daily southtown

another take

september 7, 2007

by jerry mulvihill

so unknowledgeable is dan kleinman about school district 126 from behind his desk in new jersey that he fails to even once identify the town of alsip in his recent letter to the daily southtown.  as a point of clarification, district 126 schools serve the alsip community along with a southern segment of oak lawn.  all of the district's schools, as well as its administrative offices, are located in alsip.

but that's not all kleinman is unclear about.  he wrongfully attacks the leadership of our citizen board and recklessly mischaracterizes the actions our school district has taken in addressing concerns brought to us by parents with respect to the book, "fat kid rules the world," by k. l. going.  as far as i can tell from his letter, kleinman's assumptions and inaccuracies seem to be the result of his tempestuous hatred for the american library association.

did kleinman attempt to get any credible information before vilifying school representatives and leaders in his letter?  did he make any effort to contact the parents and community members that comprise our school board?  did he aim to get clarification of school professionals' statements he read in the local media?  no, no and no.

instead, kleinman affixed his own meaning to locutions he confiscated from statements spoken by school leaders and professionals that he read in local newspapers.  he disingenuously did this throughout his letter in the flagrant attempt to create confusion in our community.

the board of education in district 126 is carefully listening to parents and citizens from within and outside our community with regard to the appropriateness of reading materials for students, and we are very appreciative of their insight.  the board wholeheartedly believes it is in the interest of our community to continue to uphold a plan that meets the needs of all of our students' families in this area.  in the effort to clear up any confusion as the result of kleinman's letter, i'd like to clarify that:

· the board of education has never, and would never support requiring any student to read a book whose parents believe its content or language is inappropriate or undermining to their values.

· district 126 stands behind and supports the merits of age-appropriate reading materials for our students throughout the school curriculum.

· the members of the board of education, our school leaders and teachers all embrace the personal responsibility of protecting our children from inappropriate materials and believe we have a professional obligation to do so.

· district 126 accepts the responsibility of providing parents with timely, accurate information for reading titles in the effort to allow parents to make the best possible choices for their children.

kleinman states that parents in our district need local control over reading selections in our schools which, in his opinion, the ala stands in the way of.  the current practice in district 126 incorporates oversight for parents.  parents have individual choice, discretion, input and control.  the main principle of our district's policy is that parents have the capacity to decide against having their child reading any book that they feel is not appropriate.  how more "local" can control be than parents having the power to make decisions in the interest of their own child's education?

moreover, kleinman's notion that the ala, and whatever political influence it may carry, has meddled in our district's practices is simply absurd.  the district 126 school board as a whole, as well as its individual members, have never been contacted by or received any memo from the ala attempting to interfere in the board's effort to implement the best possible decisions for our students.  nor would the board allow any outside organization to do so.

the leaders of our school board, current and past, have worked diligently with the school community to build a culture of communication and local control that embraces the democratic process and allows participation from parents, community members, local businesses and many other community organizations.  we regard community participation, open communication, problem solving and educational best practice as the foreground of a quality school system for our children.

the board of education also has worked to sustain a bond with its education professionals as well as the community.  we trust and support the expertise of our teachers and school administration.  it's not a blind trust but one that encompasses accountability and direction.  the reading and language arts teachers at prairie junior high are no exception.  their decisions are research-driven and their results are quantifiable.  isat test results in reading for eighth-graders at prairie junior high school have increased in each of the past four years, reaching their highest level in eight years in 2006.  but more importantly, we call on anyone who challenges their professionalism, like kleinman, to find an educational environment better than the one at prairie junior high.  our children are safe in our schools.  they're learning, and they're in good hands.

kleinman makes the blanket statement that the leadership in our district needs to be replaced.

the citizen board of our schools comprises friends, neighbors, parents and community members whom you know.  are they worthy of continued community support and confidence?

or does kleinman trump the reputation of our schools and its leaders with his infinite wisdom of our community from behind his desk in new jersey?

seems like a no-brainer.

jerry mulvihill is president of the district 126 board of education

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