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  • Writer's pictureBy Aline Yamashita

Failing grades

Once upon a time, in the land of the Department of Education, there was a program called Language Arts Math Program or LAMP. Federally funded, this effort provided teachers support in helping their students improve in language arts and math. Dottie Wintterle provided the leadership.

She and her leadership circle – Alice Borja, Alice Constantine, Julie Sisson — had LAMP teachers or LAMPERS throughout schools. The data showed the guided, engaging instruction and evaluation worked.

They also facilitated a summer school, the K-3 Summer School Program where hands-on learning succeeded.

I know because when I became the school program consultant for Early Childhood, the program transitioned to my table. It was an awesome collection of students, families, teachers, sponsoring schools that loved coming to school and working.

We had no transportation. Frankly, I always believed that was one of the reasons achievement strengthened. Every morning when families arrived and when they departed, teaching staff and their instructional aides would be at the curbside greeting and interacting. The human touch went a long way to motivate, inspire, connect and keep the teaching and learning focused. And, families found a way to get to school. They just did.

The transportation challenge with summer school had me wondering how it gets to June with no decided plan. Even if USDOE told GDOE a month or so ago that government partnerships were questionable, GDOE had a month to make announcements. The back and forth of no transportation, yes transportation and continued question of “who is paying for it” is irresponsible.

When I read that folks wanted GDOE to be left out of the politics of schools, I stopped. How can anyone think that the political card is not significant? Even as governance structures have continued to evolve in an effort to allow GDOE to focus on student achievement, the reality is that politics remains key to a royal flush.

When you have board members asked to resign because they don’t agree with the company line, the political significance is the elephant in the room. As a person who was fired because loyalty was questioned by the executive branch, I know exactly how this plays.

Then, we have despicable school maintenance issues that continue to plague us. Stability has been touted as needed to make progress. Well, the current superintendent has been in position since 2012. And if anyone believes that bathrooms, rat infestation and walkways just blew up at our schools – identified through a current walkthrough – you really are in fairytale land.

We’ve always known that the Home of Geckos was in as horrible shape as the Home of the Sharks and the Home of the Roadrunners and the Home of the Hawks. All schools – elementary and secondary needed continuous maintenance.

There has been no concerted effort by the Board of Education to make school facilities a priority. How the superintendent gets high marks is beyond many of us. And, there is at least one statute, if implemented, could address the needed maintenance. As well, private sector has been wanting to partner to help.

Don’t even get me started about programs. Well, actually, I’m already started. Next month, let’s talk about special education. Yes, the school system needs support but know that they need to help themselves, too.

Aline Yamashita is an educator and former senator. Send feedback to


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