Organization of Public Schools

Re “Dozing Into Oblivion With Old School Ways,” Feb. 21.

Beverly Kelley was right on with her “tidy rows of diminutive desks” comment. There needs to be significant, and probably radical, change in our public schools.

Can you think of any organization, public or private, that is structured precisely the way it was 80 years ago? How long have we had ugly pyramid [organization] of school boards, superintendents, assistant superintendents, principals and teachers--with compensation following the same top-down path?

Maybe, just maybe, we can look at our best teachers as “managers,” assign to them staffs of paraprofessionals or retired subject-area experts, really bright stay-at-home moms with master’s degrees or anyone else willing to give precious time to our kids. Then maybe, just maybe, we can begin to redefine how we look at the teaching profession and public education.

The possibilities are limitless but perhaps we should:

* Look at the primary grades as “research and development” and assign special funds.

* Break out of the lock-step age-based system that assumes all brains develop at the same time in same way (whatever happened to Piaget?).


* Not assume that formal primary / secondary education begins at age 5 and ends at 18.

* Apply the same energy that we expend to win football championships to win math or science or writing championships (whatever happened to nonathletic extracurricular competition?).

* Speak in terms of K-14, not K12.

* Extend the school day, ending with “homework elimination labs” so elementary parents can be more than “homework cops.”

With the increasing role of the state in public education, local boards control fewer and fewer dollars but they still have organizational control to some degree. Charter schools? Why not charter districts?

If the U.S. post office can reinvent itself, maybe Ventura County schools can alpha, as well as beta, test some of the things that must be done.

JIM KALEMBER, Trustee, Oak Park Unified School District