Rumor Versus Fact - Uncovering the Real StoryRUMOR: A story or statement talked of as news without any proof of truth.
FACT: Something objectively verified with real, demonstrable evidence.
RUMOR FACT Marion County Public Schools hides public records, restricting access and denying the public guaranteed rights. Marion County Public Schools prides itself on its open records policy, abiding fully with Florida State Statutes 119. In fact, an online non-profit watchdog group for open government records gave the district an "A" and a "Sunny Award" four years running for having one of the most transparent government websites in the Nation. Only 12 out of Florida's 74 school districts earned an "A" in 2013, the last year this organization awarded such grades for transparency. Marion County Public Schools does not fully disclose its financial records. Marion County Public Schools’ Business Services/Finance Operation has earned the highest award possible for general accountability 17 years in a row from the Government Finance Officers Association. Marion County Public Schools is very top-heavy when it comes to administrators at the district and school levels.
Florida's Department of Education consistently ranks Marion County Public Schools among the lowest in the state (out of all 67 school districts) in administrative expenditures.
Marion County students no longer have homework.
Elementary students attending Marion County Public Schools no longer have the every night, traditional meaningless homework. Research, including that of Dr. Richard Allington (University of Tennessee), indicates such homework does not positively impact students as it once did. Instead, elementary students should be reading texts of their own choosing with their parents and family members at least 20 minutes every night. This increases vocabulary and comprehension, helps young readers better pronounce sounds and words, increases family bonding time, and affords teachers more time to do what they do best -- teach -- instead of grading homework assignments.
Middle and high school students continue having homework because research also shows older students are capable of completing and advancing on their own with out-of-class assignments.One of the strengths of a democracy is our right to question public officials and hold them accountable for sharing the truth with us. Their answers may not always be what we want to hear, but reasonable people can reach reasonable resolutions.
There is an insidious "virus" which can erode, or even destroy the positive climate characterizing Marion County's public schools. Consider the following "bombshells" for a moment:
- "You’re hiding public records because you don’t want the public to know the truth."
- "You’re changing the attendance boundaries and my child now has a new school."
- "Music and art are being eliminated because of budget cuts."
- "Our taxes are going up because of administrator and teacher salary raises."
What you need to know is schools today WANT to communicate honestly and openly with their stakeholders. Therefore, when something you hear doesn't make sense or if it is new and disturbing, conflicts with your previous assumptions (“can’t possibly be true, yet I heard it”), is reported by your child as fact, or in any way upsets your status quo, you can take positive steps to not only discover the facts, but to help defuse your own discomfort level.
When you as a parent are uncomfortable with something you hear about your child’s school, consider the following:
- Call the school, but don't do so anonymously. Identify yourself so reasonable and trusting two-way communication may be conducted. Most schools will not respond to anonymous correspondence.
- Speak only of your concerns. If "all" your neighbors share your concern, the schoolhouse door is open to them to meet with the principal or teacher on their own.
- Go first to the source of your concern. Don't "jump over the head" of the teacher to contact the principal if it is a classroom issue. Similarly, if the issue is school-related, your first contact should be the principal (or assistant principal), not the superintendent or school board. Just as any effective business organization would do, the school will redirect your concerns or questions back to the appropriate level so the problem can be dealt with where it originated.
- Use appropriate in-place committees or groups to raise your questions about a rumor, such as the PTA or PTO clubs, parent forums, parent-teacher conferences, and the like.
- Discuss the matter in a civil and respectful manner. After all, you are expecting the same manner of response from the school personnel with whom you are speaking.
- Read the information sent home from school with your child and the school / district web page if you have access.
- Read local newspapers, where information contrary to the "rumor" may have been reported.
- Take your children’s reporting with a healthy dose of skepticism. Kids often embellish without realizing it.