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May 29, 2013 / jeffnward

An open letter to D101 Superintendent Jack Barshinger

Dear Dr. Barshinger,

Though it pains me to have to take yet more time away from writing my book, I’m feeling an overwhelming urge respond to your recent “Letter from Dr. Jack Barshinger to the BPS101 Community” with my own missive.

And I’m gonna start it off with “What the bleep were you thinking?” Make no mistake, that sentiment applies to the student survey that started this firestorm, your inexplicable response to a teacher with a conscience, and your response to the ensuing parental outrage.   barshinger

Now, before you dismiss me just like you did to the bulk of D101 high school parents, students and teachers, please remember, in my eight years of op-ed efforts, I defended you and your district more than once, authored more than ten columns supporting teachers, and repeatedly championed school boards.

So with that in mind, please tell me exactly how D101 teacher John Dreyden “mischaracterized” the district’s intentions when reminding students about their Fifth Amendment rights?

Please tell me, how you would define basically forcing students to take a survey – one with their bleepin’ name pre-printed on it – that asks them to cop to a criminal act like drug use? If that ain’t self-incriminations than I don’t know what is.

With abominations like the Patriot Act and subpoenaing AP phone records, we need more John Dreydens, not less.

As to your assertion that, “At no time was student discipline discussed or contemplated as a response to disclosures made by our students, ” what’s the road to hell paved with?

How many high schools have been broken into or hacked? What’s your plan when the Batavia Police Department subpoenas one of ‘em? And even I know that teachers and staff talk in the lunchroom.

“Trust us!” you say? But why should Batavia parents put their faith in an administration that, after hammering residents on property taxes, outspent every other district at the 2012 School Leadership Conference in Chicago to the tune of 13 grand?

I certainly hope you enjoyed your $57 New York strip steak.

And then you actually had the temerity to believe that saying a vendor picked up that conference meal tab would make it better? I’m beginning to wonder if you can you even spell “conflict of interest.”

Yeah! We’ll trust you.

Your contention that “…we could’ve done a better job explaining our goals and a better job…with parents on these sensitive issues…” has to be the understatement to end all understatements. It would be far more accurate to say, “we couldn’t possibly have done a worse job of communicating our intentions and objectives.”

Look no further than the unabating weeklong fallout for all the evidence of that you need.

Then there’s this line, “District [staff] worked together for over a year to select a data-gathering instrument that could be used to determine what social or emotional issues our high school students are experiencing…”

Really? All that time and money and the best you all could come up with is a survey?

Do you really think that students doing drugs are going to be stupid enough to put in print? Do you really think students contemplating violence to themselves or others are going to simply let you in on it?

If was asked to I write down my “emotions” in high school, I’d probably still be locked up. But in the end, if you’re willing to ignore what my wife says, I turned out just fine.

Good Lord! If you and your staff really think this survey is some sort of panacea, then I will immediately start praying for all BHS students cause they’re gonna need it.

Call me crazy, but were I superintendent, I would’ve looked into how St. Charles D303 and Barrington D220 came to terms with their tragic spate of suicides. What those districts did was educate parents, students and teachers to see the signs and then set up a system where they could easily communicate with each other.

And the suicides virtually stopped.

D300 high school Principal Michael Bregy (now superintendent) even gave out his own cell phone number so students could text him. And they did! And he helped prevent a suicide!

A survey? Give me a bleepin’ break. That’s about as passive, lazy and unconstitional as it gets.

And lastly, In my multitude of columns defending school systems, I always stipulated that it was patently unfair for parents to expect our schools to raise their children. But your letter, Dr. Barshinger, clearly states that, not only are you willing to take on that responsibility, but you and your district can do a better job.

Good luck with that. Because you’re gonna need it!

2 Comments

Leave a Comment
  1. Owl / May 30 2013 6:59 am

    Teacher Dreyden has given his students the greatest first-hand lesson in Constitutional rights.
    The students have also learned how bureaucracies over-react then their aims and plans are thwarted.

    My advice to BHS students: Find out the earliest age when you can run for election to the
    Batavia School Board, and do so. As an elected member of the Board, you can work “on the
    inside” to put an end to stuff like this. You can even choose an new superintendent.

  2. kim / May 30 2013 9:45 am

    Great article! It does seem that we need more educators like John Dreyden…….not less!

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