Pleasanton Weekly

Opinion - November 26, 2010


OMI thanks

Dear Editor,

Thank you for the great review for my school, Oakland Military Institute College Preparatory Academy (Nov. 12, "Dave Ham: The man behind the parade). We were glad to participate in your parade. I am a seventh-grade cadet at OMI.

Once again, thank you very much.

Elizabeth Navarro

Thanks, Pleasanton North Rotary

Dear Editor,

REACH could not exist without the support of our community partners. Recently, work teams from Pleasanton North Rotary performed annual maintenance and projects at REACH's six Pleasanton and three Livermore properties. The work crews replaced toilets, installed light fixtures, replaced furnace filters, cleaned out dryer vents and so much more.

REACH is an all volunteer nonprofit, dedicated to enhancing the quality of life of each individual we support by helping them achieve their fullest potential. Our mission is to provide resources, education, activities, community participation and housing opportunities that will enable adults with developmental challenges to approximate the pattern of everyday living available to people without disabilities.

Julie Testa

Not 'Waiting for Superman'

Dear Editor,

As if teachers did not have enough to deal with already with budget cuts, lay-offs and steadily rising class-sizes, they now find themselves the object of a savage attack in the form of a new movie by Davis Gugenheim called "Waiting for Superman."

The movie, which is stirring up a national debate over the effectiveness of public schools, lays the blame squarely at the feet of teachers and their unions. Sadly, the movie ignores much of our multi-faceted education system and focuses instead on charter schools. Its simplistic approach fails to provide a glimpse of the real challenges and successes in America's public school system. Instead it scapegoats teachers and their unions.

Has anyone in our community stopped to consider how many millions of dollars have been cut from our budget over the last two years? Class sizes have risen alarmingly and teacher workloads have increased as a result. Despite everything the District's API scores rose yet again last year and they remain among the highest in the state.

The students in California classrooms are not waiting for superman. They are just waiting for safe facilities, updated textbooks and basic school supplies that are needed in order to focus on learning.

Trevor Knaggs, President, Association of Pleasanton Teachers


Posted by Ryan, a resident of Mohr Park
on Nov 28, 2010 at 9:59 pm

This is in response to Trevor Knaggs letter about "Waiting for Superman", a movie about the failing educational system in America. I have to politely disagree with your viewpoints on the subject. I have to say that it is partially the teachers' fault for this problem. I'm not saying that all teachers are bad or anything like that. I've had quite a few good teachers in high school that really knew their subject and could teach students well without using a textbook. But I've also had a few bad teachers as well. They weren't bad people. Most of them were actually very nice. They just really could not teach. I remember I had to go through one year of english class with a teacher who would grade my essays but not tell me what I did wrong or right on the paper... so I didn't learn anything or improve the entire year despite my efforts to change. There was also another teacher who said to the morning class I was in, "Oh you guys are in my morning class? Yeah... you are all going to fail" and he did fail everyone. So I really don't think "waiting for superman" was placing the blame on all teachers. Just the bad ones

Posted by Maja7, a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School
on Nov 29, 2010 at 11:46 am

The problems in the public schools are not just due to the millions of dollars cut from school budgets over the last two years. A major part of the problem is tenure. It's "earned" after what 2 or 3 years??? That should be a probationary period for new teachers; to see whether or not they can perform. Not everyone is cut out to be a teacher. I know this by personal experience. I did a little (very little) substitute teaching at the elementary level (with my BA and an emergency certificate) and it was enough to know that I did not have "the gift of teaching". And, I truly believe it is "a gift", an ability and/or talent. In my role as a parent, I have encountered myself and through my children, teachers that are no longer passionate about teaching and should be released from their position. Complaining to administration does no good because of "tenure".Until the public schools and the teachers' union acknowledge that we, the taxpayers, know their dirty little secret (tenure) and set forth to correct the failing system, we will continue to complain about the quality of public education, children not being prepared for college(and beyond) and the burnt out, still employed teachers.

Posted by comment, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Nov 29, 2010 at 11:57 am

Earth to Maja7,

"complain about the quality of public education..."

We have high quality public education here in Pleasanton. It rivals the quality of private education in Pleasanton. Get to know your community. Why do you think so few parents use private schools here when many can afford it? It isn't that way in plenty of other communities. I'm not saying we shouldn't look at reforming tenure policies to make our schools even better, I'm just pointing out that parents are willing to pay a premium on the price of their homes so that their children can attend Pleasanton schools. We have a good school system here.

Posted by A Mom, a resident of Mohr Park
on Nov 29, 2010 at 3:57 pm

I have not seen and do not plan on seeing "Waiting for Superman", I do know Trevor Knaggs, and he is a wonderful teacher. Having been invovled in Pleasanton schools for over 15 years, I know how dedicated and excellent most of our teachers are. However, having also experienced public school education in another country, I agree with Ryan, many teachers here do not know how to teach - they present the material to the students and expect them to learn it. This is the fault of our colleges and credentialling programs, which fail to teach actual teaching stratagies like "scaffolding". I also believe that many of the teachers are trapped by the Union too. We tend to think that the teachers have some power in the union, but I think they have as much as we do with our various levels of government. Lower union groups are in a bind with regulations to the group above them. So while it is easy to sit here and blame everything on the unions and teachers - I think it is just indictive of our society as a whole. "Waiting for Superman" may be right - but does it solve anything? Does it move anyone in any organization, at any level, to change the status quo?

Posted by A Passion for Learning, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Nov 29, 2010 at 9:50 pm

I am curious about the movie Waiting For Superman, although I'm kind of out of the situation now since my youngest child is a college Junior. The thing that bothers me, though, is that her friends who are majoring in Education are the kids who were pretty disinterested in school and just coasted by. They certainly did not (and still do not) exhibit a passion for seems they want to go into teaching by default...because there's nothing else they can think of or qualify for. This bothers me quite a bit. I have 3 teachers in my family and they were all good students, and have high standards for themselves. I would like to see the education departments of colleges become more selective.

Posted by Maja7, a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School
on Nov 30, 2010 at 9:16 am

comment (name?) Thanks for inquiring as to my location. I am on Earth. Have been for 49 years, thank you very much. You took my words "complain about the quality of public education..." totally out of context.I grew up here in P-town, went away to college and lived elsewhere in the U.S., I do know that the Pleasanton schools are good. That's why I chose to move back, pay the outrageous costs of home ownership, etc. not just in California but Pleasanton as well. My complaint about the quality of the schools is directed towards the administration/teachers' union having the power, abiltiy and desire to keep teachers that are clearly burnt out or ill-equipped. This situation affects their teaching, obviously, and leaves gaps in students' education that 'hopefully' are remedied by parents and future teachers.That's more like what I meant to say. Hope that clarifies my complaint about the schools here in beautiful P-town.

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