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In Your Opinion: Franklin School District Needs to Work on its ‘Issues’

By Lisa Barr, Montgomery

I recently moved from Franklin Township as the parent of two children who went to school in the district, up to Sampson G. Smith.

I’ve read with interest the recent events regarding the removal of Mr. Seto as superintendent as well as many of the comments posted in your paper both supporting and disagreeing with events.

Obviously I no longer have skin in the game but thought that you might be interested in why we chose to eventually leave this district, despite enjoying living in the township, valuing public education and feeling incredibly guilty for “deserting”.

Yes, Franklin has a large population that falls under the poverty line. Yes there is high student turnover, a large number of non-English speaking children and many disciplinary problems as well as a high population of special needs children (partly caused by our willingness to send them to $100,000-a-year schools). It also has plenty of high income and middle class neighborhoods with a well-educated and committed population. Unfortunately a large portion of this population pull their kids out of the school if not after elementary than immediately after 5th grade. Pulling the higher performing children out of the district lowers the scores and lowers ranking of the school. This is basic math. If the superintendent and board can’t understand basic statistics, how can I trust them to educate my children?

So why do higher performing families remove their children? It’s not the teachers. Almost all of the teachers my children have had over the years have been anything from good to wonderful with a couple of them outstanding. They have been committed, dedicated and willing to go over and above the call of duty to keep kids engaged and give them the best education they can manage with the resources they have. I can’t blame the teachers at all.

I am leaving because of the lack of discipline, lack of support at the district level and lack of educational opportunities for better performing students.

Yes, we have poor students with rough home lives. However, pity and a million second chances aren’t going to change that. Kids with a rough background need a structured, safe and calm environment in which they know the rules and know the consequences of breaking the rules. Franklin doesn’t offer that. Visit Sampson at lunch time. Out-of-control kids, food all over, music blasting, people running. The lack of caring, respect and control is palpable. The classrooms demonstrate the same lack of discipline with teachers having no real recourse when dealing with unruly, rude and abusive children. It is disruptive and makes it more difficult for the rest of the children to learn. I haven’t met a single educator in the district who thinks that the measures available to them are adequate.

My children were in the CARE program. I saw the supervisors holding cake parties daily in front of the children. I saw them refusing to let the children play because supervising them would be too much work. I know of one worker who blatantly told her daughter to take whatever she wanted from the lost and found pile. Another two demonstrated to the kids in their care how to “twerk”. The head of the department decided that Trix cereal and graham crackers were appropriate breakfast foods, and chips were good snacks, not the fruit left over from lunch time. These are the people we are paying to care for our children. Who in the department was supervising them? What kind of educational environment is this?

As for educational opportunities – what is wrong with offering programs that encourage families who care to stay in the system? They cancelled the gifted and talented program, not that it was particularly extensive: limited arts, pushed music to the side and had severely limited classes. There is nothing on offer for people who want to see their kids succeed. In fact many of the more enthusiastic kids are placed in badly balanced and understaffed integrated classes where they are encouraged to spend their time helping to teach and assist kids with disciplinary issues rather than become educated themselves. Franklin isn’t teaching to the middle, it’s teaching to the bottom. Perhaps this is a result of the relentless focus on the lowest denominator rather than recognizing that the population is indeed very diverse and that this requires a diverse selection of opportunities.

I felt really bad about leaving, feeling that perhaps I should stay and work to make things better, but I can’t sacrifice my children to a system that doesn’t want to listen. One of the first things I noticed when we started in our new district was that the superintendent went to every single meeting and back-to-school night. First thing she did was mention items that parents had requested, what they were doing to change and how they wanted to be responsive to local families. What a breath of fresh air. Communication is constant, both from the district and from teachers. There is band and music lessons as part of the regular school week. They get gym every second day to encourage physical fitness. There are advanced math classes for the faster learners. Even more depressing, many of the additional classes are for skills that many of Franklin’s poorer kids could really benefit from learning – shop, home economics, keyboarding, personal finance and public speaking to name a few – and this is 6th grade.

I really hope that Franklin can work out its issues. The kids deserve a whole lot better.

 

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