Saturday, January 26, 2013

ASD School Board Member Scott Armstrong Bashes Teachers

Scott Armstrong
 I attended a very disturbing ASD school board meeting on January 24th. It is now crystal clear to me that the majority of our school board, and our superintendent Dr. Mayo, do not appear to be willing to fight for the funding needed to adequately serve the children in our district. These board members seem ineffective, and offer no ideas. I don't even think these people have any understanding of what teachers and students deal with on a daily basis in over crowded classrooms. They don't seem to understand education issues, or how poverty impacts learning. 

We now face the possibility of more teacher furloughs, while our teaching staff is already bare bones due to last years massive furloughs and cuts. And at this critical time, the majority of board members are not focusing on doing what is in the best interest of students. Dr. Mayo has no ideas, and wants to continue with a failed business model approach, working within a failed system, hoping that Governor Corbett sends us some table scraps. He wants a "business climate" in our schools, and is hopeful that implementing a new school uniform policy will help to reinforce his thinking. I don't mind uniforms, but we don't need a business climate. We need a nurturing, safe, learning environment where all children are given opportunities to discover their talents and succeed. We don't need test prep, narrowed curriculum, and data driven instruction. We don't need more rigorous standards. A school is not a business. Businesses are about profit, schools are about students. These are our children, they are not products. Stop dehumanizing education. 

Thank you to ASD teacher Deb Brobst, for speaking up for teachers and students, and board member Ce-Ce Gerlach, who spoke up and did not approve  Mayo's plans to conduct a study to determine "the minimum" number of teachers needed to serve our students. Board member Joanne Jackson was absent from the meeting, but has informed me that she voted against the plan too. Thank you Jo Jackson! ASD serves needy children growing up in poverty, many are homeless, many have special needs. Common sense will tell you that we need much more than the minimum here in Allentown. Mean spirited board member Scott Armstrong told teachers to "look in the mirror" because you are to blame. He is a disgrace, with a narrow right wing political agenda that has nothing to do with improving our schools.

A friend of mine, a committed parent volunteer who attended the meeting with me, wrote the following letter to ASD School Board President Robert Smith.

Dear Mr. Smith:

As a parent of a fourth grader at Muhlenberg, I attended last night's board meeting due to grave concerns about the direction and future of the district.  It would be an understatement to say that my concerns were in no way alleviated by the discussions and votes conducted in the meeting.

As the parent of a special needs student, who is eternally grateful for the expertise, experience, commitment and compassion consistently demonstrated by my son's teachers throughout his school career, I was particularly appalled at the tone, attitude, statements and implications displayed by Scott Armstrong at last night's meeting.  It occurred to me that, if one has such disdain and disrespect for teachers -- the people who do the actual work of a school district -- then perhaps one should not serve on the school board.  I also feel that Mr. Armstrong's statements and implications were inflammatory and misleading to the public audience at the meeting.  Even I, with a quite rudimentary understanding of the pension situation, know that to blame teachers and their compensation, including pensions, for our ongoing budgetary crisis is simplistic and unfair, not to mention extremely divisive and unproductive.  I have to assume that Mr. Armstrong knows that as well, as does the rest of the board.  

I am willing to consider that, perhaps, Mr. Armstrong was having a bad night.  I can also certainly imagine that there is enormous history and significant dynamics between teachers, administration, and the board, which has to create a great deal of frustration at times.  I can even consider that Mr. Armstrong is a truly good person who is doing an incredibly difficult job.  However, Mr. Armstrong should understand that not everyone is as charitable as I, with great effort, am trying to be.  He runs a serious risk of simply appearing unprofessional, arrogant, and as having a personal axe to grind that has nothing to do with the needs and best interests of our students.  At this critical time in our district, we should be completely focused on advocating for, and protecting the educational rights of our kids.  This requires collaboration among teachers, students, parents, administration, board, and community -- now.  We do not have the luxury of petty arguments, blaming, and grandstanding.  I have directed this correspondence to you, as the President of the board, because you are, of course, a key leader in this effort.  

Thank you very much for your service to the district, and your consideration of my feedback.

Lisa Figueroa


jo jackson said...

i was attending another fund raising banquet where the iron pigs gave a 10,000 dollar grant to the district. you know that initially i voted as the only board member when the action was moved forward--a distinct and heart felt no. i understand an over crowded classroom and love the arts. you realize that i have been fundraising as a private citizen for items that budget can't handle. i had talked with ce-ce and we both felt strongly about voting no. the student rep told me that it was a good thing because with my fraigile heart i would not have made it through the meeting. go teachers, parents, paras, custodians, security guards, and cafeteria workers-fight the good fight. education rocks in my world.

Bill Villa said...

No one w/ political (and cultural) views as extreme right wing (and as blatantly racist) as Scott Armstrong's should be sitting on any board of any kind except maybe the Ku Klux Klan board.

This vile comment appeared at Scott Armstrong's "Allentown Commentator" blog for several years. Angie and I asked Scott Armstrong, repeatedly, to delete it, and disown it. Armstrong always steadfastly refused. When he ran for ASD School Board recently, he made the "Allentown Commentator" blog disappear from public view. It may still be visible to "invited members," we don't know. We do know, however, that in its racist heyday one of The Allentown Commentator's regularly contributing commenters was current (for now) ASD Board member David Zimmerman.

What's in store for the future:


My name be Eboneesha Li Herenandez, an African Hispanic Asiatic-American Girl who just got an award for being the bess speler in class. I got 67% on the speling test and 30 points being black, 5 points for not bringin drugs into class, 5 points for not bringin guns into class, and 5 points for not gettin pregnut during the cemester. It be hard to beat a score of 120%. White dude who sit nex to me is McGee from Ocala He got a 94% on the test but no extra points on acount of he have the same skin color as the opressirs of 150 years ago. Granny ax me to thank all Dimocrafts and Liberuls for suportin Afermative action. You be showin da way to tru eqwallity. I be gittin in medical skool nex an mabe I be yo doctor when Barrac take over da healtcare in dis cuntry

Bill Villa said...

Lisa Figueroa, your letter to ASD Board President Robert Smith Jr. about Scott Armstrong (re-printed here at Angie's blog) is TERRIFIC. THANK YOU for your civic-mindedness in taking the time to write and send it.

Mrs. Dottie said...

Hi Jo, I did not know you voted against the resolution, since you were not at the meeting I attended, and I did not hear them announce your vote. You and Ce-Ce both voted against it, and for students and teachers. Thank you. I will add this to my post. I hope you feel better, and thanks for taking action on fundraising.

There are parents like me who have been very committed to the ASD as volunteers, but many are not in positions to donate money. We do what we can to raise awareness, like I do here, and on a daily basis committing our time to students, and working behind the scenes. We are not looking for recognition, just a better education for our kids. I think we can all help, in different ways. That's why I am encouraging parents to get involved, and at least have this conversation. If we are going to save the ASD from sinking, it's going to have to be parents and community taking charge and demanding the funding from legislators.

Armstrong is a problem, and someone on the board should have denounced him at that school board meeting. Our kids and hard working teachers deserve better. Many parents are fed up with the cuts, and will be leaving ASD.

Mrs. Dottie said...

Jo Jackson, the Morning Call is reporting this:

"The $248 million draft budget passed 8-0 and the staffing study 7-1 with one absence. Director Ce-Ce Gerlach said she opposed the study because it could possibly take away more teachers from students."

Mrs. Dottie said...

Governor Brown in California is looking at new funding formula for education because he knows children growing up in poverty need MORE, not less or equal, and that it is an injustice to not meet the needs of all students. Common sense. And our "leader" in the ASD says he wants to do a study to find "the minimum." Parents must realize that what ASD is doing is an injustice. There are ways to find funding, and to not even try to do anything is immoral and cruel, promotes inequality.

Lori McFarland said...

Other than shock, I would like to offer the opinion of G.Terry Madonna and Michael Young in the Monday, January 28th opinion section of the Morning Call,Your View and is titled Madonna and Young:Gov. Corbett's Pa Lottery plan a bad gamble.

It offers possible solutions to the funding crisis in public education. I believe they are onto something.

Mrs. Dottie said...

Lori, I can't believe that the Ontario Pension Fund owns Camelot (the private company that will be running the PA Lottery) and other corporate entities. I think the merging of public and private is working out well for Canadians because they care more about the common good, and working together to solve problems. Corbett wants to destroy unions, has no empathy for poor school children. He cares more about profit for his cronies through privatizing public education. I don't like the idea of having to "play the capitalist game" but I agree we need to think of new ways to fund public education.

Living_on_The_Rez said...

Excellent article. I couldnt agree more.

Living_on_The_Rez said...

P.S. Scottie is an avowed Anglophile. Nobody who reads his commentary is surprised that he continues the act the way he apparently always has-being on the School Board just dignifies it. That's the shame of it.