When I look at the condition of Decatur Public School District #61, my mind goes back to Eastside High School in Paterson, New Jersey in the late 1980s.
Eastside High School student population declined like DPS student population has declined. DPS has closed schools and has over 800 students in one building designed for 300 students.
Students at both Eastside High in the 1980s and DPS today cannot pass basic skills tests. Students at both Eastside High in the 1980s and DPS today are out of control and the teachers do not control their classroom.
Eventually, Eastside High hired a new principal, Joe Clark. Two years ago, DPS hired a new assistant superintendent of teaching and learning, Jeff Dase. Both Joe Clark and Jeff Dase made radical changes instituting programs that improve student spirit and performance measures for students as well as teachers.
At both schools, the parents, the teachers, and administration reacted strongly to the new changes. At Eastside High, parents, teachers and administration wanted the principal ousted. At DPS the Board of Education wants to look for a retired superintendent. Because of language in the pension contract, the retired superintendent will work two days a week. Who will do the work of superintendent the other three days of the week?
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Mr. Dase is currently doing the work of two assistant superintendents as well as work of the superintendent. The superintendent has taken another job. Past practice dictates the assistant superintendent is seated as interim superintendent then superintendent. Past practice sets a precedence. Since Mr. Dase already has the qualifications and the experience, why not promote him to superintendent?
Julia Maddox, Decatur