January 29, 2014 - "When you work as hard at something and as long as you did, you need to know the truth about how that impacts your community and your students," said Oxford resident Sue Kinch.
Kinch was a special guest speaker at a "Thank You Celebration" held in the Fine Arts Center at Oxford High School on Jan. 20 to honor teachers, principals and support staff for the hard work they put in the past four years to become the first PreK-12 International Baccalaureate (IB) Certified School district in not only Oakland County, but in Michigan.
The luncheon celebration included principals receiving a plaque for each building, IB coordinators receiving personalized card holders and teachers receiving a small plaque.
Prior to Kinch taking the stage, Superintendent Dr. William Skilling and Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction Dr. James Schwarz expressed their sentiments.
"Today is a day to look back, not talk about the future," Skilling said. "I won't even talk about Common Core, globalization or any of those things. Just look back and celebrate what you have accomplished."
"We really need to stop and pause and look at what we've really done and not just gloss over the accomplishments that we've worked so hard for over the past four years," he said. "There is no single person in this room who brought this together. This is everybody . . . We all worked for (this) very hard."
"Frankly, there is no better district that has a sense of drive that this district has shown," Schwarz added.
In order to give a parent's perspective Kinch was asked to speak.
She not only shared what memories of her school days and personal life, but she went "on a quest for truth."
Kinch went all around Oxford to find out what people on the street had to say about Oxford's teachers and the IB program. She learned three truths.
"I discovered most parents have no idea how hard you guys have worked for the last four years. They don't really know what IB is and they're just ticked off at China," Kinch said "But hopefully, when I share the truth of what they said, it's going to be okay."
While in Meijer, one lady told Kinch "Tell them thank you for the work they do and tell Mrs.Peyerk she's especially appreciated."
When asked about IB the lady responded "What's IB?"
Another woman said "Tell the Oxford teachers thank you for the work they do and it's really quite an accomplishment of what they did with the IB. I know how hard they worked to do it."
When she was questioned about the sincerity of her answer, the woman opened up.
"As a teacher, I do know how hard they worked, but I'm struggling because my 15 year-old daughter is struggling. She feels like she doesn't have any friends (and) like the teachers don't know how hard it is for her to do so much homework," she said. "Not every kid is striving for college and I appreciate what IB is, but my daughter's spirit is being broken."
While at Country Coney, Kinch interviewed a family. The mom said, "Thank you for all the work you do." The son said "Tell them I love snow days," and the dad said "Tell them they're truly doing a great job."
When asked about IB, the dad responded "I'm sure they put their heart into everything they do whatever that is."
"Notice it's about you and not IB," Kinch told the crowd. "It's about you as a group and parents trust if IB is good and you're willing to work your tail off, it's a good thing for our kids."
While Kinch received many snarling comments on the street that she did not share, she also wanted teachers to know there some truth about parents, too. Number one, "parents are crazy."
"When parents come into to talk to you it's not just their parent brain that's working," she said. "They are bringing all of their personal educational history with them. We call that baggage."
But she told teachers not to let parents' baggage weigh them down.
"Don't let parents steal that thunder from you," Kinch said. "When they come in know they are crazy, they (have) got baggage, they make decisions that may or may not be great for their kids, but you're an educational professional."
"We don't expect you to be nannies, but we do expect you to teach our kids respect and (the importance of) hard work," she added. "I know it's not your job, but that's really what we care about and what we want you to do."
Skilling agreed that "the district needs to take more time to celebrate the successes of the staff."
"I take responsibility that we haven't done it enough," he said. "I was glad we had a time where we could bring everybody together to say 'thank you' and to recognize those individuals who make a difference in the lives of our students and their education."
Not only did Skilling believe the event was a "great opportunity" to celebrate the district's IB-related accomplishments, he said it was also a chance "to squelch the naysayers."
"One of them being a director from IB thinking that we would not be successful in having all schools go through the authorization process at the same time and we dispelled that myth that it couldn't be done," he said.
Trevor graduated with degrees in English and communications from Rochester College. He wrote for his college and LA View newspapers before joining The Clarkston News in May 2007.