“A Place Called School”
Superintendents, principals, and board members are often asked to verbally “paint” their vision of an effective school and align that vision with schools of the future and the accompanying needs of those future communities and their schools. Locally elected community leaders as well as state officials are often asked similar questions but mostly during election times when education is always a hot topic. These educational “head games” are productive because from them can come ideas, goals, visions, and strategic plans that may change or re-shape the current educational paradigm and delivery model of a school or district. In his book, A Place Called School, John Goodlad encourages school districts and communities to look “outside the box” and “push the edge of the envelope” while critically examining the educational status quo that exists in many schools and school districts. Schools of the future will be infinitely different from the present, as communities will require that their young people leave high school equipped with the skills and talents needed for professions and jobs that are nonexistent today.
A school or school district being perceived as good may simply mean that it appears to run smoothly and without apparent problems. It may have numerous new programs and be in constant pursuit of the flavor-of-the-moment innovations in education, or the school and district may be merely “dancing to the music” of fleeting vocal groups and not “listening to the pulse” of sound educational research. Further, being perceived as an effective school or district may only be relative to expectations and parameters of the past and not to current realities or the needs of the future. Effective schools have an inherent responsibility to recognize and fulfill the educational needs and expectations of their local community while addressing and providing for the broad purposes of education. Effective schools should extend to their students the ability to read many kinds of writings and to judge the veracity of those writings. Their students should be given an understanding of the structure and workings of our government and the role they play in that process. Those students should be given a basic understanding of the technological nature of our culture and the scientific issues affecting the future of our society. Effective schools should give their students the tools to make them wise consumers of the many forms of media and materials presented to them, and those students must be able to write and speak to make their views known in debates of public policy. Schools also have a responsibility to provide experiential opportunities for youngsters to discover and develop talents and interests that may enhance their lives and give direction to their futures.
Fort Madison Community School District is striving to be an effective educational institution that provides the youngsters in its trust with the skills and talents that they will need to become productive and contributing members of our local community as well as the global community of their future. However, our district needs to improve its graduation rate to a point where anything less than 100% is unacceptable to the school district and the community. Our community leaders, both elected and civic, should become more cognizant of the mobility rate in this community and school district, as that dismally high percentage rate is in direct correlation to our graduation rate and rate of unemployment in this community.
What about Fort Madison’s “place called school?” Is this school district providing an effective, quality educational experience for the children in our trust, and is the district embracing the challenge of providing and equipping our graduates with the talents and skill sets that will enable them to meet the requirements and needs of future job markets? These are questions best answered by our community; however, as superintendent of this school district, I am keenly aware of our deficiencies in these areas.
I continue to be impressed and encouraged with the quality and professionalism of our district employees and their commitment to this community and its young people. Further, I have found this community to be very supportive of the school system, as businesses are very generous as evidenced by their considerable donations of items and money to support the extracurricular and trades programs, and of course attendance at school events and gatherings is another solid indicator of community support. There seems to be a well-kept secret in Southeast Iowa: Fort Madison is a great place to live and rear youngsters!
As always, I encourage parents and/or community members to call me or come by the district office to visit. Appointments are not usually necessary, but you may want to call ahead just in case I am away from the office. I also encourage community groups to invite me, principals, district-level administrators to speak at meetings or gatherings.
My office number is 319-372-7252 and my direct email is firstname.lastname@example.org
Kenneth Marang, PhD
Superintendent of Schools
Fort Madison CSD