The Daily Pilot recap of Wednesday night’s N-MUSD candidate forum included some coverage of whether a charter school would be welcome in the district.

According to the Pilot, Trustee Karen Yelsey said “…that if a charter school with a concept that is unique and inspiring and offers something our district does not already have, I would consider that petition. … To date, we have not seen a need to approve a charter.”

The charter school needs to be “unique” and “inspiring.” That response is really all you need to know about why you should vote for Yelsey’s Area 4 challenger, Dr. Gina Nick, and for Michelle Murphy, the challenger for Trustee Charlene Metoyer’s seat in Area 2.

Unique and inspiring? Something we don’t already have? How about supporting a charter school with a track record of success? How about preventing our kids from being guinea pigs for some “unique and inspiring” education experiment by embracing a charter school that can show hard data on improved academic performance?

Yeah, I know: There I go using that “logic” stuff again…

But it’s not a light topic. The subject may have been charter schools but that “unique and inspiring” comment is a window into the mind of a trustee who, after 12 years, still appears to be disconnected with the principle of best practices.

It’s a simple, three-step concept – one that I promoted throughout my campaign four years ago:

  1. We are not the only school district in the country.
  2. It is highly likely that the solution(s) we need to improve academic performance are in place elsewhere.
  3. Initiate discussions, have meetings, and study those solutions to determine whether they would work here.

But instead of best practices, we get charter school scrutiny based on the squishy concepts of “unique and inspiring.”

Do students a favor this election cycle and vote for:

  • Dr. Gina Nick in Area 4
  • Michelle Murphy in Area 2
  • Michelle Barto in Area 5
  • Ashley Anderson in Area 7

Back in the saddle

I have spent the last few days in New York City. As they often do, my discussions with my New York friends and relatives turned to education. In one lively conversation, I raised the subject of the evolution of the learning experience, trying to make the case that when it comes to keeping up with the learning style of the average U.S. child, the public school system in the U.S. is falling far behind the curve.

One example I gave is the general reaction to smartphones. Instead of adapting to this emerging and evolving style of communication and embracing smartphones as the next teaching tool, many school districts are limiting their use by students or even banning them outright.

In response, the dinner guest next to me said, “More and more, kids will be communicating not for thought but for efficiency.”

I could not have made the case more clearly than in that one statement, which should be sent to every school superintendent and school board in the U.S.

Chromebooks for students are yesterday. And I predict that in a relatively short period of time, the smartphone will be yesterday as well, not just for students, but for all of us.

Think of it this way: The iPhone was introduced 10 years ago. If you were 30 at the time, using recent stats you already had had a kid or two. That means that we are now educating kids who were brought up in a smartphone world: They watched their parents communicate extensively on a smartphone and probably know their way around one by now as easily as – or better – than many adults.

So what are we doing here in the district to adapt accordingly? I have no clue and I closely follow district affairs.

One challenger, in particular, Ashley Anderson, understands this concept. When she is elected to the school board, I predict she will be a champion of accelerating our learning models to adapt to new methods of communication that are already in place and successful elsewhere.

Or, we can settle for what we have with the two incumbents – the old school way of doing things: Waiting for the district staff to recommend methods that are not at the forefront of highly advanced, proven education processes and then approving them because they are merely “unique and inspiring.”

Once more…

  • Dr. Gina Nick in Area 4
  • Michelle Murphy in Area 2
  • Michelle Barto in Area 5
  • Ashley Anderson in Area 7

Steve Smith