Posts Tagged ‘South Bend School Corporation’

“Our present system penalizes experimentation and failure and doesn’t expect mastery.  This paradigm expects experimentation and failure and expects mastery.”  – Salman Khan

I’ve never been a fan of the ISTEP test.  I hate that the entire educational agenda and process (for teachers and students) now revolves around this one standardized test.  It forces every kid into a paradigm with no regard to learning styles, personalities, strengths, weaknesses, etc.  It denies teachers who have a passion and skill in a particular area to forgo their talent in preference to a stupid standardized test.

I found this yesterday.  It is about the Khan Academy.  I wondered what it would look like if the South Bend Community School Corporation abandoned their present model and adopted this as a new paradigm of learning and education.

I also found in the resources practical help for any student struggling in a host of areas of school (especially math).  Maybe you have a kid who needs some help.

If you have time to watch it (and I do because I’m on vacation 🙂 ), I highly recommend it.

Check out their website for over 2600 videos on various subjects:

Dear South Bend School Board,

It’s me, Sam Barrington, again.  It’s been a crazy week for you too I see.  A lot has been in the news, not only concerning Hamilton, but also more about test scores, schools on probation, blah, blah, blah.  If you hate ISTEPs, I wouldn’t blame you.  Honestly, I hate it too.  It seems to be taking over EVERYTHING in regards to our educational system and even our school corporation.  Maybe we should ban together and fight “the powers that be” at the State.  Regardless, our current state will require some wise and bold leadership on your part.

Anyhow, back to the idea of closing Hamilton School.  By recent statements from members of the school board, it looks like there has been some reconsideration, or at least greater pause, in the idea of closing Hamilton School.  I can’t help but think (or at least I would like to think) it may be due in part to the reaction and response you’ve seen or received from the parents, faculty, and students at Hamilton School.  We are a passionate group, to say the least! 🙂  And if I might defend this passion, I think it is a reflection of what you intended from the beginning.

We (the neighbors who live by Hamilton School) never petitioned the School Board to begin a “traditional” primary center in the Hamilton building.  That was your idea.  You are the one’s who got that ball rolling and implemented in our community a primary center that is now the Hamilton Hornets.  And, well done!  Seriously.  Your plan was successful.  And part of your idea was to ask for and expect a great deal of parental involvement when it comes to the school.  And it is EXACTLY what you received.  And as you probably expected when you began the school, when people get involved, their degree of investment, passion, and dedication to the school goes through the roof (and thus the passion you have seen this week from Hamilton).  This isn’t a bad thing.  It should be celebrated.  And really, you should be commended because – it was your idea.  By contrast, and I don’t mean this to be disparaging to any other schools, but as a factual point, I’ve not seen anything (which doesn’t mean it hasn’t happened, but just that I haven’t heard about it) comparable to what happened this week at Hamilton at other schools who were listed as options to close (e.g., Greene, Lafayette, etc.).

It is because of the investment of our community into Hamilton that leaves a shocked, upset, and baffled response to the suggestion that we now close it.  This would make sense if the school really wasn’t succeeding, if it really was going in a direction that is not supported by the values of the school board, or if it was detrimental in some way to the educational process of students.  But none of these are the case.  In every way you intended, Hamilton IS succeeding.

As a leader in my arena of life, I get that sometimes you have to bring things to an end.  It happens in the church world all the time.  What might have worked at one time, just isn’t any longer.  A program or ministry that you hoped would be successful just didn’t really pan out.  Those are the “tough calls” that you need to make as a leader.  And in it, you know that people have invested themselves in those programs and ministries.  So in that, just “community investment” and “involvement” shouldn’t be the “trump card” to keeping something open.  If it isn’t working, it isn’t working.  BUT for Hamilton, it is working!

The only reason we have heard in regards to closing Hamilton is because Bendix School is overcrowded.  Just that statement in itself, in my opinion, has not received the attention it deserves.  Bendix School, an alternative high school for those who have (had) behavioral/disciplinary issues (and I know other issues), is “busting out the seams.”  That in itself should be a cause for concern.  Why is it “busting out the seams?”  I long for the day when the school board suggests we close Bendix School, and when asked why, the answer is, “Because there just aren’t very many students with discipline issues to justify an alternative High School.”  This should be the focus of our time and energy, not an action, like closing Hamilton Primary, which feels punitive to us, even though – it has worked!

So, for what you began several years ago…well done.  Good job.  It should be on your list of successes in the school corporation (and really…it appears we could use as many things on that list as possible nowadays).  And until that success ever changes, I would appeal to you to continue to have a Hamilton Primary Center.


Your Friend –


To the South Bend School Board,

It appears because of a decrease in funding from the state (meaning…”no fault of your own”), you are now in the unenviable position of having to cut 8.5 million dollars from the annual school budget.  8.5 million dollars!!!  Oh snap that’s a lot of mula!  You can at least find comfort in the fact that everyone else has to do the same thing.  At least we’re not alone.

According to Mitch Daniel’s office, it is a 3% reduction in the annual budget.  If 8.5 million dollars is just 3% of the total budget, that means the South Bend School budget is around $275 million.  Oh snap that’s a lot of mula!

First, let me say, there is no “win” for you in this if “win” is defined as “making everyone happy.”  And in this regard, I really am sympathetic.  There is NO WAY you are going to cut 8.5 million dollars without making someone somewhere unhappy.  And because of that, I can honestly say…I’m sympathetic to your situation and believe that levels of “happiness” in our community should simply not be your determining factor.  Good leaders accept this reality and attempt to lead and make decisions based on a greater vision and purpose.  But this is the crux of my concern.   I’ve not heard anyone on the board speak about exactly what the greater vision and purpose is (other than a balanced budget), and how that greater vision and purpose determines and guides the elimination of 8.5 million dollars.  If giving our children a quality education that can be quantified by test scores, disciplinary reports, and academic achievements, etc. is the vision and purpose (and I grant this is a big “if” with the school board), then can someone explain why closing a school that is doing JUST THAT is a wise decision?

I would like to offer you more than just criticism, so I tried to find a published budget of the SBCSC to see where I, Sam Barrington, would cut in regards to spending.  I couldn’t find it.  (At the top of my head I imagined the astronomical amount of spending going to busing kids from every corner of our community to another corner at ALL times of the day!)  Do you know where I can go to get a copy of the budget?

In the end, based on your own statistics, closing a primary center is a savings of only $360,000. While that is a lot of money to me, compared to 8.5 million – not so much.  I would ask you to consider the massive disruption to students, staff, faculty, parents, and families that will occur by closing Hamilton to save $360,000.

OK…I have more…but no one is going to keep reading this blog post because of its length.  But…I have more…I’ll write you again soon 🙂



Just got back from Monroe School dropping off the school supplies that everyone here at Living Stones donated (HUGE THANK YOU TO EVERYONE!!  IT WAS FANTASTIC!!).

I also had a chance to meet the new Principal, Mrs. Jill Van Driessche.

I really liked her.  Her husband went to Monroe at the same time I did (although he was two years older than me).  She pulled out his old yearbook and found my picture in Mrs. Killelea’s 4th grade class.  Little Sammy…right there in the yearbook!

She has some big challenges ahead.  They are about to undergo a major renovation project.  But it will be good.  And I’m praying for her, for the rest of the teachers and staff, and look forward to seeing what God does in the lives of the students at Monroe because of the Living Stones Church.  I was thankful that she had already heard about us and some of the other things we had done.  She was gracious in our meeting.

On a related note:

  • The South Bend School Corporation came to agreement with the teacher’s representatives to establish a contract for the year.  Teachers haven’t seen or approved it yet…but that is a good sign!
  • If the interim Superintendent is doing a great job and qualified, hire him!  Don’t bring a stranger into the corporation who neither knows our community, our students, our unique personality, our deep needs, and our resources, etc.  Let someone who has the community DNA in his blood lead (this principle is true of church hirings as well!).

Well…it seems there is a possibility that Barack Obama may be making a campaign stop at Washington High School.  You can read the story here.  This is a big deal because a little over a week ago the school system’s administration, in an asinine (yea…I said ass-inine) move declined Senator Hillary Clinton’s request.

What has changed?  Spring Break.  Barack Obama can come because the kids are on Spring Break (and thus not a disruption…are pep rallies a disruption?  And aren’t some disruptions worth it?  You know…LIKE WITNESSING HISTORY!!!!!) sorry I digressed…

First, congratulations to the school administration for making the right decision this time to affirm Barack Obama could come to Washington High School.

If you need a face-saving way to justify this, then use the “Spring Break” excuse as your way of doing that. 

I would recommend however, you simply release the following statement:

Dear South Bend students, teachers, and community,

When we declined Senator Clinton’s request to come to Washington High School, we thought we were making the right decision.  In hindsight, and after clear and strong disagreement from the community, we now regret having made such a decision and wish to apologize to the community, and especially the students at Washington High School for denying them such an opportunity.

So that we do not make the same regretful mistake again, we have received a request from Barack Obama and we want to extend to him our invitation to visit Washington High School.  I’m sure many will see this as partisan on our side, or racially motivated, but that is not our intent.  In fact, if Senator Clinton would ever consider coming to South Bend again, we hope she will accept our humble apology for denying her access and that she would consider again Washington High School as a place to visit.


The South Bend Community School Corporation