, Newburyport, MA

November 29, 2012

It's not just about the kids

Newburyport Daily News

---- — To the editor:

I applaud Dr. Orlando’s reminder that education is first and foremost about the kids, and I support his invitation for concerned parents and citizens to attend and participate in School Committee meetings.

As a veteran teacher and licensed principal, however, I question his premise that education “is not about the superintendent; it’s not about the assistant superintendents; it’s not about the principals or the assistant principals; it’s not about the SPED director and it’s not about the mayor or the school committee.”

In every school district, it is these very individuals who set the tone and help define the culture of the entire school system. The people chosen to fill these roles have a tremendous impact on the experience of the kids. Hiring and electing these leaders is a crucial component in the process of providing a first-rate education for our children.

Teachers are the heartbeat of education. A great teacher can transform a student’s outlook on learning and help develop the skills and confidence a child needs to be a successful individual. While the state has steadily worked to reduce teaching to producing high test scores, teachers have quietly sustained their commitment to coaching students to be great people.

But teachers need support in this important work. Superintendents, principals, SPED Directors and school committee members are the difference makers. When teachers know they are supported, when they feel valued, when they believe in the guidance and vision of their leaders, their effectiveness with students is amplified. If education is about the kids, it is essential that we have terrific administrators at the helm.

So let’s ask the tough questions, even if we do it in the press. I believe that it’s fair to wonder why we have so many qualified and committed administrators leaving our school system. If you were the mayor, wouldn’t you have questions and concerns? If you are a parent, don’t you want to know more about the leadership of our school system? Great administrators can make an enormous difference in the educational experience of our children. Since education, as Dr. Orlando suggests, is all about the kids, let’s make certain that they have the very best administrators running their schools.

Andy Willemsen