My Turn: Schorr's view of teachers seriously skewed

Posted: Sunday, September 09, 2001

I am not prone to writing letters to the newspaper, but Alan Schorr's My Turn was so disturbing it requires rebutting.

The continual destructive rhetoric concerning Juneau's teaching staff coming from some members of the School Board and administration, and Alan Schorr in particular, can only be described as divisive and destructive.

Reading Mr. Schorr's diatribe, one is led to believe all Juneau's teachers are lazy and self-serving, showing little or no interest in their chosen profession of educating our children. Reading between the lines a bit more, I guess we are supposed to believe Juneau's students all come to school clean, well-fed and eager to learn. After living in Juneau for more than 30 years and having watched as my three sons made their way through school here, I believe Mr. Schorr's view of Juneau's teachers is seriously skewed and just flat wrong. It is my observation that most teachers work more than the 7.5 hours per day Mr. Schorr mentions and are seriously concerned about and interested in the students in their classes. It is also obvious many students come to school from seriously dysfunctional families and with virtually insurmountable learning challenges. Even those who come from caring and nurturing families don't always put their best foot forward and just occasionally the combination of a few of these challenges together in one room could test even Mr. Schorr's vast abilities.

I would far prefer our school administration take lessons from University of Alaska President Mark Hamilton. I am sure he has just as many, if not more, employee challenges than the Juneau school system but rather than a continual flow of negative statements concerning his staff, President Hamilton has loudly and continually told all that would listen about the pitfall of under-funding of Alaska's education system. With President Hamilton's approach, we have a university somewhat better funded and a staff proud to be working there.

In contrast, Mr. Schorr's approach will result in a staff of underpaid, inexperienced, under-appreciated teachers. This is without question a recipe for disaster. There can't be a much more discouraging experience for any employee than putting in a hard day at work only to read in the evening paper how they and all their coworkers are being labeled with the performance of the poorest and most ineffective employee on the staff.

I would suggest Mr. Schorr take a lesson from a previous School Board member Bob Locke. Get out in the schools, learn the problems the teachers face and work with them toward solutions. They are, after all, the ones who spend all day with our kids. They must be part of the solution if we are to improve our education system. Everything I've read on good management suggests a successful staff is one which is encouraged and included. "Us against them" virtually never works.

*****

Jon Carter was an involved parent of students in the Juneau school system for 18 years and remains concerned about issues that affect the community.



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