Guest Opinion: Many reasons behind school problems

By The Curry Coastal Pilot October 23, 2013 08:35 am

Dear Mr. Paul Ruston, thank you for responding to my letter. I was hoping someone would do so because we have a problem with our Brookings schools. Perhaps our community can get to the bottom of it. You are frustrated; me too. But you read into my letter ideas that were not there.

You say, “Use your energy to build up our youth instead of tearing them down.” I did no such thing. I urge you to reread my letter entitled “Grandpa is Worried.” My letter did not tear down kids and it was not a teacher bashing letter as you suggest. The letter says some schools do a much better job of preparing students for the future than others. I go on to say Brookings is doing a poor job and I am not happy about it. Our community should not be happy about it and my hope is our schools get better, much better.

You say I should “blame teachers for you and your friends’ success.” I am not sure blame is the right word but you will see that I did give my teachers and administrators credit for preparing me to succeed.

You may be surprised to learn that I agree with much of what you said. You are correct, it is all too easy for folks to take pot shots at others. I hope to gain a wider community awareness, discussion, and involvement to fix our problem. I was unaware how poorly Brookings schools are doing.

I have respect for teachers; it is an honorable profession. I know there are a lot of hard working teachers like your wife. When it comes to teachers and school administrators, just like every other profession, there are good ones and poor ones. I am with you on the three-way partnership: teachers, student and parents. Remember my buddy Ed? Ed’s school misled him. He had supportive parents, he worked very hard and achieved straight A’s but Ed was unprepared for college. During his first year Ed struggled to make C’s and that really hurt his overall college GPA. Ed kept working hard and got up to speed during his junior and senior years. Conversely, my other buddy Ernie and I were prepared for college level learning. The difference, Ernie and I graduated from a successful school district and Ed did not.

I do not want the students of Brookings to repeat Ed’s rude awakening should they decide college is for them.

I do not know what the problem is but we certainly have one. The article entitled “Brookings schools trail state averages” in the Oct. 12, 2013, issue of the Curry Coastal Pilot tells us students of Gold Beach test above state averages and students at Brookings schools test lower than state averages. In fact Brookings test significantly lower at between 15 and 44 percent of other state schools. Not good and this is an improvement over last testing! BHHS graduation rates continue to decline at only 69.7 percent while Gold Beach graduates 91.7 percent.

Why does Gold Beach do so much better than Brookings? Talking about Brookings schools, Mr. Larry Flick tells us it “could be that around half of its students are economically disadvantaged.” That cannot be the answer; the article tells us Gold Beach has the same issue and is perhaps worse off in that respect at 57 percent. Is the difference money spent per student? I doubt it.

In terms of achievement and graduations rates it is not even close. Gold Beach students are much better off than those attending Brookings schools. There is a reason for this large discrepancy but again I do not know the answer.

Mr. Ruston, you are much closer to the subject than I and you tell me to blame the parents. I have no doubt some parents just do not care and that impedes their kids’ chances for success. One will find that in every district across the country even the successful districts. I know most Brookings parents care a great deal and are very supportive towards their children. Do you really think the Gold Beach parents are doing that much better than Brookings parents? Is that really the reason Gold Beach is succeeding and Brookings is not? I am sure that is part of the problem but I strongly suspect there is more to the story.

For our kids’ sake excuses have to take a hike, the problems identified and fixed so that Brookings schools attain results similar to those at Gold Beach schools.

Jerry Norman