Sunday, June 26, 2011

Pinellas County Schools

I have been watching the wrangling between the School Board, Superintendant Janssen and the public with interest for some time now. It has been a long time since I had a child in the Pinellas County Public school system, but my memories of many of those twelve years are still pretty vivid. I arrived here in Pinellas County in 1968; my daughter was 2 years old. Shortly after our arrival the Federal Court ordered bussing was put in place. Almost immediately a spate of private schools sprung up to accommodate parents, many of them our friends, who wanted to avoid bussing and the integration it brought on. I remember my wife and I discussing sending our daughter to a private school, the means were certainly there, but we opted for the public school system, mostly because we both felt that the socialization in a real word environment was more valuable than "protecting" our child form life's harsh realities.

It turned out the decision was both right and wrong. Fully realizing this was over 40 years ago, you may be thinking ok where is the relevance? Here it is. I distinctly remember a number of occasions when issues arose with the school system where we interacted with teachers or the administration. I cannot remember one that went well or turned out positive. Even now, I clearly remember arrogant administrators, tenured teachers with the "I don't care what you say or think, I am untouchable" attitude. My daughter, while far from a saint, was not treated fairly or properly along with many of her class mates. An as much as the school system touted parental involvement I came away feeling it was more talk than real desire.

Things don't appear to have changed much over the years and I obviously I don't think much of the Pinellas County school system. I interview people who are a product of the Pinellas school system who can barely read or write. Over bloated with administrators, assistants and tenured teachers whose attitudes are more hostile than supportive, the school system has degenerated into a political cat fight. Like Rick Scott or not, eliminating tenure is going to go a long way in improving the quality of teaching.

Why we cannot find and elect people to a School Board with common sense who are willing to make serious decisions totally eludes me. Once elected, they become politically correct, fearing even the hint of a controversy. My daughter went on the St. Pete Junior college where she struggled a bit, then to USF and directly to the Florida Institute of Technology to complete her Master's degree.

You might think it all ended there but it did not. Pick up the story Wednesday when I tell you more about the surprising impact of a poor public school experience.

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