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March 10, 2010 > Letter to the editor: Longwood Elementary should not be reconstituted

Letter to the editor: Longwood Elementary should not be reconstituted

I am saddened by the restructuring of Longwood Elementary School, Hayward. It is difficult to witness the most dedicated and exceptional group of teachers, whom I have ever known, treated so callously and children lose the stable educational environment these teachers have struggled to maintain despite the lack of support from the Board of Education and other district officials.

It is no surprise the February 10 school board meeting degenerated into a circus. Every board meeting I have attended in recent years has disintegrated into petty chaos between members. Why is Mr. Reynoso the only one asking relevant questions about this costly, senseless act?

I taught at Longwood for 13 years. I decided to retire early for several reasons: little communication or guidance from administration; weak superintendents were hired then fired, each leaving the district in disarray. Longwood had six principals in seven years. Each attempted to learn the school population's needs and ways and their own agenda for the staff to follow. Just as they became efficient, they departed, leaving the teachers to clean up their messes.

Recently, boundaries of the school were changed so that Longwood has a more transient population. Gang problems spilled onto school grounds. Last year, my second grade students sheltered fearfully under their desks three times as police actions unfolded outside the shutter-less classroom window. In between incidents, Longwood teachers fought hard for funding for protective window coverings, books, reading specialists and all the other necessities for the safety and education of their pupils.

The No Child Left Behind Act created a situation where testing has become the only criterion for judging a child's performance. Tests were devised, often with no direction on how to administer or grade them. Each new test eroded instructional time. The majority of classes at Longwood are taught predominately in Spanish but tests used to determine Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) are only in English. How much sense does this make?

Longwood staff was instructed to teach additional minutes of English Language Development (ELD) but did not receive a quality curriculum to follow. As usual, faculty rose to the occasion and devised remarkable lesson plans, often staying hours after school to do so. Gains were made in many tested subject areas, though this fact is seldom mentioned.

An outside agency, West Ed, was hired at great expense to taxpayers to provide support. Nobody from that company entered my classroom. West Ed personnel also suggested that we forego science and social studies instruction for more reading, math and ELD. Some teachers feared their students would fall behind so continued these lessons, worried they might be caught, as if it were a crime. Why shouldn't Longwood students have the same educational opportunities as at any other school? Longwood's teachers made a difficult decision. We voted to relinquish our 40 minutes' weekly library time, for a science period. These are teachers who care deeply about the futures of children in the Longwood community.

The aforementioned issues are only "the tip of the iceberg." Longwood teachers should be commended for their efforts. They are in the trenches, doing whatever it takes to advance their student population. They deserve respect and honor, not "overhaul."

Marcia Howard
Castro Valley

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