In the May 18 letter, "Deficit means Ogden district must make cuts," the writer defended how Superintendent Brad Smith has been handling the finances and leadership of Ogden School District. The writer asked, "Think about it letter writer, what would you do in his place?"
The writer's question has already been answered in detail at the standing-room-only school board meeting on Wednesday, May 15, when 20 articulate parents, teachers, students, professors, and business people gave moving, insightful answers. They asked the superintendent to listen, collaborate, slow down, reverse his proposed cuts, and change direction. Visionary education and community members volunteered to serve as decision-makers in the coming year to work on meaningful, informed solutions.
Our current and past superintendent bought into a School Improvement Grant (SIG) and University of Virginia Turnaround program which focus on top-down decision-making, test scores as the primary indicators of student achievement, prescriptive and drill-oriented evaluation procedures, and firing, replacing or involuntarily transferring teachers and staff.
Long-time veterans have found themselves undervalued and disrespected. New teachers are considered in need of training even though they arrive at schools fresh with current teacher education university degrees and extensive practicum, student teaching, and other classroom experience. School budgets are reduced rather than reducing class size and increasing support in terms of tutors, mentors, technology, and other critical resources.
SIG/Turnaround school reform is a misnomer; recent studies such as a 2012 University of California report by Trujillo and Renee characterize such reform as punitive and "almost always ineffective, weakening school systems, causing staff upheaval, crushing morale, and leaving the schools with poor student performance."
Those who care about quality education for our children and young people should contact the superintendent and Ogden school board members and also plan to attend the next school board meeting in June when crucial decisions will be made. Note: To speak publicly at a board meeting, you are required to make a request in advance.
Tim Conrad, associate professor, Weber State University
Kerry Brethouwer Conrad, teacher, Ogden High School