John Jarpe: All the news that fitsPublished 12:08am Thursday, May 5, 2011
The evening of April 25 was slightly rainy, cloudy, and somewhat cool. A track meet was just finishing up and Brandywine’s boys had done a good job. The Board of Education was just starting its meeting in the school library. There were several very important items on the agenda that night, and for the board and administration it appeared to be a long evening. Representatives from both newspaper and TV media were at the meeting.
The High School CAD teacher, Pat Stier, showed the board his classroom and presented some of the skills his students learn every year, such as architectural design, bridge building and laser tooling. He demonstrated how the laser design machine works. The board saw one of the unique opportunities Brandywine students have among their elective choices in high school.
Social Studies teacher and history club adviser, Dave Roeder, presented his proposal for a June 2012 club summer trip to Springfield, Ill. and St. Louis, Mo. Past club trips to Gettysburg, Washington, D.C., Williamsburg and New York City were previous summer learning opportunities the history club students have had. The board also approved the overnight Fifth Grade Outdoor Education Program. This has been a part of Brandywine for many years.
The Board next had the unpleasant task of approving eight teacher layoffs. The uncertain state school funding picture and contractual deadlines made it necessary to take this step. It was made clear that this number is on the precautionary high side and several of these teachers may be recalled to work before the school year is out.
A presentation on MEAP scores showed that Brandywine students are showing solid yearly growth or staying proficient. Students from economically disadvantaged circumstances score at about the same range of success as all students in nearly all grades. As was discussed, this is an indicator of school effectiveness.
That evening and the next morning, the only news item covered from this meeting was the teacher layoffs. It’s understandable that this is the main headline from the meeting; the struggling economy in Michigan continues to dominate news; school funding and other budget issues are a daily hot topic out of Lansing; and, anytime schools face tough decisions, it’s news.
But, it’s not the only news. The CAD program, the History Club, Outdoor Education, and the MEAP data were all news that could have been covered, too. The reporters and editors have limited time and space and have to make choices. Their stories and interviews were accurate and fair; they did a good job and did not glorify negativity. Indeed, the Daily Star publishes “good news” items and photos from Brandywine frequently. However, maybe there could have been a short “in other school news…” addition to its coverage of the board meeting.
It was a long meeting, and at the end, the weather had started to clear up some. My hope is that the same can be said for our school funding, we can recall as many teachers as possible, and that people will keep hearing the good news about our schools as well as our struggles.