My Side of the Fence

The danger isn't going too far. It's that we don't go far enough.

School Board Budget

High drama last night!  I watched D-Mag give her budget presentation.  Got home just in time to catch some of citizen's time and all of the budget.  For her first time out of the gate (in our system anyway) I thought she did quite well.  She was familiar with her material and the presentation was well-crafted.  Way better than previous years I thought.

As to the content of the presentation, I particularly liked the part of the presentation where she broke out what changes she was making at each school.  She did reduce headcount in the budget but not a bunch.  She's clearly being pretty careful with her money and that's good news to me.  The previous administration seemed to view money in a rather abstract fashion.  I watched the presentation, I understand the priorities, the strategies she wants to employ could have been articulated in laymen's terms a bit better but I get what's going on.  A bit more financial information would have been nice but it was a pretty good balance – you can't go on forever!

What did surprise me was the discussion the School Board had after the presentation: a relatively long (for a discussion at the dias) talk about our enrollment at the governor's school.  Nobody seemed much interested in why our attendance at that school is so low.  Apparently our demand for excellence isn't as strong as it might be. 

I'm about to get myself in trouble here but this really bothers me.  When I'm bad at something I need to do, I don't quit doing it.  I work to make it better.  I try to make it better without upsetting any particular apple cart.  It's just easier.  Philosophically I like to try to solve problems "inside of the system".  I'd rather make a call or write a letter to someone in charge and quietly resolve something but that hasn't worked with one of the main problems at Osbourn High School and that's the Guidance department.  I don't know how long it's been bad but I know that I've never had a satisfactory encounter with them.  Neither has my daughter or most of her friends.  I went to a meeting a couple of years ago for rising freshmen that was so bad I, and many others, just left.  The auditorium was full of people and the guidance department was standing at the front of the auditorium.  Not on the stage and not using the PA system.  The net effect is that you have these people trying (and mostly failing) to use powerpoint and screeching at the top of their lungs in order to be heard.  One of the presenters faced the audience and turned their head to read the slides…verbatim.  There were no handouts.  It really was theater of the absurd.  This was a meeting that was held at 7:00 on a Thursday night.  These parents are your true-believers and they should never leave a meeting discouraged.

However, I thought that the damage these people might inflict would be relatively limited but I was wrong.  I was chatting with a kid the other day – and I know she is smart.  I asked why she wasn't going to the Governors' school at GMU?  You're smart.  Ambitious.  Her reply stunned me: "I asked guidance about it because I really don't know anything about it and, if it doesn't fit my path, I don't want to jeopardize my GPA because I know I can score well in calculus right here at Osbourn.  My counselor said to me that he didn't really know anything about it so he couldn't advise me.  He said he would do some research but I've never heard from him."  

The philosophy over there seems to be that the smart kids will take care of themselves – their parents are mostly involved so they'll figure it out sooner or later.  The parents I talk to that have had interactions with guidance share similar tales.  The consensus among parents seems to be that the best path is to find another parent or kid who has done what your kid wants to do and ask them.  I know that there must be some capable people in that department but the results just aren't there.

Enough's enough friends.  Can't we fix this problem once and for all?



  1. Have to agree with you as I caught part of the presentation also….and I liked how she put the main points up, as the drill-down for the financials can be done from documents on the website.  Just wish the School Board would take the iniative to record their sessions, and post them on the City's Media Center….same as the City has found out, the additional viewers may be small, but the opportunity is there.
    I view the Governor's School the same way (when my kids were in OHS) as the GMU High School Guest Scholar Program.  Both are great initiatives, and fortunately for my son, he had "Miss Whitt" as his Guidance Counselor who knew about the program, and strongly encouraged him to apply.  Turned out to be a successful move for him.  The issues you and your daughter raise about Guidance is really nothing new; I had my own run-in with them in the earlier half of this decade and voiced my concerns to the Principal.  Alas, it seems the few who voice the concerns are ignored still.

  2. Hi Andy,
    My children don't attend city schools, so I can't comment on anything about them, but I did want to address some reasons why the enrollment at the governor's school might be low.  My son Alex is quite bright, and especially oriented toward math and science.  In 8th grade he applied to TJ, and while he did well enough on the test to make the finals, in the end he didn't get in.  He is what appears to be a perfect candidate for the governor's school, and I just assumed when he didn't get into TJ that he would end up going there.  However, when the time come, he didn't even want to apply.  The reasons he had no interest were two-fold.  One, when you go to the governor's school, there are certain electives you can no longer take.  For him, it was French 5, and if you aren't taking a French when one is available you can no longer be in French Honor Society.  The second reason was if you go to the governor's school, you can't get an IB Diploma.  For my son, the IB Diploma and taking as much French as he could were more valuable to him than what was being offered at the governor's school.  I imagine that's probably the case for many children.  There are academic trade-offs in going to the governor's school that aren't worth it for many children, even intelligent, academically minded ones.  I would imagine that until the governor's school becomes a free-standing, full-time 9-12 high school (if it ever does), there will continue to be a lot of top students who choose to forego the benefits of the math/science rigour in exchange for the complete program they have already become invested in at their local high school.

  3. Just saw this on a license plate and it struck a chord: "Those who can, teach. Those who cannot pass laws about teaching."

Comments are closed.