Friday, April 10, 2015

Ken-Ton Schools Yield To State Pressure

The Kennmore-Town of Tonawanda Union Free School District (generally known as the Ken-Ton district) has decided to stand down.

You may recall that about a month ago, the Ken-Ton board president decided to float a resolution to consider opting out of New York state tests as well as the state's teacher evaluation program. After a false start, the board met in front of a highly supportive public crowd, and over the objections of their superintendent, voted to pass the resolution. Push back from the state came almost immediately in the form of threats from Senior Deputy Commissioner Ken Wagner.

This week the standoff came to an end. Tuesday night the board voted to back away from the boycott proposals.

Considering the letter from the state and the gloomy predictions of Superintendent Dawn Mirand, board president Bob Dana was quoted by Joseph Spector at lohud blogs

“With all of that in mind,” School Board President Bob Dana said, “I can’t honestly sit in front of you today and push for a continuation of these proposals.”

Pete Stuhlmiller, the president of Kenmore Teachers Association, had been supportive of the threat to consider the possibility of a test boycott, but he was supportive of the backing down as well. "We realized that our board members faced incredible intimidation from the state Education Department and  threats from the governor's office," he said.

There's some question about whether the Ken-Ton board ever really meant to take this fight to the wall. But by being the squeaky wheel for a month, they added to the growing chorus of objections and resistance to the Big Standardized Tests. The board reportedly plans to form a coalition of local schools to fight back, and they have now given themselves a higher profile for feistiness which may aid in those efforts, and they forced the state to show its face, to publicly show itself depending not on reason or right, but on power, intimidation and bullying.

Ken-Ton schools did not win this battle, but as with hundreds of other tiny battles being fought around the country, they made one more little chink in the reformy status quo armor. Hats off to them for that.

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