Visions and Values: A Close Reading of RSU 50 Mission and Purpose

ImageIf you needed “close reading” to fill out your Buzzword Bingo card, “You’re welcome!”

Perhaps it’s found some utility here, too, as I look closely at RSU 50’s Mission and Purpose statements.

I hope you will do the same!  Revise them… Revise my revisions, too, if you like — I can take it:)  In the end, these statements should well reflect your own core beliefs.

To that end, the Visions Committee invited attendees to their Public Forum to offer revisions, and I will pass along any suggestions you make here.  Here’s my own!

I love language…. Language matters, and words spark associations and frame the issue for the reader.  Has anyone read, “Don’t Think Of An Elephant” by George Lakoff?  (You just thought of an elephant, didn’t you?  Well, the book will tell you why….).

RSU 50 Vision Statement (The Schools We Strive For)

“ProvideCreate” an equitable, challenging, engaging and personalized student  Student-centered education system, which fosters cultivates, or nurtures  excitement a passion for learning that prepares as each student prepares for  citizenship,  local, national and global, college, and careers. and global citizenship.”

Anyway, in my own view, “provide” suggest passivity suggesting that there is a “receiver” or “consumer”…. …how about “create”; there is more room for students, families and communities.  I would put citizenship first, and of course include local as well as global.

RSU 50 Mission Statement (What We Do To Get There)

“Develop and advocate for uphold sustainable student-centered educational policies, and build mutually-beneficial, strong community relationships, supported by effective school leadership, challenging rich curriculum, proven instructional practices, expert, professional educators and diverse individualized, student-centered learning models provided in and cultivate a culture of respect between students, teachers and communities in a safe, healthy, and respectful environment built on strong community partnerships.”

I probably would have put “expert professional educators” closer to the top.  I don’t mean to suggest that teachers do not need to use “proven instructional practices” — teaching is a profession, and it has been said that there is no “…recipe for being a great teacher”.  It stands to reason that a great teacher practices his/or her art well.

RSU 50 Core Beliefs (What We Act Upon)

1)  “We believe students success are our top priority, and their voices will be heard.”

2)  “We believe that it is the responsibility of each school  to provides a safe, caring, and supportive learning environment that fosters innovation, creativity, wellness, teamwork, and self-expression for everyone through diverse experiences.  This is achieved by celebrating the preserving the unique character of our communities, where families and schools are in partnership.

3)  “We believe success full human potential, or “best bloom” is attainable for all students, holding them to high expectations.  This is achieved by providing instruction by high-quality teachers who will provide students with skills, behaviors and knowledge to be productive citizens by modeling civic responsibility, social justice and multicultural understanding.”

None of these represent a more stark divergence from current policy than number one, and it is my fervent hope that it is intended to rebuke, and not simply obscure, the behavior of the RSU 50 Administration and Board in response to respectful, public, and constructively critical civic engagement on the part of students.  Citizenship lies at the heart of public education, and respect for the pupil is paramount.  Last Spring, the only reference made by the Board to a student surveymonkey petition, hand-delivered to the Superintendent besides “We never saw it!” was, “It wouldn’t have mattered anyway!”.   As student “Letters to the Editor” have been, by all accounts, almost punatively received, “Timbered Classrooms” is proud to provide a safe space for everyone.  We also welcome a change of heart on the part of policymakers.

On to number 2: “..preserving the unique character of our communities” is wonderful for everyone. It is also, sadly, substantively impossible under the looming threat of liquidation of Katahdin; the impact of which on the “unique character of ITS communities” are as resonating as they are costly.  (Even if we at “Timbered Classrooms” were not so fortunate to have an impressive depth of educational expertise among our readers, the Superintendent’s refreshing, yet surprising candor about his intentions here is hard to refute.)  I hope policymakers will honor this second one, and consider scenarios that not only make sense, but are popular with our readers; keep K-12 on both sides, and consider merging the two buildings on the Katahdin side if necessary.  Invest optimally and equitably in every child in every school.

O.K.  Number 3:  What?  I crossed out “success”?  Who can be against “success”?  Don’t worry!  I’m not anti-success here, but it is a bit of loaded word.  What does “success” mean?  Is it a child’s potential as an educated person?  A truly educated person is surely “college and career ready”, but does this work in reverse?

I would like to add one word, and I don’t care where: Excellence.  Its absence struck me…. Surely there is room?  As it isn’t necessarily about money, and small schools enjoy an advantage here.  Excellence, its lifelong pursuit and its joy.

Many thanks to the Visions Committee for taking written revisions, though I am a bit late on my homework!

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2 responses to “Visions and Values: A Close Reading of RSU 50 Mission and Purpose

  1. The RSU believes student success is a priority and their voices have the right to be heard. That is laughable. They only want to hear from the students when they have something to say that will promote the RSU and their agenda. Kids are smart, administration can try to manipulate them all they want, but they see through it.
    Excellence in education is an interesting thought. How can kids achieve excellence when they are learning nothing from their science teacher, due dates are optional, they are all doing the same science fair project. Maybe she should stop making cookies for them and teach her class. Standards based does not promote excellence. It dumbs things down. I would love to know where our common sense went in education, perhaps the standards and the common core stole it.

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  2. It’s a common political technique, to use language to obfuscate your real intent. One example, is “..preserving the unique character of our communities” while aggressively moving to liquidate the school — an anathema to “preservation” of any community aspect.

    Perhaps a student will put them to the test on the “being heard”. We will be watching.

    Excellence is not just for the affluent. Much of it has nothing to do with money, and, again, small schools have an advantage in that area.

    I do hope you have been following posts on standards-based, and the Common Core, especially Kathreen Harrison’s piece I posted this morning: https://atimberedchoir.wordpress.com/2014/02/24/my-school-system-is-abuzz-with-the-common-core-is-this-a-good-thing-rethinking-education/ …its architects will not let it anywhere near their own children, and I’ve posted brochures for elite private schools that tout an escape from it! It’s own author said, “..not for STEM, and not for selective colleges….” Elite view of children of the poor as somehow different is appalling, “…progressive education might work well for children of the affluent but tends to be disastrous for children of the poor…. …Democratic decision-making, self-directed studies, internal motivation and the like are wonderful aspirations. But when it comes to lifting children out of poverty, heavy doses of basic skills,…..”. Standardized testing is designed to fail, so cue the charter schools! Charter schools that profiteer on the backs of the poor offer no arts at all — just rote, drill ‘n skill; while the children of Raum Emanuel attend a school with 7 full-time art teachers.
    Only those brainwashed by a dumbed-down by the Common Core would let these people run their public education system.

    I know the standards-based Common Core thing is mandated by the State, but the haste affords this administration a manufactured crisis to promote closing Katahdin, and they won’t let it go to waste.

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