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Curmudgeon's Corner

cur-mud-geon: anyone who hates hypocrisy and pretense and has the temerity to say so; anyone with the habit of pointing out unpleasant facts in an engaging and humorous manner

Village Buzz - June 3rd...

Education, Germantown, Village Buzz

Kennedy Middle School Discussion...

I mentioned some weeks ago that I had been receiving e-mails from parents of KMS students, and from school district residents who had no KMS students, that were expressing their concern about the manner in which that school was being run.  Some were concerned about the perceived lack of a strong drug message being delivered while others were concerned about the attire observed on some students.  Still others expressed concern over their perception that there were few rules that were enforced, and that those weren't necessarily enforced uniformly.  Others reported fights that didn't result in any visible corrective actions being taken.

I began to work on this information and have conducted quite a few visits with parents, some school insiders, former KMS students and so on.  There are strong supporters for the KMS approach and for both Principal Steve Bold and for Assistant Principal Mark Kaminski. As you might expect, there are also opinions that come down opposed to the methods used in KMS by its leadership.

There is a common theme from both the supporters and the detractors of KMS' leadership.  The common theme is that  KMS is run the way the principal wants it run, and that is not going to change.  KMS is "his building" and things are going to be done "his way".  This isn't necessarily a bad thing presuming that the school is being run the way the parents, the board and the administration wish it to be run.  Pride of ownership is not a bad thing in and of itself.

There are some indications of student "favorites" who are generally free from discipline and there are the "bad guys" who are singled out for more stringent corrective actions.  There are complaints about the lack of suspensions because, as those making the point claim, this helps the attendance percentages for KMS, and thus is good for the leaders.  There are some indications that punishment is held in abeyance and often ends up being dropped.

There are those who favor the addition of a School Resource Officer who would be assigned to that school.  There are others who doubt the need for that level of supervision, or who question the support that person might be able to expect.

I have sensed an overriding concern on the parts of those with whom I've spoken.  None of them want to get on the wrong side of the school leadership.  That could simply mean that leadership is very strong and determined to not put up with any criticism, or it could mean that the people under those leaders fear them for other reasons.

I have heard KMS described as "an island" because it is so different from the elementary schools and from the high school.  Defenders comment that the middle school is where the boys begin to feel like boys and where the girls begin to feel like girls, and that there is a requirement for a different approach.  The comments referred to the practice of a philosophy known as "love and logic" which you can 'Google' if you choose.

Others have remarked that each graduating eighth grade class requires some six months to become acclimated to the high school environment where running and rough-housing isn't permitted, and where there are rules, and discipline when the rules are broken.  That suggests that there is a more tolerant atmosphere at KMS than at the high school.  Maybe that is not a bad thing; I don't profess to know that answer, but there does appear to be a difference that is readily discernible.

I do know, from my conversations, that Principal Bold and Assistant Principal Kaminski seem to be polarizing figures; people are either in their camp or not in their camp.  I found no one that was "lukewarm".  The education professionals with whom I have visited are careful to not cast aspersions, and yet they sometimes seemed to leave interpretation to the listener almost with a wink and a nod.

It could be that there is merit in some kind of rotation for school principals and assistant principals.  It could be that the board and administration needs to bring additional uniformity to each school in the system so there isn't a learning curve for the students moving from one 'world' to the next.  There seems inconsistency in that area based on the reports I've gleaned.

There also seems to be a decided lack of parental input at the board level.  As one board member put it to me, the voters advise the board what they want or don't want, and of their concerns; the board takes that under advisement and instructs the administration; the administration imparts the requirements along with its expectations, and there are repercussions for failure to achieve the desired expectations.

I am inviting both Mr. Bold and Mr. Kaminski, or any other district official, to bring their positions forth if they choose, and will publish those verbatim from those sources in this space.  I am hopeful that we'll get some 'debate' moving on this subject.  Please, however, keep it on a reasonable and productive plane.  I know that this can be a very 'energizing' topic.

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The Curmudgeon Blog topic for today is titled "Health Care Wait Times".

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