Las Vegas Sun

January 29, 2015

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Sun Editorial:

Education should include opportunities in sports, activities

Jocelyn Jordan commutes to Western High School to play for the girls’ basketball team because her school doesn’t have a squad. As Sun sports editor Ray Brewer reported, sometimes she makes it on time, sometimes she doesn’t.

Jordan, a sophomore at Northwest Career Technical Academy, is at the mercy of public transit. Her journey requires her to catch two buses; she sometimes jogs in at the end of practice because of a late bus.

When practice or games are over, which can be well into the evening, it’s back to the bus stop to go home. She tries to do her homework on the bus so she isn’t up too late after finally getting home.

Teammate Tenaya Williams, a sophomore guard at Western, understands that. She takes the bus home, a trip of 3.1 miles. She knows the distance because she has walked the route and measured it.

But, admirably, these young women aren’t looking for sympathy — they know that’s the price they have to pay for playing high school basketball.

“If you really care about something, you will walk 3.1 miles for it,” Williams said. “It’s cool. I don’t mind having to take the bus or walk.”

That is a commendable attitude. It certainly isn’t easy for a student to try to juggle school and a sport, particularly when she knows she won’t be home until late and may still have to cram in homework. It makes for long days and not much sleep.

That’s hardly a recipe for student success, and not too long ago, students had a better option. The Clark County School District used to provide bus service to help students who were staying late for extracurricular activities but that service was ended about a decade ago in a round of budget cutting.

As Brewer reported, the lack of bus service dampens student participation in sports and after-school activities.

“I guarantee you a majority of the schools would get more kids involved if we had activity buses,” Ray Mathis, the district’s executive athletic director, told Brewer. “There are a lot of kids in that situation across the district.”

Western is part of the district’s “turnaround” effort. It is one of three low-performing high school campuses that are receiving extra money and attention as officials try to boost performance. As part of that effort, school officials should find a way to provide students the opportunity to participate in sports and extra curricular activities by offering some sort of way home.

This may not be a priority in a district that has struggled with low test scores, and it can be easy for some people to wave off sports and activities as “extras,” saying schools should be focusing on the basics and raising student achievement. Academics is vitally important, and it’s true that raising student performance has to be the priority. But that shouldn’t be seen as exclusive of sports and activities.

Sports and extracurricular activities are an important part of a student’s education. Involvement in activities helps students connect with the school. They also teach important lessons that can’t be replicated in a classroom — consider the friendships found among teammates or the bonds formed when students come together in a club to accomplish a task.

Without lessening the importance of academic achievement, life is much more than filling out the right bubble on a standardized test. Any turnaround won’t be complete until students have the opportunity to receive a well-rounded education, and that includes the ability to participate in sports and extracurricular activities.

And sometimes that includes help getting there.

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  1. The vision is myopic and the lenses are blurry. The school board and Mr. Jones need their "vision" checked by a good "ophthalmologist."

  2. There is a war on education in this state. Teachers - we must go to battle. Some real destruction is happening. We have to defend our public schools. We know that if things continue down this "reform" path - we are going to lose a generation of children. Public schools are the center of social justice and civil rights. If we allow conservative agenda to continue to demand testing that proves we are failing - they will not stop until there is no public school left.

    All our children will know how to do is respond to multiple choice tests. This does not a full life or education make. Education should be multi-faceted and multi-dimensional. Sports, Art, Music, Drama, Debate, Civic Duty, Problem-Solving, Creative Thinking . . . lost in the test driven insanity.

    There are those who are paid to work full time to convince the public that public schools are failing. The more we test - the more data they have to prove it is true. Meanwhile, teachers to keep our jobs must comply with directives and mandates from people who are not in our classrooms and don't know our students. It's time to speak up in a respectful manner and disagree and state why.

    How about this? We use a variety of assessment tools to determine if students are doing well. We compare our students to their own personal goals and growth model - instead of to the entire nation. We use our skills that teachers have learned through years and years of education training to teach each child individually. Instead of basing a student's success only on a standardize test - we use multiple tools to measure.

    This herd them to the standardized test and pressure them to respond in a certain way mentality will only create a generation of drones and minions. We need a more balanced approach at determining public school success. This is enough. We have failed enough kids. We have spent enough time on this mess.

    We need the public to stand up and demand a better education for their children. We are going down a path that is not good for our community. Maybe parents need to opt out of the testing insanity and refuse for their children to participate.

    Good teachers - now is the time. This is our community. These are our students. We are at war. We cannot allow conservative think-tanks and big money propaganda to determine the curriculum in our classrooms and who is successful. We cannot allow the bloggers and trolls on sites and media to control the conversation and convince the public that our schools should be punished and our students damaged any further.

    We are going to have to rally the community to defend good public school practices and demand more than testing testing testing from CCSD.

  3. Did anyone hear of CARPOOLING? Or other means of transportation, as: public transportation, bicycle, skating, skateboarding, etc.?

    This article misses several points. It does not consider that most of the readers of newspapers are the older, mature, been through the school of hard knock experiences crowd, coming from an era with virtually few "entitlements." So, the lamenting over these featured students struggling over transportation may be falling upon deaf ears. For example, while growing up, most all of my schools, except elementary school, were very long distances from my home. I learned at an early age to be very resourceful.

    It is unfortunate that many parents do not think or plan ahead, as this places a burden upon their children. The generation of parents with children currently coming through the school system have lived in a time with the taxpayers/government passing out massive amounts of "ENTITLEMENTS." Many feel it is the government's responsibility to provide and care for their children. There is the free public educational system, that now also includes "Free and Reduced Breakfasts and Lunches," for children. When times were flush, there were the funds to afford the extra-curricular busses with staff, but those days are gone.

    PARENTS are a child's first teacher. It is the parent's responsibility to address the care, welfare, safety, and security of their children, not the schools. The ULTIMATE responsibility rests with the parent.

    Blessings and Peace,

  4. An Open Letter to Mr. Jones and the School Board:

    What is your Vision for the school District? As I see it, it is myopic and the lenses to look at it are blurry. In case you have forgotten, your lenses should focus on one and only one VISION -- the CHILDREN of Clark County.

    Growth Model? How does that help CHILDREN? A report card to parents was sufficient. It worked for hundreds of years. Why doesn't it work anymore?

    Ready by exit. Ready for what? Are children ready because they pass tests? Obsession with numbers and data has nothing to do with helping CHILDREN. How about CHILDREN learning responsibility, respect, and resilience? Those don't matter anymore?

    Performance zones? Zones who 'make it,' will have autonomy and those who don't will be monitored closely? We have been MONITORED since the beginning of time! How about teacher autonomy? We need TIME and resources to collaborate and design laser-like interventions, which we are now doing using our own time, without compensation. We know what our STUDENTS can and cannot do. Time spent on assessments and gathering data leaves less and less time for lesson planning and teaching. We need support and encouragement, not a Damocles sword hanging over our heads.

    Money. How many millions have been spent thus far for the foregoing initiatives, which in any way you look at it, has NOTHING to do with directly helping CHILDREN. Yet, you ask teachers to give up what is rightfully theirs.

    Hiring and firing. How many consultants and administrators have you hired thus far with salaries way above any of us will ever earn? Yet, you threaten to fire teachers who directly work with CHILDREN. Have you even considered current societal ills that teachers have to deal with every day and the dichotomy children face in their daily lives?

    Honorable Board and Mr. Jones. Please remember you are working for the CHILDREN and nobody else. To better understand us, I propose each one of you work in the school AS A TEACHER for a MONTH. Maybe, just maybe, I will believe you KNOW MORE than a mere teacher about what really will help CHILDREN succeed.

    If you continue with this path, the parents of these children will think twice before ever funding schools AND who gets the blame? - THE TEACHERS! Nice.

    Yes. I know I am a mere peon and I can not see the BIG picture, as you do. I DO KNOW that a vision miscommunicated and misunderstood is futile. Please DO explain how these initiatives DIRECTLY help children? I am really at a loss and I think you owe PARENTS, CHILDREN, and TEACHERS that much.

  5. The last thing the public wants from teachers or the school system is a cry for people's justice or activist participation in the politics of the nation. That is, in part, what has gotten us where we are.

    If you wish to secure more autonomy as teachers I would suggest fighting for that in a steady sober way. If you wish more money for actual classrooms and courses I would recommend removing your self from activist politics. Fight for a better basic curriculum with less political intervention and; more funding for classroom activity or you will find yourself in eventual political limbo. To paraphrase do what is right for the kids and then shut up and teach.

    If you wish to lose funding and autonomy I suggest you start agitating loudly for your favorite cause. Myopic political activists do not understand the public's growing loathing for agitation by public employees nor the fact that incompetence in teaching is linked in much of the public minds with political activism.

  6. The last thing the public wants... cry for people's justice or activitst participation?

    ...fighting for that in a steady sober way? How?

    ...remove yourself from activist politics?

    ...fight for a better basic curriculum with less political intervention? Really? How?

    ...the public's loathing for agitation by public employees ...incompetence in teaching ... linked with political activism? Really?

    I thought citizens are supposed to be involved with the political process. So involvement in it makes us incompetent? Shall we stop teaching Social Studies altogether?

    Mr. Hill:

    You could have saved yourself a few words. All you really wanted to say is SHUT UP AND TEACH. Right? Nice. Really nice.

    The heck with freedom of speech! It is so overrated.

  7. Nancy, Angie and Star.

    Keep up the good work you have every right to partake in any activity to support our children. Having spent 9 years in the conservative state of Mississippis lowest funding per pupil average educational system. I can certainly attest that the fox news crowds take on education is bad for the kids and bad for America. And ladies the majority of Nevada's citizens do support you.

  8. Nancy sadly, I do not think the teachers union has served you folks very well. It AND the school Administrators have managed to lose much of the public relations battle.

    Activism is not well thought of in this company town which dominates this State's political process. It is even less well thought of in the rural counties. Legislators often give you lip service then ignore your true needs.

    Consistently making sober and persistent and realistic requests for money to improve curriculum and classroom presence is your best hope. To many in the public, the efforts of the teachers union AND Administrators now appear to be pushing for personal gain over the children's needs which is now perceived as a main motive in union activity.

    Activate away but be not surprised when it bites you where you sit. Meanwhile, there are too few classroom resources AND too many Administrators and Ed shed staff. Teachers are not empowered to teach and are often given ridiculous requirements hatched in Washington DC that waste money and resources.

    In my personal experience, (married to a dedicated ex teacher of CCSD for the last 16 years of her tenure) Administrators AND extremists in the political arena often deliberately blame teachers for things out of their control. Meanwhile, money is put into more admin staff and projects dear to Washington DC and then classroom resources, vital basic classes, and teachers suffer.

    Take it or leave it that is my opinion.

  9. Mr. Hill:

    With all due respect sir, you still have not specifically stated how else will teachers have their voices heard.

    I personally do not go out there and be an 'activist.' I represent those who are quiet and who do their work every day into the night and on to the weekend. The only talent I have is writing - and so I do.

    If you've seen how my colleagues toil every day making children's lives a little better, you will understand my advocacy. Each time teachers are called to meetings, they are presented numbers, told to gather data every week, told what to teach, how to teach, and when to teach. Teachers come out of meetings like zombies, shaking their heads, wondering where to find the time to fit everything they are tasked to do. Every year, the demands grow more.

    They are never asked for their opinion yet, they get the blame if scores do not go up. They are told to do it, no questions asked. No one dares question, for fear of reprisals. And now, the legislature gave administrators the power to fire teachers at will - without due process. Administrators have become gods to fear.

    We have not had a cost of living adjustment in years, then they cut our salary and benefits, and want to take away our step increases. Never mind that the cost of school supplies and other materials are now more expensive - money coming from our own pockets. Even the tuition for college continuing education classes we have to take to keep our licenses have been raised. So are costs for applying license renewals.

    And you know what's worse? The public calls us greedy, grabby, and overpaid scumbags. The public keeps bashing us when the truth is we are simply doing what we are told to do.

    If you have an effective strategy on how we can have our voices heard - in your words - a steady and sober way, by all means, please do tell us. Nobody else is advocating for teachers, not in many school districts in the country. In Nevada, the powers-that-be made sure that teachers cannot stage a strike.

    Maybe, instead of blaming teachers, a nice word once in a while will be appreciated.

    Thank you.

  10. I've seen it. I think reading my post should have shown you that.

    If you read my comment you might note that my blame goes to the Govt and union and not teachers. I am noting that the union's narrative as seen in the press, is mostly about salary and perks. I think, the union has lost the publicity campaign and teachers seem to have accepted the union's ineffective narrative. Turning up the volume on an ineffective Union narrative will not get teachers effectively heard. I note teachers have lost their voice on this because once the press reports the union is braying FIRST and most prominently about salary the teachers have lost the dialogue and have no useful voice.

    Like I said above:

    "To many in the public, the efforts of the teachers union AND Administrators now appear to be pushing for personal gain over the children's needs which is now perceived as a main motive in union activity."

  11. Physical Education and personal physical activities, like biking, swimming, aerobics & Yoga, the essential exercises of Karate are critical to building and retention of energy at all ages. A personal activity allows the individual to schedule their own exercise time which is more convenient then team sports.

    Children who are overweight find it more difficult to loose weight when they are older. Medical costs skyrocket, unemployment increases due to malaise and discontent. Neither they or the public can keep up with the medical bills. Only 25% of the young today are able to pass the entrance tests for the military. Many of them are just too obese.

    So build a Web Site for the Nation - "The Educational Experience for Nevada Families" and link it to the Nevada Development Authority. Rate other States in the West for the same values and conditions rated in Nevada. Once the Developers are howling along with the Public, the probability of action taken increases non-linearly.

  12. It seems Mr. Hill just has a grudge against the CCEA, since all he can claim is that the union has "Failed." As I see it, the CCEA position is twofold: First, This school board is trying to eliminate benefits from teachers for no other reason than to enrich specific people within the administration. They are attempting to take teachers out of their own non-profit health plan and force them into their corporate plan with the for-profit united healthcare. speaking directly with representatives from the company, one will find that they would have increase premiums by 60%, in order to provide the same healthcare that the teachers currently enjoy. This does not sound like trying to save money, but collect a finder's fee.

    Second, the district has cried poor, and threatens to cut 1100 teachers, but so far this year, they have hired over 700 new teachers (in addition to over a thousand teachers brought in on a one time grant). The district has also hired dozens upon dozens of consultants and "academic managers" with salaries that are at least twice what teachers make. This does not seem like the actions of a district in a cash crunch.

    I guess laying out one's position and steadfastly defending it is Mr. Hill's idea of failure. If that's the case, I hope CCEA keeps failing.

    We have given up enough - time, money out of pocket, control, creativity. No more, We are professionals and specialists. Let us teach.

  13. I sympathize but....

    Unfortunately, your own 4 item list with time and money first is why you have lost. Teachers, who are, in my experience, the most hard working, professional and giving of people are incorrectly regarded as greedy by many voters. Politicans are uncomfortable attacking teachers money and resources but they sigh and then approve nil or small increases where large ones are needed. The union can't afford to destroy ALL it's relations with those Politicians who sigh and do less than they said they would.

    Government money is tight and other, more successful lobbies require it also. Other lobbies point to the large percentage education has and make that a point in their case. Sub groups of other pro-educational lobbies siphon off teachers pay and perks to their uses. Unfortunately, misuse of educational money by entities other than teachers is ignored in this lobbying back and forth.

    Your list is an inadvertent negative for your case.

    Any student teacher (and most of the public) hears of the basic (unpaid) extra time needed at home and the classroom to prepare to teach. Surely this would not surprise the Union's leaders/publicists?

    Time is something ALL professionals historically give up as they contribute their time to meet the needs of the job. This is especially true in this time of unpaid overtime and extended hours to keep one's job; other government and private sector workers/professionals who are in their own often uncompensated time squeeze are not impressed by this complaint.

    Money means personal pay and perks to those who see your list. This being second simply reinforces my posts above.

    I note that Control and Creativity are LAST after the first two items.

    You made my point quite well.

    The children's needs as in Control, Creativity, Autonomy and Resources need to be first in your list or you will not win the publicity battle in a time of plenty OR in this time of cuts and shortages of money.

  14. I heard two teachers talking. One said to the other, "I thought I wanted a career. Turns out I just wanted paychecks, bloted benifits and tenure."

  15. Mr. Irons:

    It's bloated benefits.