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Charter-school email churns up opinions



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October 05, 2011 - Charles Kennedy of Clarkston signed up with Clarkstoncalendar.org to receive email notices about school closings and other announcements.

When he found an opinion piece penned by Superintendent Rod Rock about charter schools, he was upset.

"It appears Dr. Rock is utilizing taxpayer funded equipment and time to advance his personal agenda relative to Charter schools," Kennedy said in a letter to the editor, page 6.

"Its intent is not for public officials to utilize resources like this," Kennedy said. "I'd want him to show a balanced approach."

David Yarnall, who also wrote a letter to the editor, said he was surprised to receive a politically oriented E-blast email.

"It feels like a desperate measure to get the word out in any way possible," Yarnall said. "It's unethical he doesn't own that email address."

Rock sent the article through several venues, including as a viewpoint column to the Clarkston News ("Superintendent views as school year gets underway," Sept. 21) and his blog, rodrockon.blogspot.com, which is linked to from Clarkston Community Schools' website.

"As the superintendent of schools, I feel it is my obligation to notify our community of this legislation, its potential effect on our schools, and to share with them my opinion on it," he said. "I also feel that I must stand up for teachers as they serve our children, which I've done frequently in my writings."

Readers are welcome to share opinions with him, he said.

According to Clarkstoncalendar.org, the website is a partnership between Independence Township, Clarkston Area Chamber of Commerce, and Clarkston Community Schools.

It was created in 2003 to "provide a user friendly, up-to-date calendar of all community events" to help "keep our community informed about local events, government meetings and area activities."

"The calendar is a good idea, but use it for what it was intended for," Yarnall said. "He feels he has to get the word out against charter schools that irritates me. For or against doesn't matter. This is like using company email to sell a bicycle. You'd get reprimanded for using it for a personal email."

Rock should have stuck with his own email address, Yarnall said.

"He has his own email," Yarnall said. "With this kind of issue, he should use his school address."

Rock said more charter schools threaten Michigan school districts.

"The most alarming part is that the legislation includes an option for school districts to privatize teaching," he said. "I believe this is another attempt to deprofessionalize the teaching profession and to defund public schools."

Kennedy disagrees.

"Competition is critical," Kennedy said. "We're raising children to go into a competitive environment."

The state Senate is considering the Parent Empowerment Education Reform package, which would lift the 150-school cap on charter schools, expand cyber charter schools, allow parents and teachers to petition to convert the school to a charter, expand dual enrollment, college-credit opportunities for high-achieving students, and require districts to participate in schools of choice.

"Parents across Michigan are clamoring for more choices," said state Sen. Phil Pavlov, R-St. Clair Township, one of seven sponsors of the bills, in a press release. "This package is a major step toward meeting those goals and breaking down the barriers standing between our kids and their future."

If passed, it probably would not have an immediate impact on Clarkston.

"I don't believe there is a charter planned or operating in Clarkston," Rock said.

Phil is editor for The Clarkston News. He is a veteran of the first Iraq war, having served in the U.S. Army.
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