Sunday, December 23, 2012

Did Diedrich REALLY Say That!????

Click here to access the KSUN video of the meeting.
Click about 65% of the way through.
You want to view the segment
from 58:15 through 62:00 for full effect
SP-EYE always enjoys the last school board meeting of the year because of the delightful performance by the high school madrigal singers.  And, as always, they are a talented bunch!

But there was something else notable about the December 17th meeting.  It seemed that Caren Diedrich, who isn't very stealthily running for re-election, had a few comments to make on (it seemed) every agenda item.   Is that part of her pre-election period ritual?  To suddenly speak out on any and all topics?  To be heard and not just seen?  We've seen her play to the seniors crowd before.  Suddenly, as election time draws near, she starts talking about the taxpayers.  Never mind that her standard votes are usually far from the senior citizen taxpayers' best interests.  Oh but what she had to say on this night caused a few board members' heads to turn.  Lucky for Ms. Diedrich, there was no audience...except for SP-EYE.

Are You Saying Prairie Phoenix Academy is the Island of Misfit Toys, Ms. Diedrich?
We've all seen the Rudolph video where he winds up at the Island of Misfit Toys.  Perhaps it was especially fitting given that we are in the midst of the holiday season.  How could anyone hear Ms. Diedrich's words and not get the notion that she views the Prairie Phoenix Academy (PPA) as something akin to the Island of Misfit Toys?

 The agenda item was the proposal to add a new writing requirement for graduation.  All the board members seemed very supportive....except for Caren Diedrich that is.  And while she eventually voted to support it, her line of questioning caused a lot of seat squirming.

When I saw this, I said to myself, I'm so glad I'm through with high school because this seems to be sounded like a hard maybe this is for will it play out at the Prairie Phoenix Academy?  I'm concerning myself with the rigor in both  places.
--School Board member Caren Diedich
Diedrich: I guess to me, the beauty would be in the grading.
Murphy/Apodaca: The grading?
Diedrich: The grading.  Do we ever send Prairie Phoenix Academy paperwork over to the high school to be graded by what I would call [airquotes] regular [airquotes] high school teachers and vice versa?
Apodaca: No.
Diedrich: No? Okay. [facial features and body language speak volumes here]
To their incredible credit, both Director of Instruction Alice Murphy and Direct of Student Services Jennifer Apodaca answered all of Ms. Diedrich's questions fully...even though Diedrich didn't think so.  They both deserve kudos for showing exceptional forgiving, if not restraint.

Alternative Learning ≠ Less Rigor
Bon Jovi sang, "You Give Love a Bad Name", but Ms. Diedrich, whether knowingly or not, only succeeded in giving alternative learning centers, like the PPA, a bad name.  As a school board member since many of her fellow board members were still in school, Ms. Diedrich should know that the state has only ONE set of criteria for graduation.

While GED is an option route for students at the PPA, the primary path is for students to earn a high school diploma in an alternative learning setting than the traditional classroom.  Rigor is the same, but learning is facilitated via alternate pathways.  Yes, a GED is frequently viewed as inferior to a diploma, but legally, they are equivalent.  And we DO want kids to succeed...right?

Prairie Phoenix Academy s a growing multifaceted program designed to meet the unique needs of high school students who are seeking an alternative to the traditional high school setting. 
The school offers the opportunity to earn a high school diploma through programs that are designed to meet the needs of our students' varied learning styles and diverse interests. Programs are based on state standards and focus on the core academic areas, so students will still gain the base knowledge they need to meet their future goals.
Disrespecting Teachers and Students in One Fell Swoop
If school board members view the PPA an an inferior option to high school....a place for misfit toys....then why wouldn't the public....and the students?  More to the point, Ms. Diedrich even seems to suggest that the professional educators at PPA are inferior to those at the high school.  That is outrageous, and those teachers, and principal Tavs SHOULD be insulted.

The district COULD certainly choose to use the PPA as a home for wayward/troublesome students....but that's not the portrait that has been painted for us.  Does Diedrich know something the rest of us do not?   I THAT what the district's intent is for PPA? We don't think so.  We believe an apology is in order.

Alternative High School Can...and DO...Work
True story.  SP-EYE can relate a pefect example of how alternative high schools work.  Seveal years back, a fine young lady was struggling at one of Madison's traditional high schools.  She applied to---not was "shuffled off to"--- attend the Malcolm Shabazz alternative high school.  She was accepted and suddenly her grades went from barely passing to A's and B's.  She entered a business education program and after earning a diploma, she worked as an LTE in the public sector.  She then decided to pursue higher education and earned a college degree this year in a field in which her talents were obvious.  THAT, people, is what alternative high schools are all about.

Perhaps Ms. Diedich needs a refresher course.
Shame on her for even suggesting otherwise.