Hertzberg to battle mediocrity, minority problems
Editor’s Note: Today continues a series of guest commentaries by the six school board candidates. Each has been offered a chance to pose his or her views. We are running them as they submit them.
I want to serve the people of Summit County as a member of the school board to bring the knowledge I have acquired to the students in this county.
I want to utilize my training in education, in history and in human relations to improve the schools in this beautiful county, where I reside.
I have a bachelor’s, master’s and a doctorate of arts degree, all in history. My field of greatest expertise is modern Chinese history.
My career has taken me to China and to Bulgaria, where I was part of the founding faculty of the first American University in a former communist country, the American University in Bulgaria. I believe I have witnessed some of the best and some of the worst examples of attempts to educate our youth.
My experience includes 15 years with the Pittsburgh public school system, where I was a social studies teacher who taught every subject in the social studies curriculum.
During that period (1972-1987), I had some interactions with the elected school board, which was not beneficial to the goals of education. I was exposed to the workings of a large public school system with all its accomplishments and all its warts. In the course of my lifetime, I have witnessed the decline of public education. I would like to reverse this trend.
In 1988, I began my career as a history professor teaching at three community colleges, (Colorado Mountain College was one) three universities, (one was the American University in Bulgaria) and a prep school at Squaw Valley in California.
I moved to Summit County in 1996 and worked as a substitute teacher in three school systems. Briefly I was the director of the Alpine Charter School. Thus, I have experience in budget management and grant writing. My 30-plus years of experience qualify me to serve on the school board.
Summit County is a very beautiful place to live, but it does have its problems, both in education and government.
In education, I believe the biggest problem facing Summit County is the integration of youth whose first language is not English, into our school system.
We must make every accommodation possible to welcome these students, arrange for tutors who instruct in their first language, and most of all, focus on keeping them in the school system.
Of those who fail to graduate, many are Hispanic. Therefore, adjusting our classrooms to welcome students from all cultures is the primary challenge of this school district.
The second most important problem is the mediocrity of the secondary school system. In the past few years, some steps have been taken such as the International Baccalaureate Program to overcome this mediocrity.
As a substitute teacher in Summit County from 1997-99, I saw many, many examples of this mediocrity. It was more apparent in Summit High School, where students routinely ridiculed education, ate and drank copious amounts of soda pop and other beverages in class, necessitating frequent trips to the restroom, and generally wasted a great deal of time during the academic day.
It is my belief that block scheduling lends itself to this unfortunate trend in high schools. In block scheduling, classes are one and a half hours in length, and each class is held every other day.
Students age 14-17 cannot focus on a single subject for more than an hour at a time (for some even 45 minutes is too long), so of course, they lose interest, socialize and even fall asleep. The conscientious students do their homework in class, while others pass the time chatting, eating and drinking.
If I could have some influence, I would shorten the blocks in English, history, mathematics and foreign languages to 50 minutes. Shorter classes meeting more frequently are better.
Athletes in Summit County are the recipients of special privileges allowing them to leave school early two or three days a week, missing as many as two classes.
Their early departure seems to have no effect on their grades, according to what I have been told. If true, this is testimony that not much is being taught in the classes they have missed.
Athletic careers, even successful ones, are short. Parents and schools should focus on the long-range future of student-athletes. Every student should have the opportunity to develop his/her future intellectual potential. High school is the first level of intellectual development.
If I were a member of the school board, I would work to improve opportunities for our minority students, and I would work for a more intensive academic program for secondary school students.
All our students can perform at a high level.
Ruth S. Hertzberg is a
resident of Copper Mountain.
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