He returned as the crew took its afternoon break. The foreman jokingly asked him if he had found anything other than trees in the woods. Thus began a strange tale, retold in his words, as closely as I can recall them, after 34 years.
“You won’t believe it but I walked into this hidden village of gorillas living in those woods. There musta been 75 to a 100 of them living in this little village in a kinda clearing. The funny thing is, all these gorillas were walking around with umbrellas. I couldn’t figure out why gorillas would need umbrellas until I noticed they were all bald headed. I’m not kidding you. They didn’t have a single hair on their heads. (By this time, all the men were giving each other funny looks. But they were all giving him their undivided attention.) I finally figured out they needed the umbrellas to keep their heads from getting sunburned.”
At that, one of the crew said. “Mike, you are as full of it as your dad.” Mike responded, “I figured nobody would believe me, so I brought back proof.” With that, he retrieved, from behind a block pile, the remnants of a broken umbrella, and said, “See, I brought back one of their umbrellas to prove it to you.”
You are, no doubt, wondering about the significance of that story. The fact is, the tattered umbrella was pretty flimsy evidence of the existence of a tribe of bald headed gorillas. However, it must be considered conclusive proof, when compared with the evidence presented, thus far, of the value of either the balanced calendar or the Teach for America program.
The Cobb school board is set, barring a small miracle, to approve changing the school calendar to start school immediately after the first of August. Former superintendent Joe Redden’s steady march toward increasingly earlier start dates prompted a battle between traditionalists (“Start school the day after Labor Day”) and balanced calendar advocates (“Start school Aug. 1) The result was a compromise with school starting in mid August. Everybody was happy, right?
Wrong. The issue came to light again in 2009 with the board, over substantial protest, adopting a calendar starting on Aug. 3, 2010. Concerned parents banded together and elected a school board which reversed that decision for the next year. It is now back at the forefront once more, still lacking evidence that it improves student performance.
It has zero to do with student achievement, which should be the first concern of any action taken by the school board. However, unless a record number of voters contact their school board representative and demand that he/she support the current calendar, we will be back on the so-called “balanced calendar” next year. …
Late last year, we learned that Cobb Superintendent Dr. Michael Hinojosa, had, without board knowledge, agreed to hire a number of unqualified, uncertified teachers through an organization called Teach for America whose original aim was to place under-qualified graduates in teaching positions in areas with teacher shortages. Hinojosa’s plan came to light when he asked the board to approve hiring an additional 50 unqualified teachers. There is, besides salary, a cost of $4,000 each for two five-week long “boot camp” session, which would, somehow, replace years of training required of regular teachers.
We are not short on qualified teachers in Cobb. We have some who were victims of layoffs due to revenue shortages. Why would we hire unqualified ones to replace them? There has not been any verifiable evidence offered that this will do anything for Cobb, except cost money and demoralize our dedicated teachers. However, Hinojosa recently announced he was still pursuing it, and, unless voters make their voices heard, we will hire them. Do you want your children’s education in the hands of an unqualified teacher?
No verifiable evidence has been offered that either the calendar change or TFA will improve student performance, yet we march onward toward them both. It is time to call a halt to gambling with our children’s educations and their futures.
I expect Mike’s bald-headed gorillas could do a better job of controlling Hinojosa than this board is doing.
Pete Borden is a retired masonry contractor.