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Letter to the editor: Niles Community Schools newsletter full of unanswered questions

Published 9:32pm Friday, September 6, 2013

To the editor:

As an educator with 48 1/2 years of classroom teaching experience (37 1/2 full-time with 28 years in Niles schools and 11 years as a substitute teacher in Berrien and Cass County schools), I feel I have earned the right to be analytical and even critical of school related information.  Three areas of concern resulted from reading the most recent Niles Community Schools Newsletter. I found the publication to be nice advertising but useless for giving data regarding the performance of district schools.

The first concern was found on page three where it is reported that Niles has hired over 35 (I understand it is over 40, but I’ll go with the reported number) new teachers this year.  In the current harsh financial environment for schools, most are looking to cut back in staffing.  I can think of four reasons why a school district would hire over 35 new staff:  1.) drastic increase in student enrollment;  2.) significant reduction of class size;  3.) introduction of many new courses and programs;  4.) problems in retaining staff. The article never addresses which of these is the cause. If there is some other reason, I would be glad to hear it.

The next occurs on page five as we are told 190 of 215 graduates have been accepted into college. Nice but again useless information. It does not state how many of these are taking a full load of college level courses nor how many must take remedial courses before they are allowed to pursue a college degree. That would be useful information for evaluating our Niles programs.

Colleges are businesses hoping to operate with budgets in the black. Watch the ads on television and you know they are competing for students. If you have the money they are willing to accept you. Today, it is not difficult to enroll in college.

The third is on page six where it is stated that Niles High School had 208 students enrolled in AP courses. Again, this is nice but useless information.

How many of these students were able to pass the AP exam at the end of the course and actually earn college credit? That piece of information would tell us something about the success of these programs.

Why is Niles School administration willing to spend so much time and money giving us information that tells us nothing about the performance of our schools? Why are the members of the Board of Education not asking some of the questions I have asked? Why take as proof that all is fine and dandy the opinion of a person whose job depends on making our schools look good? Have board members ever spoken with the teachers whose job it is to implement the programs they approve?

Norman Guentert

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