There is a shameful–in my opinion reprehensible–situation which has developed recently here in Volusia County. I have been following and contributing to some of the social media conversations about it and have noticed a sad trend for people to lose focus on what actually did happen, and digress into discussing other issues. Most alarming in the discussion is all of the speculation. When we speculate about motives, we descend into the realm of untruth. The fact is, no one can know what is truly in the heart or mind of another.
Our School Board Chair told a group of graduates that “a third of you are graduating with honors, the rest of you underperformed,” in her speech to nearly 400 Seabreeze High School students at graduation. This is an undisputed fact.
It is also a fact that in that two-thirds of what their School Board Representative considered underperformers were some real-life heroes. There were scores of students with disabilities who struggled for thirteen years (some for much longer) to keep up with their less challenged peers. They worked through issues and hardships I believe most of us cannot imagine, to attain a high school diploma. To earn it. There were homeless students who earned their diplomas that day; students who do not know where they will sleep or how they will get their next meal. There were students who work because they are the sole wage earners in their families. There were students living with chronic, life-long illnesses. And, there were students for whom average work is a huge accomplishment–students for whom earning their high school diploma will be the capstone of their academic career. These students are my heroes.
Another fact to consider in Linda Costello’s statement is that, if she believes hundreds of students who met graduation requirements underperformed, she doesn’t believe in her own district’s graduation requirements. While that is not, in my opinion, the most grievous error present in her statement, it is something which bears consideration. I would ask, if she remains in the School Board, what she plans to do about these less-than-rigorous graduation requirements?
It is my sincere hope that the conversation and actions to follow this horrible jab at individuals in her charge result in specific, beneficial change. Apologies are a good thing. Moving forward–however painful this is for Linda Costello and the rest of the Board–should include real change which works to continue the redefinition of the Volusia public school system.
We need to focus on what did happen, and act to ensure it never happens again.