Source: Sherman Publications

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Words from the Sup't
Superintendent's call to action

May 11, 2011

I did everything that was requested of me, and so did fellow Michigan citizens.

The majority of our elected officials did not hear our voices and instead chose to unnecessarily reduce K-12 educational funding, which will negatively affect our schools, our children, and their teachers.

I'm angry with and disappointed in those elected officials who chose to vote this way. It's left me wondering about the longterm agenda of these elected officials. Is this the beginning of the end of public education as we know it? No! Not on my watch.

As the superintendent of the Clarkston Community Schools, I am not just the supervisor of employees, I am the "lead teacher and lead learner," a steward of the learning process as a whole, and an advocate for children and their learning. It is my responsibility—to the community, teachers, district employees, administrators, parents, and students—to ensure an excellent education for every child.

Further, I serve all children in Michigan, regardless of the district in which they reside. I fully intend to fulfill my responsibility, especially now when many of our elected officials have seemingly abandoned us.

In response, I simply choose to say, "No. I will not idly accept this devaluing of public education.

I'm going to act instead in accordance with my values." And, I believe that we must act collectively. Instead of 500+ school districts individually cutting budgets and multiple agencies singularly developing and acting upon agendas, let's act as one voice for our children.

Should you choose to join me, perhaps we could brand our collective cause, EducatioNO!: We're Not Going to Take It.

Here are my values:

Locally controlled schools; excellent teachers; engaged, globally connected students; and collaborative communities & parents.

What do you value?

Here are some points, representing a possible platform for EducatioNO!:

1. Every child deserves and shall receive an exceptional education with an excellent teacher, every minute of every day of every year.

2. Improving schools is not the function of government. Governments do not improve schools.

3. The governor, state representatives, state senators, and the Michigan Department of Education are not knowledge authorities on education.

4. Education is not political. Education is fundamental.

5. Local communities must control their school systems.

6. The government needs to get out of the education business. Instead, the government needs to act to make an excellent education a fundamental right of every child.

7. Excellent schools require consistent funding. Local schools require options for raising revenues.

8. Research and practice have informed us, and will continue to do so, as to the elements of an excellent education. Technology is one of the quintessential tools in this pursuit. We must use research and practice to inform our work, constantly.

9. Local school districts must work together, with other entities to increase efficiency, decrease redundancy, and improve effectiveness.

10. One size does not fit all—children, families, teachers, schools, communities, people, alligators, onions, fruit trees, fingernails, political parties, transmissions. Schools require different options, depending on their needs.

As I travel across our school district observing kids, listening to teachers and other district employees, and conversing with parents and community members, I feel as though I have let them down. I asked them to remain hopeful. I promised that we would figure things out, no matter how bad they get. Our people work very hard; doing whatever they have to in service of each child.

Our educators, parents, and citizens were hopeful their elected officials would notice and support them. When I told the teachers of the House's vote to cut funding, I could see the hurt in their eyes.

Not one of them said, "What about me? I need more money. I need my retirement. I need my health care."

Just as I would expect of people who love kids, they said, "What about my kids? What about our colleagues?"

You see, schooling is local. It's people. It's relationships. It's first, middle, and last names. It's personalities. It's laughter. It's school spirit. It's hope. It's service. It's collective and collaborative. It's fundamental.

So, I'm standing up. Who is with me? Please send me a note to let me know what you think.

I will have more to say next week.

Rod Rock, Ed.D.