Tiny Lindsay school district leads the way in the San Joaquin Valley

The Lindsay Unified School District has just won a $10 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education in the 2012 Race to the Top  competition. The RTTT grants are designed to reward school districts that use innovative means to reach their students. In Lindsay, they are allowing students to work at their level and advance when they have demonstrated proficiency in required skills.

That seems like a simple concept, but it is a change from the traditional system, and schools generally cling to the status quo.

This is how we put it in today’s editorial:

“Sometimes our over-choreographed public schools make learning much too complicated, as they cater to the educational elite, the political insiders and textbook publishers. Lost in this shuffle are the students.

“In many ways, our public schools are more about serving the adults in the system than the students they are supposed to be educating. A good example is the school calendar. It is set up for the convenience of adults, even though the extended vacation periods create learning deficits as students are away from the classroom for large chunks of time.

“Lindsay Unified puts the emphasis on the classroom, with its performance-based system. “People learn in different ways and they learn in different time frames,” Superintendent Tom Rooney said last month after Lindsay was named a Race to the Top finalist.”

Here’s the complete news story that ran on the front page of today’s Bee.


Fresno Unified board continues the infighting

Even the day after the election, nothing seems to have changed at Fresno Unified School District trustee meetings. The trustees battled Wednesday night over selecting a McLane area trustee to replace Tony Vang, who was forced to resign after it was revealed he did not live in the district.

The board eventually named Christopher De La Cerda to the seat. He will be sworn in on Nov. 14, and serve until 2014. He is a former teacher and the father of three. As The Bee’s Barbara Anderson reported, the trustees fought over whether to make an appointment or call a special election, which would have cost about $125,000.

The issue broke along the typical political lines for the board. Trustees Larry Moore and Michelle Asadoorian wanted a special election, while the board majority favored the appointment. “In the end, Moore nominated De La Cerda and voted for him. Asadoorian was the lone dissenting vote,” Anderson reported in her story.

The meeting came a day after the election in which trustees supporting Superintendent Michael Hanson were re-elected. That election was considered a referendum on Hanson’s tenure as the district’s top administrator.

After the meeting, De La Cerda said his goal is to communicate and collaborate with the other board members. Good luck in that atmosphere.

A 14-year-old can inspire the world

Most of us can’t comprehend the mindset that it takes to be so fearful of girls being educated in Pakistan that you’d try to kill a 14-year-old for speaking out on allowing girls to go to school. On Tuesday, Malala Yousafzai was shot in the head and neck by Taliban gunmen while she was riding her school bus. Malala is a fighter and doctors report that she is improving following surgery.

This barbaric and cowardly act is the result of extremism that’s too common in parts of the world. Fortunately, many leaders in the region are speaking out against the shooting. The Taliban claimed that Malala was “promoting Western culture.” How can anyone, no matter how extreme, argue that it’s not a good thing to send girls to school? But maybe the Taliban is really afraid of an educated populace rejecting its version of the world.

Malala is a courageous champion for the rights of all of us. We should consider the Taliban’s action against her as actions against all of us. We should praise the leaders who have spoken out publicly against the shooting and add our collective voices. This can’t be just another terrorist act that’s soon forgotten, as other terrorist acts are committed and cloud our memory.

A 14-year-old girl should be safe on a school bus. She should be allowed to get an education. It seems so simple in our world because we take so many things for granted. Let’s not forget Malala and let’s demand that she be protected from future attacks by the Taliban. The group has said it will finish the job. That can’t be allowed to happen to this 14-year-old girl who inspires us.

As former First Lady Laura Bush writes in a commentary that’s running on Friday’s op/ed page in The Bee:

“Malala inspires us because she had the courage to defy the totalitarian mind-set others would have imposed on her. Her life represents a brighter future for Pakistan and the region. We must speak up before these acts occur, work to ensure that they do not happen again, and keep our courage to continue to resist the ongoing cruelty and barbarism of the Taliban. Malala Yousafzai refused to look the other way. We owe it to her courage and sacrifice to do the same.”