It is on the rarest of occasions that I feel the need to address an issue with a letter to the editor, but the past few months of meetings, e-mails and letters, most notably, that by Andy Baumgartner this past Sunday, has caused me to opine on an apparently very touchy subject. I also found it quite interesting that Baumgartner's letter was published in The Augusta Chronicle's editorial page instead of The Columbia County News-Times, for whose constituents it was evidently intended.
First and foremost, shame on Baumgartner and on whoever called upon him to be their spokesperson. Obviously with his qualifications you could have brought to this debate about the early release program some respected opinions and some much-needed intelligent perspectives. Instead he chose to try and divert the attention away from the real questions of the issue and, even more ingeniously, change the content of the opposition's argument.
His letter was most certainly intended to change this debate from one addressing the real issues surrounding the early release program into a visceral debate portraying anyone opposed to the idea as an unappreciating, unsupporting rabid teacher-hater.
This is a very well-worn and tiresome tactic that quite frankly I would have hoped would have been beneath a man with his credentials. Never once have I personally heard at any of the meetings or read in any of the letters or e-mails concerning this issue any suggestions that our teachers do not need preparation time. In fact, most of what I have heard and read has been very supportive of our teachers.
Regardless of what anyone may say, the parents who attended the task force meeting at Stevens Creek Elementary school did not misunderstand what task-force leader Tami Flowers said. She clearly stated that the proposal was to be voted on by the school board in February. I cannot comment on whether Flowers mispoke, but it was clear what she said.
Questions were immediately asked by several parents in attendance for which neither Flowers nor anyone else had any answers. How this would affect the homes where both parents worked, what was the cost associated with the program and, most importantly, what schools were currently implementing the program and had their test schools improved were the issues that the task force and the Columbia County School Board failed miserably to answer. They either did not do their research or, much more likely, did not expect the opposition to the program.
I am a businessman and a realist, and I can tell you that without this opposition arising to the program, we would now be dealing with early release on Wednesdays in Columbia County.
I implore the Columbia County School Board, the teachers, the task force and the interested parents to not follow the lead of Baumgartner and turn this debate on the early release program into some sort of name-calling debacle, but rather to have meaningful, intelligent discussion about whether this or any other program is in the best interest of the education of our children. No one has all the correct answers, but by working together toward our common goal it can be achieved much more efficiently. Let us teach our children, not behave like them.
Robert B. Gilmorebr>
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