In September I was selected to be a participant in the Lamar University Superintendent’s Academy. This group provides superintendents with intense training that further prepares them for the role of the superintendent and the ever changing dynamics of the position. Most of our sessions for this academy are held on the campus of Lamar University in Beaumont, but the most recent session took us to New York City. This trip was provided through a scholarship and was of no cost to the District.
What did we get to experience in New York? Here is the run down: We were on the subway each day by 7:00 am. This gave us the opportunity to visit with students who were commuting to school. We talked to a 12 year old boy who took a bus and two different subway trains to get to school and he was traveling alone. We also talked to a high school girl who traveled an hour from her home in the Bronx to get to her school located near Times Square. We saw many kiddos who take the subway daily to get to their schools. This is definitely a foreign concept for us here in San Saba. Our daily morning meetings were held on the campus of Columbia University. This institution was very inspiring. The average ACT score of the students in attendance is a 36. Our professor leading the sessions at Columbia was Dr. Fran Murphy. He is liberal New Yorker who enjoyed stepping on our toes and challenging our educational and core beliefs. Dr. Murphy helped us learn everything we could about the NYC schools. The most striking thing we learned is that teachers MUST get their masters degree within 3 years of beginning teaching in NYC, but the masters degree is paid for by the NYC department of education. As well, we learned that teacher salaries begin at $42,000 and top out at $115,000. We also learned that the NYC department of Ed spends approximately $18,000 per student where as here in Texas, we spend approximately $7,000 per student. The money is primarily allocated to teacher salaries and not resources. We learned too that there is still segregation in the NYC schools due to the number of private and charter schools. It appears that white students go to private schools, athletes go to private schools, and the public schools are mostly demographically Black, Hispanic and Asian. There are 170 different languages spoken in NYC and 36% of the population is foreign born. This makes for a very unique student population. The public school we visited in Harlem was a PK – 8 school. They were just adding the 7/8 grades so it was not at peak capacity yet. The principal had been at the school for 8 years. One of the assistant principals commuted for two hours one way from Rhode Island to get to the school each day. She believes in her leader and is committed to turning the school around. The school suffered low scores this last year. They had scores of 60+ % passing reading and math in 08-09, but in 09-10 the scores dropped to 20% and 30% passing because the NYC Dept. of ED changed the passing standard. They did not know this until August, when they returned to school and received their scores. The organized union truly does control all facets of the school operations. They have an administrators union, custodial union, teacher union, etc. Students attended 180 days of school while teachers attend 181. The teachers start at day prior to the students starting and they leave the last day of school with the students. We left the school with many questions, but with much hope for our own schools and what we can achieve with the support and the resources that we have. I was thankful for the Texas Education Agency and all its bureaucracy. In next week’s column, I will complete my report about this incredible opportunity and our visit to a NYC high school located near Times Square. The high schools are VERY different in NYC.
Please visit www.san-saba.net to view events and find information you need to know about SSISD. As well, don’t forget to sign up for the "alerts" available from the website, and don’t miss the opportunity to sign up for the Parent Portal giving parents access to grades and attendance. Parents, let us know how we can help you the first day of school all the way until the last day of school!! If you have any question about this article or any other question about school happenings please contact me at 325/372-3144 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org . We are San Saba! We are together!