To the editors:
When I initially heard of your report on school reform [November 8], I was outraged! I was furious; not at your report but at the former president of Stockton's local school council, Karen Zaccor. Her remarks about the teaching staff at Stockton were not only disparaging and skewed, they were unfounded. Friday, November 8, 1991, was a demoralizing day for many of the teachers at Stockton. The rumors that centered around your report had ripped at our sole existence as educators. The bottom had fallen out of our morale. Several of Stockton's teachers live in this community. We have friends in this community; and contrary to what Zaccor thinks, we care about what goes on in this community.
Where was the Reader's sense of "responsible journalism"? What was the basis for Zaccor's suppositions? Do we (teachers) get a chance to refute these allegations? These were some of the questions that ran through my mind. By Monday, Stockton's "headhunters" (disgruntled teachers, parents, etc . . .) were out watching for Karen Zaccor and any of her cohorts. Yes, she and her sidekick J.M. were poised at the lunchroom doors assuming smug positions of kingship, ostensibly monitoring the breakfast program. It took a great deal of fortitude for many teachers not to confront Zaccor on her allegations. However, by Wednesday tensions had mellowed and the status quo sauntered on. Only then, did I deliberately sit down to read your article in its entirety. I didn't find it as objectionable as I'd been told. In fact, I consider it an excellent article. It should have been circulated in Chicago's major newspapers to let Chicagoans know how school reform via local school councils is faring in some schools. Yet, arriving at this conclusion did not quell the resentment I felt for Karen Zaccor's assessment of Stockton's teachers and their performance.
My respect for her and her efforts working with school reform ebbed after reading her remarks. In my opinion, the words "the teachers" are inclusive. I feel her summation of Stockton's teachers doesn't describe me nor the majority of my colleagues. I DO TEACH! Before I give an assignment, I introduce, explain and work through each concept being taught. After each concept has been introduced, it is reinforced by discussion, board work, text material, manipulatives and audiovisual material (where available) and homework. I DO help my children to learn. I DON'T have low expectations of the children I teach nor does my dedication to teach them have anything to do with the neighborhood in which they live. My colleagues are of the same opinion.
Dr. Lieberman touched on the major causes for poor academic achievement at Stockton; but believe me, they're only the tip of the iceberg. Ms. Zaccor and those who think like her must remember that we are not the "enemy." We are the victims of an ever-changing society as well. We know the students we teach are expected to be the next generation of the leaders. We want our children to rank high when compared to other "developed" nations. We want to work with parents, the community, the local school councils and everyone concerned, to make education worthwhile. But this can't be achieved if one group is hurling derisive statements toward another. Instead of Ms. Zaccor and her associates' criticism, they should join with all educators to combat an epidemic of illiteracy that has reduced our nation from a pillar of worldly superiority to a haven of havoc.
The bottom line is that we (teachers) are tired of taking the rap for illiteracy, poor academic performance, dropouts, etc. . . The "ills" of our nation are the direct result of a myriad of social, economic, religious and moral issues. To place blame on one group of our society is not only wrong but unjust.
Carolyn Clark Carroll
S. King Drive
Florence Hamlish Levinsohn replies:
Ms. Carroll's letter is touching. It points to the good teacher's dilemma and some of the problems teachers have with school reform. Even more poignantly, it points to the terrible kind of politics that seems to govern schools and now local school councils, and that has pushed aside reform in some schools. That this didn't happen at Stockton School is a tribute to the dedication of the teachers, principal, council members, and many in the community--which was the point of my article.