Inez shocker!

Well, I was completely unprepared for this one. I can’t remember the last time anything this big snuck up on me to this extent, that the first HINT I had of it was when I read it in the paper.

I mean, I just had lunch with Inez last week, and not a word. Oh, well. More power to my friend and colleague Lee Bandy.

I chatted with Mrs. Tenenbaum for a few minutes this afternoon, and didn’t learn much that youTenenbaum didn’t already know. Basically, she said that she had been thinking about this all summer — that once the budget and PPIC fights were over (for THIS year) and things calmed down a bit, she was able to reflect a bit, and reached the conclusion that two terms full of remarkable accomplishments (my judgment there, not hers) were enough.

I asked whether the incessant attacks from the Republicans who fear her for her popularity among the voters (and don’t bother mentioning that loss last year in the Senate race to a guy backed by a popular president; besides, I for one didn’t want to see her in the Senate anyway) was a factor in deciding to get out of the way. I have long suspected that the insistence on the part of many Republicans upon trashing our public schools (in spite of, or perhaps because of, all the encouraging data that show how education has improved on the Tenenbaum watch) was more about her than the schools.

She didn’t agree with that outright, but she did say that it would be a relief working on remaining initiatives for further improving our schools without the burden of electoral politics. Speaking of herself and her staff, "I think we’re all relieved that I’m not going to be involved in a race." One of the things she will continue to work on, even when she’s out of office is "changing the culture of education in South Carolina, so people not only respect it but revere it."

Of course, being who she is, when I brought up Republican criticism, she brought up the Republicans who have been nothing but supportive of public education and her efforts to improve it — such as John Courson, Ronny Townsend and Ken Clark. She said Bobby Harrell has been good to work with, too — although she was surprised that he criticized recently what he termed "out-of-control" transportation costs. In light of the facts, this surprised her: "He must have cheaper gas in Charleston than we have."

14 thoughts on “Inez shocker!

  1. John Warner

    I’m fascinated by Inez’s comment that she wants to focus on “changing the culture of education in South Carolina, so people not only respect it but revere it.”
    How is it that Inez is going to get people outside of education to revere a system that fails so many children in South Carolina today? It’s not going to happen.
    If Inez would focus her efforts on improving the culture inside public education so that it becomes a much more innovative system that develops creative solutions to meet the needs of children not well served today, then she would be doing a real service to the state.
    It took the cold war Republican Nixon to open the door to China. It probably will take a dyed in the wool Democrat to develop a much more effective system for delivering education.

  2. David

    I would give Inez credit where credit is due in the areas where the public school systems have shown improvement. I also think the NCLB program has begun to take hold and deserves credit in itself. Her job to me is nearly the definition of mission impossible but part of the reason for that is the education insiders will only agree to band-aid the system. Major problems cannot be corrected by saving a few dollars on buying used buses (even though that was a good idea). When Inez took over were not the SC public schools ranked 49th in the nation. Are we still 49th? As I write that, I think many of us know this all begins in the home (where INez has little influence) and ends in the home. Show me a home where the adults don’t read books (or newspapers for that matter) but sit and watch TV sitcoms each evening and you can get the kids are underachievers. Overall, I consider the state public school system to equate to a corporation heading into bankruptcy yet concentrates on putting a new coat of paint on the corporate HQ building instead of attacking the core problems.
    Finally, as for Republican criticism, thank goodness someone isnt satisfied with failure.

  3. Debi Windsor

    In DEFENSE of Public Education my son is a public education success story to me! He was diagnosed with ADD in the second grade, was placed in the IEP program and had to attend summer school twice while in middle school. He then went to Lexington High School where he had GREAT resource teachers who in addition to the one in grammar school have lead him to a very successful school career. My son is now a junior, is on the National Honor society as well as his schools, has been invited to go to Leadership School in Washington, wants to go to Annapolis and has also been one of 3 students to ever be placed out of the IEP program at Lexington High School. I don’t know what you call it but I call that a fine example of PUBLIC EDUCATION and what can be accomplished when the school, the student and the parents all come together to be a success! So for those who want to trash PUBLIC EDUCATION go right ahead! Just stay out of my neck of the woods when you do it!

  4. Bob

    First of all, if we don’t get a handle on the cost of construction for these elaborate structures that many believe we MUST have in order to “educate” students we are going to drive property taxes even further through the roof. “Necessities” like bell towers that cost tens of thousands of dollars to hang a single bell that is never even rung, multiple tennis courts, swimming pools etc.
    Also, regarding transportation costs, why not eliminate ALL forced busing of students and allow them to go to their neighborhood schools which would save millions of dollars in fuel and hardware (buses) costs as well as eliminating the dangerous practice of requiring students to stand in the pitch dark at a bus stop awaiting transportation. There are MANY cost saving things that can and should be done but when you have a system that rewards agencies with larger budgets for spending their current budgets the educrats will always be asking for more money.
    Lastly, we need to place salary caps on different poitions within the educational system. For example, first grade teachers should not be paid the same as a high school physics teacher. This would attract much needed talent into the higher math and science fields.

  5. Brad Warthen

    Mrs. Tenenbaum DID and CONTINUES to “focus her efforts on improving the culture inside public education so that it becomes a much more innovative system that develops creative solutions to meet the needs of children not well served today.” That’s why the public schools have improved steadily under her tenure, according to most objective measurements.
    You can’t hand all the credit to her, of course. The Education Accountability Act of 1998, pushed through mostly by conservative Republicans in the face of stiff opposition from the “education establishment, bears a lot of credit for this. But Mrs. Tenenbaum deserves credit for embracing those reforms — passed just before she came into office — and making the most of them. In fact, she has been a more consistent and effective advocate for those reforms than most Republicans in the Legislature. Too many of them act like they don’t remember passing EAA (and some of them DON’T remember it, and others weren’t there), and almost none take any pride in what that reform is accomplishing. John Courson is one of the happy exceptions to that (see the link on his name above, in the main posting).
    Inez Tenenbaum already has served the state well. And she’s done it with grace in the face of constant partisan pettiness and outright malicious lies that have deliberately undermined public confidence in the fine job that teachers, administrators, students and parents have done in moving public education forward in South Carolina.

  6. David

    Brad, your comments are interesting. You wrote “pushed through mostly by conservative Republicans in the face of stiff opposition from the “education establishment, bears a lot of credit for this. ”
    Is it a fact that this “education establishment” fights against nearly every improvement reform other than increased salaries. For the record, teachers are severely underpaid in this state. But I would like to see performance accountability implemented with higher salaries. Take class size, a mantra of the “EE”. The most recent Time mag. has a good article about public education and how to fix it. It cites Japan, where math and science scores are higher than in the US, yet their class sizes are double ours.
    I also find it interesting that you tend to refer to Republicans as “conservative Republicans” but how often is a Democrat referred to as a “liberal Democrat”? Is Inez one of those maybe?

  7. Brad Warthen

    David, I use “conservative Republican” to distinguish between those truly conservative individuals and the radicals who want to destroy public education. You speak as though it were a pejorative, but I’m not using it that way. The latter group — the radicals — CALL themselves “conservatives,” but they most certainly are not. Anytime I can highlight that important difference by the judicious use of a modifier, I will. But thanks for pointing out to me something I tend to forget — since I don’t think in partisan terms, I’m always forgetting that other people do. This causes a lot of people to misunderstand my writing, even though I explain and explain my positions ad nauseam.
    Next, what do I have to do to get you to open your eyes and see the world before you as it is? The Education Accountability Act IS that system of “performance accountability” that you say you want. In fact, it may be the best system of that sort in the nation. And the beauty of it is, it’s WORKING. That’s the simple truth. Saying the opposite is true over and over just doesn’t change anything.

  8. Ironchef

    What’s going to change with Inez? She spent most of her time as Super running her political career anyways. Now she can focus on it without the “burden” of running the school system.
    “relief working on remaining initiatives for further improving our schools without the burden of electoral politics.”
    Maybe she shouldn’t have . . . I dunno . . . run for US Senate then?

  9. John Warner

    I agree with you that Inez deserves credit for making the most of the existing system of delivering education. Test scores have improved in recent years as a result, and that is a very good thing. But she did very little to help create a culture of innovation inside public education, in fact she strongly resisted change along with the rest of the education establishment.
    There is a wide spectrum of ways in which students think and learn. And there is a wide spectrum of circumstances from which children come. For some percentage of children, the way we deliver public education today matches up well with how they learn and the support they receive at home. Most of these children do well, and some even excel. But a very large percentage of children are not served well by the current system, and they are failing. The price we all pay for this is very high.
    If you think there is a segment of the community not well served by the The State, you can create an innovative news source targeted are reaching those readers. If successful, your new company will gain traction and these readers, as well as the community as a whole, will be better served. The State, though, at a minimum has lost an opportunity and at worst gained a competitor.
    We need to find a way to give the best and brightest entrepreneurial teachers a way of creating now models for delivering education to students not well served today. Charter schools are a weak form of this, innovation light. Some of the most innovative models may look very different from the way we deliver education today, and would never see the light of day if they had to take root inside or be approved by the existing system. This is not because anyone in education is bad, necessarily, if it just the way large organizations work. There is powerful momentum inside large organizations, be they companies or governments, to maintain the status quo and resist change. Harvard Professor Clayton Christensen wrote a very insightful book describing this, called The Innovator’s Dilemma.
    We can continue to make incremental improvements in education continuing on the path we are on. But we can’t make quantum leaps in improving education unless we create a system that allows entrepreneurial educators tp bring new ideas to underserved students. That’s going to take a strong political leader, like a Dick Riley, who can lead us to a much better place in education than we are today.

  10. wdcox

    This is for the lady who thinks that high school physics teachers should be paid more than first grade teachers. I spent 36 years teaching (high school) and if you think a great first grade teacher is not as important as a high school physics teacher then I would venture to say you know little about public education.

  11. David

    Brad, I looked up the details of the EEA and you are correct, looks like many good provisions for performance tracking, correctional actions, etc. I admit it isn’t something I was familiar with. One major item that NCLB provides is the ability for parents to transfer students out of underperforming schools. That is a good option that the education leaders in the state fought against. Anyway, the good message in all of this is people, ie the taxpayers, want education improved so there is a common goal. If the court rules that wealthy districts have to share funds with poor school districts, the reaction will be pretty interesting on both sides.

  12. LWF

    I’m afraid this paves the way for Sanford’s tax suppported education initiative: Put “Rich” Parents in Charge.

  13. Heather

    As a second year seventh grade teacher, I find it interesting to observe and feel the repercussions of the theories and laws made by “conservative republicans” and “liberal democrats.”
    Teaching is, I dare say, the hardest job in America, and one with a severely low retention rate. Why is this? Maybe because we have insultingly low salaries considering the importance of our jobs, the stress and pressure of teaching in schools where parent support is embarassingly low or funds are ridiculously inadequate, or is it because we are so disrespected by other professions, students, parents, and the nation as a whole. Saying you respect someone and actually showing that respect are two very different things.
    In Japan, teachers are highly revered. Students are not as much as a disruption as they are in the states. The students actually go to school to learn in Japan, and the parents faithfully supoort teachers. We are not Japan, and our system is not set up anything like Japan. To compare the two is a joke!
    My school did not pass Annual Yearly Progress (AYP under NCLB) because of our special education program. Does this mean that we are not good educators? Does this mean we do not go into the classroom everyday in order to teach our students to the best of our ability? Absolutely not! When people see on paper that a school did not pass AYP, they automatically think it’s a bad school, but you don’t understand that there are so many different dimensions in passing AYP. Some schools have quit suspending students for severe behavior problems because the school could fail AYP for having low attendance. How is a teacher supposed to teach a class of 30 kids, when one student is a constant behavior problem and wants the attention of the entire classroom? It is pretty near impossible.
    When I hear (or read) criticism because we rank 49th in the nation for our educational system, it infuriates me. Yes, data is extremely important in pinpointing strengths and weaknesses, but when states are evaluated according to different criteria, that precious data is invalid. When NCLB was created, the national government asked states to decide what percentage of their students would score proficient on the state exam. South Carolina said something like 70% of the students would score proficient, while states like COlorado reported only 20% would score proficient. And the national government accepted these inequitable statistics and grade us accordingly. I don’t feel as though the data is valid.
    Personally, I want all of my students to score proficient on PACT, but when they come to me with second or third grade reading levels, my job is even more daunting. It’s so important not to set your children up for failure, but I feel like teachers are set up for failure most days. It baffles me that educators are held 100% accountable for student learning. Until students and parents are held equally accountable, our educational system will be flawed. If parents don’t care about education, the students usually don’t care. While there are a lot of parents and guardians out there that do care, there are even more that don’t. Educators cannot bear the responsiblity themselves.
    Sometimes I come home from school and read what the legislature has accomplished each day at the state house, and it appalls me. While they go on two hour lunch breaks (I used to work for the Senate and have seen this first-hand), I am responsible for watching roughly 100 11,12,and 13+ year olds while I try to scarf down my lunch, put out very dramatic fires (I do teach middle school), and keep the lunchroom relatively quiet for the 20 minutes we eat lunch. Our lawmakers run out of time during session and get paid extra to come back and discuss what they should have gotten on the floor weeks before the end of session. If we had NO STATE/COUNTY/DISTRICT LEFT BEHIND, many legislators would fail AYP.
    I would love for just one week to have some of the legislators teach my classes and jump through all of the hoops the government has created for me and my fellow teachers–to actually see every aspect of teaching. Maybe then they would fully understand all of the problems in our system and instead of pointing fingers and creating more hoops for educators to jump through, we would be able to come together and do something about the educational system. ABout 75% of teachers would not have chosen teaching as a profession if they would have known exactly how it would be–it is so much more than just teaching.
    Thank a teacher today-first grade or high school. They are all equally important. Tell them what a great job they are doing and that you appreciate the hard work and dedication they show each day in order to better educate our young people.

  14. David

    Heather, I probably agree with nearly everything you posted above but this deserves comment – “In Japan, teachers are highly revered. Students are not as much as a disruption as they are in the states. The students actually go to school to learn in Japan, and the parents faithfully supoort teachers. We are not Japan, and our system is not set up anything like Japan. To compare the two is a joke! ”
    You just described the primary factor as to why schools “work” in Japan yet call it a joke to compare their system to ours. Do you use the same logic while teaching your students? Example – N. Korea is a dictatorship where citizens have no freedom of speech, mobility, religion, etc, but they are not us. To compare the two is a joke. I could list numerous examples. Yes, there are differences in nations, states, and even cities, but being closed minded about comparing different systems doesn’t help to further learning about anything. Africa is different from North America so let’s never compare them to help determine why one continent exists in poverty and chaos and the other thrives.
    Again, your points are valid for the most part but as a teacher you need to be a little more open minded. I am sure Brad considers some of my ideas to be on the radical side but I posted earlier that I would remove compulsory education beyond the eigth grade. Imagine what that would do to the zombie parents who look at public school as a free babysitting service? Make attendance an honor and teachers will be respected.

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