NAACP Outrage Over Obama Speech Opt-Out Waivers Spills our at New Rochelle School Board Meeting

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The Chairman of the local Political Action Committee for the N.A.A.C.P. appeared before the New Rochelle Board of Education last night to express outrage that parents at Jefferson Elementary School were sent a letter in early September offering to allow their children to opt-out of a screening of a controversial Back to School speech by President Barack Obama.

Mark McClean of the New Rochelle N.A.A.C.P. accused the school district of pandering to partisan politics and showing disrespect to the Office of the President of the United States by allowing parents an option to keep their children out of classrooms showing the President's speech. McClean was sharply critical of school board members, all of whom received a copy of the NAACP PAC's letter expressing their concerns and none of whom replied. McClean described the only response he did get, from Schools Superintendent Richard Organisciak, as "patronizing" and "condescending".

McClean described himself as a conservative who doesn't agree with Obama's policies but was concerned that educators had failed in their responsibility to teach students to respect all elected officials.

Joining McClean in condemnation of Organisciak was Emery Schweig, former President of the New Rochelle High School PTA and board member of the New Rochelle Public Library. Schweig said "this isn't Jena, this is New Rochelle. How are we having parents opt-out of hearing the President's speech.?" "Jena" refers to Jena High School in Jena, Louisiana where a group of six black teenagers were convicted in the beating of a white student in 2006. The case is often cited as an example of racial injustice in the United States, due to a belief that the defendants had initially been charged with too-serious offenses and had been treated unfairly.

Schweig's criticism of the school district was seen by some as risky, coming just a few weeks after Schweig and her fellow NRPL board members notified the Board of Education they want the school district to help them raise money to fund improvements at the library. School Board member David Lacher was openly hostile to the library board request at the time. Schweig's antagonism towards Schools Superintendent Richard Organisciak will not likely win her any admirers on the school board.

Sources tell Talk of the Sound that opt-out letter was sent to parents throughout the school district not just at the Jefferson school.

Commenting on this Blog entry is closed.

jwagner on Sat, 11/07/2009 - 05:24

One wonders whether Mr. McClean would have been equally exercised had parents opted their children out of a talk by President Bush. Not everybody is interested in having their children indoctrinated into the cult of personality of the President.
Mmm Mmm Mmm, Barack Hussein Obama, Mmm Mmm Mmm.

Robert Cox's picture
Robert Cox on Sat, 11/07/2009 - 14:39

For the record.

I believe the problem is that there was good reason for parents to be concerned about the purpose of the speech based on the lesson plan that was released prior to the speech

The original lesson plan asked children to “write letters to themselves about what they can do to help the president.” It has since been changed to say “Write letters to themselves about how they can achieve their short-term and long-term education goals.”

The concern was that the Obama administration was politicizing the Department of Education, engaged in a federal intrusion into local education, and seeking to use the speech to encourage and attempting to enlist school children in efforts to advance President Obama's political agenda. The basis for this concern was the administration's own lesson plan which even they agreed was problematic and hence edited to tone down the "call to action" portions.

The public never saw the speech prior to the outcry so we do not know whether the speech was also edited along the same lines but the seeds of distrust were sown by the administration's own clumsy handling of the lesson plan not parents.

Concerns that the Obama administration might politicize a government agency are hardly unfounded. At the same time the lesson plan was being disseminated by the Dept of Education, the National Endowment for the Arts was engaged in their own propaganda efforts.

The National Endowment for the Arts said Thursday that its communications director, Yosi Sergant, has resigned...Sergant, who helped make artist Shepard Fairey's "Hope" image ubiquitous as an organizer of Obama campaign support from artists, had seemed to mix the NEA's work -- essentially non-partisan politics -- with the administration's legislative agenda on a conference call reported on by Andrew Breitbart's new conservative site, Big Government.

"I would encourage you to pick something, whether it’s health care, education, the environment, you know, there’s four key areas that the corporation has identified as the areas of service," Sergant told artists on the call, which he reportedly invited some of them to attend. "My ask would be to apply artistic, you know, your artistic creative communities utilities and bring them to the table," he said.

Texas Senator John Cornyn, among critics, complained that the call politicized subjected the agency to "political manipulation, though the NEA initially defended the call. NEA Chairman Rocco Landesman later said the call "inappropriate" and that Sergant had acted "unilaterally" in helping to organize it.

Mr. McClean and Ms. Schweig failed to note that this Obama Education speech was unprecedented. The Heritage Foundation blog noted that Education Secretary Arne Duncan" sent a letter to school principals, noting the time of the speech, providing copies of the lesson plans, and directing them to tune-in to www.WhiteHouse.gov. Duncan stated in his letter: This is the first time an American president has spoken directly to the nation’s school children about persisting and succeeding in school. We encourage you to use this historic moment to help your students get focused and begin the school year strong."

Just as important as the content of the lesson plan and the speech is the way in which it was promoted. The Secretary of Education sent a letter to school principals! Think about that. Schools are run locally. If the federal government creates laws or policies or provides funding they do it by communicating with the state's departments of education which then communicate with school district superintendents which then communicate with school principals. The Obama administration bypassed all of that and went straight from the Secretary of Education to school principals. It would seem a real concern for anyone who believes in local control of public schools that the Obama administration is attempting to establish the principal that they can bypass the existing local structure, communicate directly with building principals and intervene directly in classrooms from Kindergarten up to High School by disseminating detailed lesson plans. Today it is a speech by the President but tomorrow it could be something far more mundane to the point where the federal government is now developing lessons plans for classrooms in New Rochelle. This is hardly paranoia. It is exactly what Duncan did with this speech.

If you then look at the "Race to the Top" program you can start to get the sense that his long-term goal is to place public schools directly under federal control. Obama has never said that but if any President wanted to do that it would to be done incrementally due to resistance at the State and local level. The Obama Back to School speech and the Race to the Top funding are certainly the sort of incremental steps one would take if that was their goal.

Given the way the New Rochelle school system is run, I am not prepared to say that federal control of our schools would be necessarily bad. I have more of a philosophical objection to the idea. But this is how it is done in many countries around the world. In either case, there is a certain irony that many of the same people who support Obama's efforts to nationalize health care would recoil in horror at the idea of Obama nationalizing public education.

dirkdigalow on Fri, 11/06/2009 - 22:10

I have a few issues with this. 1st, how does the school district only send this mailing to families in 1 school district? I would think the mailing would be a mass mailing.

2nd, the Presidents speech was on Tuesday, school started that Wednesday. The students would not have been in class to view it anyway.

citijofromnewro on Thu, 11/05/2009 - 23:23

First of all , respecting the office of the president is NOT the same as respecting the man . Personally I think Obama is the worst thing this country needs . His politics and his attitude are definitely not something I would be proud . So , if you want to take time out of my kids proper curriculum to have the man who will ruin America spoon feed them his own brand of propaganda , without listening to it first , then I demand the choice to opt out . That has absolutely nothing to do with respect for the office of the president . As for Ms Schweig , she would do well to learn that even a fish would stay out of trouble if it just kept it's mouth shut . How any of this can be even remotely associated with the atrocities of Jena is absurd . In my opinion , she's delusional and appears to have the symptoms of someone who fried their brain as a teenager . She's a disgrace , how can anyone be in the same room with her (unless she has a gag in her mouth . If you don't like that Ms Schweig , suck it up .

onewhoknows on Sat, 11/07/2009 - 19:55

I abhor hate speech, therefore none of my kids would listen to anything "the one" or the democRAT party has to say.
Those pics of Nazi garb worn by the democRAYS was totally spot on. They're trying to create mind-numbed robots dependent upon the gov't for their very existance.

onewhoknows on Sat, 11/07/2009 - 19:57

I know Mark personally, he is in fact a conservative black man. What he's doing in the NAACP is beyond me.

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