Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Wanted - Strong Rerformer for Superintendent

I’m not privy to the school board’s roster of candidates for superintendent but I already have low expectations. The board and I have very different perspectives of the Matawan-Aberdeen Regional School District. The board views the district as doing okay with room for improvement. I see thousands of underperforming students. The board is looking for a strong administrator. I want a strong reformer.

Consider these facts:

  • Aberdeen’s estimated median household income is over $75,000 and more than 20% higher than the state median
  • Matawan has the highest tax rate in Monmouth County (Aberdeen is third)
  • On an equalized basis, our school property taxes are higher than the total property taxes of sixteen municipalities in Monmouth County
  • Forbes ranks Monmouth County #8 in the country as best school district (sic) for the buck
  • BusinessWeek ranks Matawan as the 12th best place to raise kids among small towns and suburbs in the USA
Compared to the average New Jersey high school:
  • We have more computers per student than the state average
  • Each high school classroom has an internet connection
  • Only 1.7% of high school students are limited English proficient
  • The dropout rate at 0.2% is one-ninths of the state average
  • We have more teachers per student
  • Our teachers earn more money
  • We have more administrators per student
  • Our administrators earn more money
  • A larger percentage of our budget goes to teacher and administrator salaries
  • We spend more per pupil even though the state contributes far less
In summary, we live in a great community that spends lavishly on our school. Yet, despite all our community does, these are the results we get:
  • Fewer students graded as advanced proficiency in Language Arts Literacy
  • Fewer students graded as advanced proficiency in Mathematics
  • Below average SAT math scores
  • Below average SAT verbal scores
  • Below average SAT essay scores
  • Fewer than half attend a four-year college
  • Less than 3% of 11th and 12th graders take an advanced placement course in science
No wonder Board Member (and former president) Donaghue doesn’t believe our students can compete in a global economy.

How far below average do our students need to go before we recognize our schools are failing? If this was a sports team, we’d fire the head coach for having so many losing seasons. Why do we tolerate our kids scoring below average? We live in an above average community. We pay above average taxes. We pay above average salaries. We should have an above average student body.

When thousands of our children are getting a below average education, it’s a crisis. Only a strong and unflinching advocate of reform has the potential to turn around our schools.

The Wall Street Journal recently ran an op ed on such a person - Chancellor Michelle Rhee. As a teacher, she got 90% of her kids to score in the 90th percentile while working in a minority school district. As Chancellor, she fought for, and won, the right to fire nonunion workers. She’s closing underperforming schools and expanding the best programs. “I believe we should proliferate what's working and close down what's not. Period."

This is the kind of superintendent we should get. Not an expert in administration. Not an expert in bureaucracy. But an expert in education. Someone with a fierce desire to do whatever necessary to educate our children.

Some members of the school board have been grumbling about the high cost of a superintendent. Considering our school budget will likely surpass $65 million dollars for the upcoming year, I’m sure we can spare whatever funds are necessary to get the best superintendent for our schools. >>> Read more!


matawan advocate said...

Would you post the dates of the School Board meetings? This would serve as a reminder for residents to attend the meetings. Thanks.

Aberdeener said...

Good idea - I'll include an announcement section on the right hand nav.