Wednesday, April 23, 2014

STEVENS: A final chapter of positives

By MARGE STEVENS, Positives in Education | 5/20/2013

This will be my final “Positives in Education” column since school is out and my 12 years on the Ottawa school board is nearly over. I started writing this column because I overheard two patrons talking and they indicated they had never heard anything bad or good about Ottawa schools, so they were sending their children elsewhere.

I have written my column about 7 1/2 years and have never repeated a story. I think you could write for 40 years and never repeat. We have a very good school system and great things happen every day. Why don’t we hear more positives? I believe it is for many reasons.

This will be my final “Positives in Education” column since school is out and my 12 years on the Ottawa school board is nearly over. I started writing this column because I overheard two patrons talking and they indicated they had never heard anything bad or good about Ottawa schools, so they were sending their children elsewhere.

I have written my column about 7 1/2 years and have never repeated a story. I think you could write for 40 years and never repeat. We have a very good school system and great things happen every day. Why don’t we hear more positives? I believe it is for many reasons.

• Teachers are so busy that they have difficulty finding time to write or call The Herald, or even realize they need to report. Teachers also are noted for being humble and they do not want to toot their own horns.

• Administrators also are busy and they do not want to favor one teacher or group of kids over another. Dr. Ryan Cobbs, OHS principal, is very good at sharing positives with everyone.

• People like to dwell on the negatives to prove a wrong done to them yesterday or even years ago. During our latest school board election, the old school downtown was still being touted as the cause of the problems and proof patrons can’t trust the current school board. The issue with the old school was years ago, and there was a study that showed unsafe conditions. The school board acted on that study and closed the building. What would have happened if they had kept the kids in the school and the building would have collapsed?

• Education has changed so much — it is different than when you and I went to school. Many of the calendar changes are because of federal and state adjustments that the local school administrators or board can do nothing about. It might help a patron to understand if they would come to a school board meeting and find out some of the things that are making them question the district’s actions. The half day off on Wednesdays next year is a perfect example, but believe me, it’s not because the teacher wants it that way. Why then? Because of all of the requirements to teach to every child’s level, the teachers have to have time to plan and determine what group and what skill the students will need to be working on. All of that takes planning. I have trouble with the kids being out all that time, but I understand why they do it.

I would like for you to look at what we have to offer in the Ottawa school district. We have two new or remodeled grade schools. Those schools are state of the art and have recently welcomed students across the district from the former Hawthorne and Eisenhower elementary schools. I was very worried, but that change has been made wonderfully. We have one elementary school that was to become the third four-unit school in some way, but the economy ended that for a while. The teachers at Eugene Field work diligently to make their students’ learning as equitable as possible, but until a new school happens, we still need to meet as many of their needs as we can. We have a great middle school and some very great programs there. Our high school just graduated 140 students and the school is on the cutting edge of technology with virtual school and other initiatives.

Are we perfect? Not yet, but we’re headed in the right direction. What do we need?

We need positive thinkers, positive backers, positive doers and positive leaders — and we will be at the top.

Marge Stevens is an Ottawa school board member.

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