Leader Blues

Saturday, September 05, 2009

TOP STORY >> Only one district to air Obama

By JOAN MCCOY
Leader staff writer

Several area school districts will not participate Tuesday in the live stream of President Barrack Obama’s address to students.

The Pulaski County Special School District is airing it, but leaving the final decision up to individual principals.

The Lonoke School District doesn’t have the technology needed, and Beebe Schools will be closed that day. Staff development on Tuesday means Beebe students get a four-day weekend.

Dr. Belinda Shook, superintendent of Beebe Schools, said Friday that only one parent had called her office to complain about students viewing the speech.

“Some of the teachers plan to record it so they can show it later and I understand we will get a manuscript,” Dr. Belinda Shook, superintendent of Beebe Schools, said Friday. “I haven’t really heard much about it.”

Shook said only one parent had called her office to complain about students viewing the speech.

She had talked to Dr. Tony Thurman, superintendent of Cabot Schools, and he had received several calls both for and against students watching the speech.

Thurman confirmed by e-mail Friday afternoon that he had received several calls both for and against students watching the speech. The concerns expressed by those who were against it were similar to those reported across the country, he said.

But he said he decided not to allow the speech to be shown because it goes against protocol.

The most commonly reported concern on the Internet is that the speech will attempt to indoctrinate children with his allegedly socialist agenda.

“Cabot Schools will not participate in the live stream of President Obama’s address to students,” Thurman said.

“It is district protocol for staff to view presentations (movies, speeches, etc.) in advance of showing to students,” he explained.

“This procedure allows staff the opportunity to ensure viewing of any presentation is at the appropriate grade levels and for their content area. It is our understanding that a text of the speech will not be available until Sunday or Monday.

“DVD copies will be available for check-out in school offices for parents that do not have access to the Internet. A Web link to the speech will be made available to parents on the district Web site,” Thurman said.

In addition to a live speech going against district protocol, there was concern about taking students away from their lessons as well as concerns about whether the district was technologically capable of showing the speech.

“Our technology department has expressed concern about the bandwidth capacity that would be necessary to stream this to every site in the district at one time. We may use the speech in classes that are grade and content appropriate after staff has the opportunity to view it,” he said.

Julie Thompson, a spokesman for the Arkansas Department of Education, said Friday that the president will encourage students to stay in school and work hard, which the department also encourages. And the speech is a current event pertaining to students, so the department has no objections to students watching the speech.

But, she said, “We don’t have a position. It’s a district decision as to whether their students watch it.”