Woods' Weekly

Woods' Weekly

Woods' Weekly is written by Superintendent Brian T. Woods and is sent to Northside ISD staff every Monday to keep them updated on local and state education issues.

August 25, 2014     

Good morning! The first day of school always makes me think of the often heard quote, “You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression.”  I hope we are all ready to give a wonderful first impression of our district and our schools. I really look forward to visiting schools today and seeing the excitement from students, parents and staff.  As I’ve visited schools late this summer I have been very impressed with the look of the physical plants. Thanks to everyone in our custodial and maintenance groups for their work during a long, hot summer to make our buildings look fantastic for the first day!

As you know, I used some of my remarks at convocation to talk about the importance of teaching grit or perseverance to our students.  In that effort, I read the letter from Michigan teacher Chase Mielke to his students. I was amazed by the number of people who requested a copy.  So, on the next page is the portion of the letter you heard at convocation. The full version can be found here: http://affectiveliving.wordpress.com/2014/03/08/wh at-students-really-need-to-hear/.  As I said last week, while the full letter may not be appropriate for all age groups, the sentiment certainly is.  I believe it is critically important that we provide positive examples of the success of people who have grit and to teach students that grit can be learned.

I also spent some time at convocation talking about the privatization of education – especially in our city.  I recently read an interview with researchers David Berliner and Gene Glass who have written a book, titled 50 Myths and Lies that Threaten America’s Public Schools. Early in the interview the authors state, “The grand myth from which others flow is that America's public schools do poorly compared to other countries. Some of our schools do not do well, but it is a bald face lie to say America's schools in general do poorly.”  If you have been with NISD very long you know how strongly I believe this statement and hope you do as well.  While we are far from perfect, in Northside our students perform very well and we constantly strive to get better.

The authors go on to paraphrase educational historian Lawrence Cremin.  They state, “He said that when the history of the United States is written in the middle of the 21stcentury, and the question is raised about why the US became the dominant power in the world at the end of the 20th century, the answer would be found in the 19th century.  It was not inventions like the Gatling gun, cotton gin, steamboat, telegraph or telephone:  It was the invention of the common school. We believe that.

These schools need to be helped to survive the privatization movement both because they work well where poverty is not the killer of achievement that it has become, and because a successful public school system may allow us to keep our fragile democracy.”  Very well said! Though I’d take it a step further as it applies to NISD and state that even where we have high concentrations of economically disadvantaged students we have many areas of success.  I’m very proud of the work our teachers and staff do with children who are growing up poor.

A fine example of this is the group of six schools in the Ross MS area who conducted the third annual block walk to welcome their students and families back to a new school year. As I told the group, while we know that economic disadvantage and academic performance are correlated, we believe that we can transcend that correlation. The block walk is also a great example of how teachers and staff make In Northside It’s Personal real!

I know that I talk about privitization a lot and, at the risk that you may tune out, I’ll almost certainly talk about it a lot more.  I truly believe that public schools are the foundation of our democracy and our economic success.  I also believe that without strong public schools many children, especially those who live with limited financial resources, are doomed to a cycle of poverty from which they cannot escape.  Ours is a moral purpose.  In order for us to work toward this purpose we must advocate for the support of public schools and against privatization of our schools.

    Have a great week!