Wednesday, July 1, 2015

An OPS Parent Responds to Omaha World-Herald Editorial

The following article was written by OPS parent Gina Miller in response to the Omaha World-Herald's editorial published on June 28.  The editorial can be read by clicking this link:

This is an interesting editorial.   I do believe OPS overall is taking the “right road” but I have some concerns with this editorial.

  1. The subtitle is “It is a credit to the Superintendent’s vision, leadership, and willingness to be an agent of change."   This subtitle would lead one to believe that the changes mentioned in this article lay squarely at the feet of Mr. Evans.   I would challenge that the changes listed in this editorial lay squarely at the feet of an extremely hard working, engaged, passionate school board and those changes have been implemented effectively by Mr. Evans, OPS staff, and classroom teachers.  

  1. Let’s look at the achievements mentioned.  The first four bullet points lay out specific rates which have been rising over the last 3 – 4 years.   That is great but Mr. Evans has only been in his position for the last 2 years.  How do test scores and academic performance increase?  Yes, leadership and a clear mission is important, but it is the magic that happens every day in the classroom by motivated, innovative, passionate teachers and engaged kids.   I find it disheartening that once again we have an article talking about all of the achievements of a district without mentioning the classroom teacher.  

  1. The editorial mentions the “Public’s resounding endorsement at the ballot box last fall” with the passing of the bond.  Let us remember that the first referendum the public did was a year before that, to shrink the board size and vote in a new board.   The public said loud and clear that we were done with a top down leadership approach of previous administrations and that we no longer wanted a rubber stamp board.  The public (parents, teachers, taxpayers, community interests) wants a voice at the table. 

  1. The editorial mentions possible divisiveness on the OPS board.  “OPS board members need to pursue a common constructive, collaborative approach”.   I challenge this author that the board and superintendent need to follow this advice with the public.   I also challenge this author that I do not want a rubber stamp vote on agenda items.  I want to hear debate and concerns from my board members and watch them work through issues.  I want my board member to represent his or her constituents. 

  1. I find it disheartening that once again we are talking about how “administration” is doing all of these great things and no mention of the hard work that classroom teachers, parents and the kids have been doing.  There would have been no bond if not for the teachers and parents hitting the streets and supporting this effort.  There would not be any increases in student achievement if it weren’t for the efforts of classroom teachers and the kids. 

  1. OPS IS on the move and heading in the right direction because of a lot of hard work from EVERYONE.   But the last two years have not been without controversy.
       a.  Some leadership that still doesn’t seem to understand that parents deserve and want a voice at the table, not just sometimes but for all critical issues. 
       b.  A very controversial vote taken about extending the school day without notification or  consideration of parental or teacher input.
       c.  Questions about teacher contract negotiations done in bad faith by the administration.
       d.  A student death at Nathan Hale that from all accounts put the family last in the communication process.
       e.  A parent harassed and threatened for participating in public comment to the board.
       f.  Sanctions after OPS doesn’t meet federal regulations regarding suspension rates and a lack of communication by the administration to the board.
       g.  Busing and student assignment issues that still have not been addressed.
       h.  Public concerns with SRO’s that have not been addressed, although another school year is about to begin.

There has been a lot of work done and there is a lot of work left to do. I have been impressed with the OPS board but there are some warning signs that we all need to be taking note of.  The more administration and the board move forward on critical issues without public input, the more chance there is that we move back to the error of top down management that we fought so hard to eliminate.  I challenge this board and this administration to continue to collaborate with parents, the community, and teachers.   We don’t move forward unless ALL of the stakeholders are at the table and have a voice.