I am on the "Key-Communicators Email List" (that is, I have an email address) for news and notes from the Sun Prairie (WI) Area School District (about 6,000 kids in 11 schools -- seven elementary schools, two middle schools, one high school, and one alternative learning center) in which I live. The big kerfuffle over the Obama address to school kids on Sept 8 has kept me mindful to watch for communication from the district on this topic.
Here is what I received today from our Superintendent:
District E-mail to Key Communicators
To date, I have had 4 questions from Sun Prairie parents about the president's speech to schools on Tuesday, September 8. With all the media attention this may be on other's minds, here is the position of the District Administrator of the Sun Prairie Area School District.
We were informed by the U.S. Secretary of Education on August 25 that on September 8 the U.S. President would:
"deliver a national address directly to students on the importance of education. The President will challenge students to work hard, set educational goals, and take responsibility for their learning. He will also call for a shared responsibility and commitment on the part of students, parents and educators to ensure that every child in every school receives the best education possible so they can compete in the global economy for good jobs and live rewarding and productive lives as American citizens."
There is no school district requirement that any school or classroom participate. However, as with any major current event and with the special focus of a U.S. president encouraging kids to do well in their education, I imagine it will be widely viewed in many classes. In fact, I have encouraged such participation. (emphasis mine - SJC)
If parents wish to know whether their children might be in class(es) that may be watching the speech (either live or an archived copy later) and/or participating in other discussion activities, you may contact your school's principal.
If your children happen to be in a class that will be participating, and if for any reason you do not wish them to hear the U.S. president speak on the topics above, or participate in any possible follow-up activities, you have the right, per our district's policy, to request that your student not participate and be provided alternate curricular activities.
I believe in the high level of professionalism of the Sun Prairie teaching staff and trust them to make decisions that will be in the best interests of students' learning. Teachers frequently use current events as teachable moments as long as they are relevant to the what they are teaching. The purpose of this speech: "Working hard, setting educational goals, and taking responsibility for learning" is quite relevant to the mission of Sun Prairie schools.
Finally, I encourage parents to record the president's speech and watch it together with your child, following up with a developmentally appropriate analysis of the message and a heart to heart about working hard in school, setting goals, and taking personal responsibility for learning.
Parents can use this as an opportunity to connect with their student around your values about school and learning and how you may agree or disagree with our president's viewpoints and perspective on this topic. Modeling for our children critical thinking and civil disagreement on public issues is very important, but connecting with them around shared values is priceless.
This decision to me seems very level headed, based on the district's policy and encourages parents to record or watch at home with their children and discuss whether you agree or disagree with what is said. How radical-center is that!
My kids, Colin and Cathryn are in Grade 2 and 4 respectively and I do hope that they get to watch President Obama next week. I will be checking with their teachers and principal on this. We'll also watch together and discuss as a family.
I am not a blind follower/apologist of the district, its initiatives or how it implements policies - far from it. But this is one time I do believe the district got it right.
Thanks Tim - Good email; good communication and good decision.