Waiting for Superman to fix our public schools

Published 12:11 pm Saturday, October 2, 2010

Guest Column
by Dawn Yurkas

For the first time since my family has relocated to Franklin, I have a child in Franklin City Public Schools. As progress reports came out this past week, there were several concerns I had that could not be answered by my child.

One thing that kept puzzling me was the fact that my son had yet to bring home a textbook from any of his classes. Math, science, language arts and reading classes are core subjects, and parents — or at least this parent — expect to see curriculum come home in the form of printed matter.

Having friends who are also teachers and who have taught at inner-city schools such as Booker T. Washington in Norfolk, I understand that budgets don’t necessarily allow for students to bring home textbooks as they can’t be replaced if the books are lost.

However, this is Franklin, not Norfolk, and this is middle school, not high school, and I as a parent want to see the textbooks and curriculum that my child is learning from at J.P. King Middle School.

I was thinking that since Franklin is a small city, and city budgets have been adjusted greatly in these struggling economic times, the school couldn’t afford to purchase textbooks, and even our family has readjusted finances by cutting bills to the minimum.

I began to think that I was sending my child to a school that had very little resources for its students and that I had made a mistake sending him to public school, even though his progress report clearly showed he was excelling in his studies.

The concerned parent that I am, I headed off to school to find someone to speak with over these matters. I couldn’t understand why my son would come home frustrated because several children had to read three pages from a shared textbook in the last five minutes of class to do their science homework.

Sharing one textbook is not a satisfactory solution for me and doesn’t enable a child to complete assignments and homework in a timely manner, nor does it allow for additional study at home.

My trip to J. P. King Middle School showed me some truths I am sure many parents do not realize is happening, and it is just not my son’s grade I am concerned over, but every child who is in this system.

I found out teachers do have textbooks in their classrooms, newer and current textbooks, but they are not allowed to use them because Franklin city fathers or the school board had told the teacher they can’t.

Language arts teachers are only allowed to teach 11 minutes of writing a day in class. Eleven minutes? Eighth grade SOLs have to be passed, and a large part of this SOL is based upon writing skills. How are children supposed to pass their SOL in language arts and writing when someone downtown is micromanaging classrooms and tying the hands of teachers?

Writing is absolutely essential for our children’s future as more and more communication is done via the Internet and web; the skills for them to be able to write effectively is ever more important knowing the person you are communicating with will not be able to see your facial expressions or hear the tone of your voice.

When the City of Franklin hires teachers, don’t they have faith in their ability to teach the children to pass the SOLs? Why are the hands of our teachers being tied? Why are classrooms being micromanaged from downtown?

And please, someone tell me why there are textbooks sitting unused in classrooms and teachers are being told they can’t teach from them.

Which essentially leads to the question of why are my tax dollars going to waste for teachers and textbooks if the City of Franklin is going to dictate not only what is taught, how it is taught and how long it can be taught? What is the purpose of hiring teachers? The city already has the perfect formula for achieving passing grades for all students.

Yes! City government will solve all our educational woes.

My personal opinion: Those who are micromanaging our schools in Franklin have found a system that for right now, at this moment in time, keeps Franklin City Schools in their accreditation. For now, because if any parent has gone to the website to find out how well Franklin City Schools are doing, they would know that they are barely passing to keep that accreditation. It seems that Franklin, instead of being cutting edge and innovative, has tied a knot at the end of a rope.

Franklin’s attitude toward teachers, curriculum and students for me is unacceptable, inexcusable and shameful. Teachers should be allowed to teach, students should be allowed textbooks to use, and for all the taxes that are paid by citizens in this community, Franklin City Public schools should be standing out, not barely hanging on.

DAWN YURKAS is a Franklin resident and is a Realtor with United Country A.B. Cole Associates Auction & Realty in Suffolk. She can be reached at dawnyurkas@gmail.com.