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George Neely On Lodi Unified School District’s goals — and my woodshop record

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George Neely

George Neely, Lodi Unified School District trustee

“It’s a misconception that we can’t get rid of a teacher who’s not performing. If we’re having a problem with a teacher, there are ways we have dealt with that in the past.”

George Neely, Lodi Unified School District

“I don’t think there was anybody there who didn’t want to bring graduations back, but there are physical limitations.”

George Neely

Age: 61.

Occupation: Director at ABLE Academy.

Family: Married 18 years in second marriage, with two sons from a previous marriage.

Community activities: Board of trustees for GOT Kids Foundation; former member of the Lodi Public Library board; enrolled in night school to get his administrative credential.

Posted: Tuesday, May 29, 2012 12:00 am | Updated: 6:43 am, Wed Oct 22, 2014.

I said in my last article that we need to fix public education. Nothing earth-shattering about that revelation. What I didn't address is what we want public education to look like once it was fixed. The first place to start is with a goal. What should be the goal of public education? It's not surprising that the answer to this simple question has been hotly contested.

In one camp, we have a large group of educators and politicians who believe schools should prepare students to go to any college. Notice I said "any college." Not just a community college, but a UC or CSU as well. To this end, they have set requirements for all students to take all college preparatory classes. In California, we refer to these as the A to G requirements. Each letter, A to G, refers to 1 of the 7 covered subject areas, and list the requirements in those areas for a student to be accepted in the UC or CSU systems. For example, requirement C covers math, and requires that students complete three years (recommends four years), including basic and advanced algebra and geometry.

Educators who advocate this approach are quick to point out that research shows school test scores rise when students are required to take more stringent courses. I have a few issues with this concept.

First, while school test scores may (or may not) increase overall, the scores for lower-performing students decrease. This is because the policy fails to look at the needs of the individual students.

For whatever reason, students don't always enter high school with grade-level skills; some are many years behind. Some don't even know their multiplication tables, but this policy does not take that into account. Even if a student cannot perform simple multiplication, they are required to take college-prep algebra, where they are destined to fail!

As Vince Lombardi said, "Winning is a habit. Unfortunately, so is losing." And so it is with our students. Success breeds success; failure breeds failure.

Of course, our students need to be prepared to enter high school at grade level. To do this we must implement aggressive intervention programs at the elementary level, but that's a subject for another article. Suffice it to say that at this point, not all of our students are at grade level when they enter high school.

Another problem is that once the student has failed a required course, they must take it again. By doing this, they are losing the chance to take an elective course. Elective courses are important in the education of our children.

Many of the electives fall into what we call career and technical education, or CTE, classes. These are the shop and drafting classes. They also include computer, culinary and business classes as well. CTE courses allow students to explore new concepts and try things they've never done before. They can inspire, excite and ignite. But by forcing our students to take classes they are not prepared for, we deny the very students who most need these elective classes the opportunity to participate. We also direct funds away from CTE classes to pay for the additional classes needed for college prep requirements.

I am a big fan of CTE classes. Honestly, I believe that I still hold the record for the most woodshop classes taken by a single student at Lodi High. I also took drafting and, of course, auto shop. I was in no way ready for the college prep pathway. But my CTE classes taught me to look at a problem, evaluate possible solutions, and make a plan to complete the task. My basic math, science and English courses prepared me to go back to college later and eventually get my degree. I am very thankful that Lodi Unified, at that time, did not try to fit me into a mold that wasn't for me.

So what should be the goal of public education? I would like to propose the following: The goal for public education is to prepare students for life after high school. It's simple, yet broad enough to encompass the extremely diverse population we serve. It allows for those that have decided to go to a UC, CSU or some other college to pursue that path. It also allows those interested in going to a community college, trade school, or entering the work force, to pursue that course as well.

Additionally, all students, regardless of their path, need to learn the basics to be successful after high school. These include personal finance, basic computer operation, and communication skills. They also need to be able perform basic math, read and understand what they have read, and to be able write in manner that follows basic conventions.

We need students to graduate high school with the tools necessary to not only survive, but to thrive and be prepared for that next step in life. We need graduates that have experienced success and know what it takes to achieve. What we don't need are more high school dropouts that we have taught how to fail.

George Neely is a Lodi Unified School District trustee, and a former teacher and U.S. Army officer. He may be reached at

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  • Darrell Baumbach posted at 9:23 am on Thu, May 31, 2012.

    Darrell Baumbach Posts: 9405

    I think #1 and 2 go hand in hand... if the teachers could do something about the problem kids where he/she could focus on the children who has an appropriate attention span for the tasks that need to be completed, the size of the classroom would not be as significant.

    I think teaching 40 students who can and want to learn who enjoy the classroom would be easier to teach than a classroom of 15 children who have 5 disruptive students.

  • William Dawes posted at 10:29 pm on Wed, May 30, 2012.

    William Dawes Posts: 116

    I agree with this:

    1. over crowded classrooms
    2. problem kids who need contstant attention (discipline) from the teacher taking time away from instruction
    3. non-English speaking students
    4. NCLB
    5. benchmark testing
    6. no parental involvement- not checking homework, etc
    etc etc etc...

    and add this:

    7) Work ethic has been defeated by a sense of entitlement by both students and parents. Both show little or no effort, in a lot of cases, in the lower performing schools. They keep expecting "free stuff".
    8) A district office that will not back up the administrators that want to enforce discipline the way the Calif Ed Code intended. Instead, it is ran by "no rules" lefties.

  • Jerome Kinderman posted at 3:00 am on Wed, May 30, 2012.

    Jerome R Kinderman Posts: 2370

    Mr. Neely suggests that high school graduates should possess "basic" skills in computer operation and math. Aren't these now prerequisites for entry into a good private kindergarten? Most five-year-olds can run rings around adults on their iPads and other computer devices. PCs have been necessities in most households for quite a few years - so what's happened to those skills over the years that we're not expecting a higher level of expertise upon leaving 12th grade?

    I believe closer attention to our kids in the home will go a long way to preparing them for life. But the "family" is being attacked viciously. We're headed for disaster.

  • Jerome Kinderman posted at 2:48 am on Wed, May 30, 2012.

    Jerome R Kinderman Posts: 2370

    From what I've been reading and hearing there's not much life for those leaving college, let alone high school.

    I suppose getting a start by flipping burgers might be one solution. Or better yet, why not a four-year commitment to the United States in one of the five military branches (yes, I'm prematurely including the Marine Corps as its own separate branch)? I can think of no better way to actually prepare for a real chance at life by cutting mom's apron strings while earning money to actually pay for a college education.

    Or maybe membership in one of the many urban and suburban gang affiliations might be the answer to building a better USA.

  • Jackson Scott posted at 2:25 pm on Tue, May 29, 2012.

    Jackson Scott Posts: 392

    Mr. Neely stated... "For whatever reason, students don't always enter high school with grade-level skills."

    Oh George, you know exactly what the reasons are why kids are not at grade level when they get to high school. The list is long but let me start with:
    1. over crowded classrooms
    2. problem kids who need contstant attention (discipline) from the teacher taking time away from instruction
    3. non-English speaking students
    4. NCLB
    5. benchmark testing
    6. no parental involvement- not checking homework, etc
    etc etc etc...

  • Darrell Baumbach posted at 9:26 am on Tue, May 29, 2012.

    Darrell Baumbach Posts: 9405

    Mr Neely stated...So what should be the goal of public education? I would like to propose the following: The goal for public education is to prepare students for life after high school

    Mr Neely .... thank you!

    Now we need to define prepare for life after. I hope there is some type of forum or public debate as a community to brainstorm and take action in order to achieve what Mr Neely proposes.


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