Supporting the new superintendent
I was disappointed in the negative tone apparent in the July 7 article on Douglas Heuer’s selection as CH-UH superintendent. Let’s start with the ludicrous suggestion that he may be unqualified because his current district has “only” 5,000 students compared to CH-UH’s 6,000. How close do we need to come? Why would the Observer even print such nonsense?
As a 40-year veteran of the classroom (30 in a public school system with an overwhelmingly African-American population), I have always felt that the superintendent’s chief function was to be an effective communicator of the school system’s mission and policies to students, staff, parents and the general public. While Christine Fowler-Mack is obviously well-liked by many on a personal level, I thought her oral communication, both in prepared speeches and in exchanges with the Board of Education, was mired in “EdSpeak,” the sterile, vague and self-important jargon of professional education. We’ve all heard phrases like “facilitating assessment-driven competencies” and “strategizing outcome-based models” and wondered what those mean in English.
Let’s give Heuer a chance. To me it’s significant and positive that he speaks about improving “higher learning and education” rather than obsessing about scores on the mind-numbing Ohio achievement tests. As he suggested, scores will improve as a natural outcome of good classroom practices and support from home. He has worked successfully in a district where about half the students are economically disadvantaged.
Many have expressed the hope that the election of President Obama in 2008 would usher in an era of “post-racial consciousness.” Unfortunately, for some in our community, the ethnicity of the new superintendent and that of the families in his former district carry more weight than his record of achievement. The real clientele of this or any school district are neither board members nor agenda-driven citizens but the district’s children. From my years in the classroom, I can attest that students respond not so much to the ethnicity of a school system’s staff as they do to the staff’s competence and commitment. From his record and his recent words, Mr. Heuer would seem to qualify regarding both of those criteria.
Siedman is a Heights High graduate from the class of 1965, has taught in the East Cleveland City Schools from 1969 through 1998, and has taught at Ruffing Montessori School in Cleveland Heights since 1998.