LONGMEADOW, Mass. (WWLP) - While some local school districts showed their students a livebroadcast of President Obama's address to American schoolchildren,the Longmeadow School District did not.
The following statement was released by the district.
A message from LONGMEADOW SCHOOL DISTRICT
President Obama’s Address to School Children
As you know, the Longmeadow Public Schools will be tapingPresident Barack Obama’s national address on Tuesday forfuture viewing after review by the principals and their staff. Ouradministrators will determine the appropriate venue and logisticalarrangements for sharing the speech. The stated purpose of themessage to speak to the nation’s children and youth aboutpersisting and succeeding in school is, of course, one that wesupport and value.
The decision to postpone the airing of the speech was not apolicy decision by the School Committee, but an operationaldecision by the administration. Let me clarify the reasons for thatdecision, which involved much more that a reaction to concernsabout the message and which were guided by a desire to provide thevery best educational setting for our students to receive themessage. Here are the multiple logistical challenges that faced ourschools:
• The communication about this speech from SecretaryDuncan was made directly to school principals in late August.School superintendents were not contacted. Several of ourprincipals did not receive the original communication and did notlearn about the event until Thursday, September 3rd. That allowedthem 2 days to make all of the necessary preparations and tocommunicate with parents about opt-out provisions for theirchildren.
• We did not hear from Commissioner Chester, MassachusettsDepartment of Elementary and Secondary Education, on this issueuntil midday on Friday. His message includes the following keystatements:
o “If the timing of this speech works with your schoolschedules you may want to make arrangements to allow students toview the speech. . . “ and
o “That said, we recognize that the speech hasgenerated some controversy . . . Commissioner Chester asks that ifyou do have students watch the speech, to please respect therequests of any parents who ask that their child notparticipate.”
• The President's speech is intended to be part of alarger classroom activity that involves writing and discussion.None of our schools has the capability to air the speech in everyclassroom at the same time. It would need to be viewed in largergroup settings that would not support such learning activities.
• Our schools are not equipped for instant, live viewingof broadcasts in large group settings. When we made arrangementsfor viewing the Presidential Inauguration, we had almost 2 monthsto accommodate our technology and logistical needs.
• This event will occur during the noon lunch time.Arranging for students to view the speech “live” wouldrequire changing school schedules, including lunch, with very shortnotice at the beginning of the school year.
• Since many parents have requested that their childrennot view the live broadcast, we would have to make arrangements forthose students to be identified and separated from their peers intoanother location, supervised by adults and engaged in an alternateactivity.
• Reviewing the speech will allow our principals andteachers to determine the best settings for using the message inthe classroom to integrate with curriculum - by grade level andsubject area and will allow us to plan the most appropriate andrespectful venue for those lessons. Also, our teachers would havean opportunity to modify the recommended lesson plans asappropriate by age and for alignment with curriculum. In addition,we will be able to manage the technology requirements forviewing.
• Our school district respects the President and believesthat the stated purposes of the speech are worthwhile.Nevertheless, (1) we are challenged by the constraints of ourtechnology to offer all students equal access to the live messagein the appropriate classroom setting and (2) we look forward to theopportunity to make informed decisions about the best use of thespeech in an appropriate classroom environment.
• While we would prefer that this event were devoid ofpolitical overtones and controversy, it is not. Therefore, we mustmake decisions in the context of that environment. It is our hopethat after viewing the speech and learning of our plans forutilizing the message in the classroom setting, the concerns ofparents will be allayed and the environment in which children viewthe speech will be conducive to learning, rather than confusion andpossible tension.
• Once plans for future viewing of the speech are made,they will be conveyed to parents, who can then make an informeddecision about their child’s participation.
• On Tuesday, parents are welcome to dismiss theirchildren from school prior to noon to view the live broadcast athome, if they wish. Please note, however, that the speech will beavailable on the Internet and on television for later viewing, andwe would encourage parents not to dismiss their children, but totake advantage of the opportunity to view the message with theirchildren after school, and to await announcements about our plansfor school viewing.
• I should also add that ultimately the decision topostpone the airing of the President’s speech and to have theadministrators jointly decide how to best plan for future airingwithin each of their buildings was mine – that of theSuperintendent of Schools. I chose not to put each of them in thedifficult situation of having to handle those plans alone andwithout collaboration.
• To reiterate, the administration of the LongmeadowPublic Schools has great respect for the President of the UnitedStates and looks forward to viewing his message and to planning theappropriate use of the message at a future date.