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Superintendent Recognizes NCLB True Intent

Middletown Pat McLeod stood in a middle school library yesterday morning, trying to recruit foot soldiers for her rebellion from the ranks of suit-and-tied administrators.

The target of the acting Middletown superintendent's ire is President Bush's No Child Left Behind Act.

The law's stated purpose is to close the gap between disadvantaged and minority students and their peers. But, according to McLeod, that language is just a shroud pulled around its true intent: The dismantling of public education.

"This legislation stinks," McLeod said. "It's bad for children."

The audience at Monhegan Middle School was made up of administrators from other small city school districts in Orange and Ulster counties.
No one had anything positive to say about the new law governing how federal school aid is used. They mostly agreed that its emphasis of measuring districts on student test scores, and rewarding or punishing them accordingly, is counter productive.

With the words and manor[sic] of a Sunday preacher, soft anecdotes alternating with and hard declarations, McLeod held the audience of her colleagues gathered around her in a circle at attention for more than half an hour.

Dressed in a purple suit and silver heels, she spoke smoothly of the good things going on in her district. With her hands joined together in front of her, she recalled a visit to that very school a week before during which she watched teachers teaching and students learning.

Then silence.

But not everyone was stirred to action by McLeod's sermon about a law that, because it targeted for better or for worse, more diverse districts, is, McLeod said, "racist" and "classist."

Newburgh schools Superintendent Richard Johns put his face in his hands.

McLeod switched gears to sarcasm-tinged outrage. "And we have to fight this black cloud of No Child Left Behind because we don't know what we're doing."

Johns rubbed his eyes and sighed, the rhetoric too strong for his tastes.

"Clearly there's a camp that's set on destroying public education," he agreed. But he warned that school districts can't pretend that things don't need fixing. "The nature of what we do has to change," Johns said. "It has to."

Johns and his colleagues want to do what they can to work with the new system. McLeod wants to fight it.

The meeting, which also included educators from Port Jervis and Kingston, was intended to draw districts together to help each other deal with the responsibilities of the year-old law. McLeod closed by saying that a letter would go out soon about a follow-up meeting.

Which districts will be on board for a second meeting remains to be seen.

— Greg Cannon
Superintendent blasts 'racist' education law
Times Herald-Record
Jan. 22, 2003


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