Mission: To provide a safe environment, a challenging curriculum and permission for all students to dream. To deliver a highly individualized education developing motivated, self-reliant, and productive citizens. To foster learning by designing engaging, challenging, and satisfying work.
Even a cursory review of these statements calls into question whether the Board’s behavior in the Popp episode comports with the District’s stated beliefs that:
• “the keys to improved academic performance are the professional practices of teachers and leaders, not the economic, racial, ethnic, or linguistic characteristics of our children. …
• “to improve the performance of students in our schools, we must continuously improve … leadership.
• “… the quality of the relationship between the student and teacher as well as the school and community is essential to the quality of learning for every student.”
As your early comments suggest, Jason Popp was a teacher before he was a coach. Coaching is teaching in another form. Coaches are paid to coach. The playing field, the locker room, the bus rides: these are extensions of the classroom. Winning and losing are incidental to the learning experience.
Let’s strip away the hysteria surrounding Coach Popp’s crude and intemperate remarks and examine the complaints of students and parents in their essence.
When we do so, can there be any doubt that the parents’ February 7th letter was a stinging outcry against the quality of the relationship between student and teacher/coach and its negative consequences for the quality of learning for team members? Or that the letter was a rebuke of the teacher/coach’s unprofessional practices and a demand for improved leadership?
The letter reflects the steps taken by parents before issuing their demand for Popp’s removal: discussions with the coach, the athletic director and others had been unavailing.
And until the parents stood up to the Board on June 13 and cross-examined its President into a corner [see Video, segment beginning at 3:48], there was never — not once in four months — an indication that the Board earnestly considered its employee/coach’s behavior to be unacceptable and in violation of school district policy.
So how can this be a learning experience for the community that results in a committed reaffirmation of the district’s Vision and Mission?
Leadership starts at the top. Let the Board begin by becoming more open, more transparent, more engaged with the community it is sworn and obliged to serve. Here are several suggestions in that regard:
Parents need to be watchdogs, paying attention first and foremost to their children’s efforts, but also to the content of the curriculum and the professionalism by which it is imparted.
Richmond Heights is a small enough district with enough resources that if properly focused and utilized, could be a model as well as a magnet for public education. This community should be near perfect in more than just basketball.