August 27, 2014

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What’s the buzz?????????????
Written by Joe Awad   
Tuesday, November 06, 2012 10:53 PM

I'm trying to create a buzz. Not stir up the political pot, but create a buzz over education.

For 15 months, I have been covering Southwest schools and the school board, witnessing several important decisions that vastly improve education for Greater Harrison youth. I have written several stories about curriculum upgrades - no buzz.

I suspect some folks are upset with the 2011 budget cut decisions, particularly the transportation issue, and have written off the school system in disgust. With little connection to the area at the time, my analysis of those decisions would hit wide of the mark.

The district, however, hits the bulls-eye with a sweeping effort to upgrade curriculum in grades 1-12. There is no more important function for educators than to educate, and that task is best accomplished through dedicated teachers and by keeping pace with contemporary instruction and tools.

The revolution/evolution took flight last spring when the board approved an overhaul of the core English Language Arts curriculum for all grades after a year of research by a committee of dedicated educators. The cost? About $240,000 large, mostly for modern textbooks. That's not cheap, but economic conditions and adroit negotiating drove down the price from $385,000.

But no buzz!

The ELA upgrade, the first in about 18 years, began this fall. No buzz!

A new excellent reading list was introduced, featuring the likes of The Black Stallion, Sarah, Plain and Tall, World Without Fish, To Kill a Mockingbird, Warriors Don’t Cry, Of Mice and Men, Romeo and Juliet, The Greatest Generation, An American Playwright, and Macbeth. No buzz for

The Black? Tisk, tisk.

As an English lit/journalism major, I have read about half the core books, and will start the other half as soon as I finish Jack London's masterpiece, The Call of the Wild. I figure I have missed some spectacular reads that a committee of experts took a year to select. I'm buzzed about the prospects.

The buzz manifests in many forms. Sometimes, people call. Others bring up issues and stories during conversation. Folks occasionally write letters to the editor, post on the paper's Web site, or the anonymous editor from Harrison Happenings posts our stories on "her" Web site, attributing them to the appropriate writer.

Car burglaries cause a buzz, and rightfully so. The football team, win or lose, creates a buzz, and I get that. I played high school ball, lettered and all that stuff. I learned many important life lessons on the grid iron, but reading comprehensively, constructing a sentence, formulating ideas and meaningfully conveying them to others on paper or vocally did not come from football.

Hemingway taught me much about crisp, tight writing. Mrs. Gibson re-enforced that model with red marks throughout my compositions. The huge "B" was prevalent on most my work, with the admonition: "Learn to spell or buy a good dictionary." I bought a good dictionary.

Look, it's easy in our busy, often frustrating lives, to take education for granted but kids who can communicate with accuracy, style and flair create a buzz among potential employers. Most good-paying jobs demand excellent writing skills in this high-tech world, and job advancement is stymied without it.

Southwest's decision to upgrade its ELA curriculum is exciting. It deserves your attention whether you have a kid in the school system or not.

Maybe it's too late to create a buzz over reading but get ready for next year's elevation of the core math curriculum. Work out if you must; practice deep breathing, mediate over the assurance of better teaching techniques, improved textbooks, and teacher enthusiasm.
Harrison's kids, the community, businesses, volunteer groups, for God's sake, raising a family with an adequate income all depend on education.

Now, I got to get back to the UC football game. The Bearcats just scored with a trick jump pass that has caused quite the buzz.

Joe Awad is editor of The Harrison Press.