that are not regimented and organized by adults.

Times when curious young minds explore the world around them.  Times when clothes get dirty and make-believe worlds come to life.  Times when a stick unlocks the secrets of a mud puddle or a creek bank.

Christy Hiett is principal at Fruithurst Elementary in Cleburne County.  She is a great believer in letting children be children.  Which is one reason students at her school no longer have homework.

“We want our students to have more free time to play, to explore, to learn to interact with others and to read,” she says.  And she has the records of student performance from when they did homework and when they switched to no homework that validate her position.

On a recent visit with Christy she told me about her seven-year old nephew and how happy he is to wander the woods near his home with his beagle.  And she shared this picture of him and his dog, which truly speaks volumes.

Oh to know what thoughts are going through this young fellow’s head.  What may be around the next bend?  Or does he even care?  And what is his dog thinking?  More than likely he just knows that he is where he is supposed to be.  Right with the one person who loves him more than any other human.

We grownups spend a great deal of time trying to foretell the future and figure out how do we best prepare young boys like this one to be ready to tackle an unknown world’s challenges.

But the innocence of this picture of a boy and his dog gives me comfort that somehow or other, just as has been the case for generations, things will be OK.