Today I sent the following letter to our local school board, the school system’s superintendent, and the principal of my daughter’s high school. The kind of thing it describes is all too common in America’s schools. We say we want our kids to be the best and brightest in the world; we talk about losing out academically to other countries; and we throw money and laws at programs to boost test scores. But when the rubber hits the road, sports always — always — come first.
Dear members of the School Board, [superintendent’s name], and [principal’s name]:
I’m very distressed to hear from my daughter, [name], that New Albany High School doesn’t plan to participate in the Science Olympiad competition this year. I hope that it isn’t too late for this unfortunate decision to be reconsidered.
I’m always frustrated by the school system’s willingness to pour money into athletics while neglecting academic programs. This is yet another example of such neglect. [name] and her friend [name], two of the brightest sophomores at NAHS, and winners of multiple gold and silver medals at last year’s Science Olympiad competition, have been looking forward to working together again this year. [Advisor], the faculty advisor for the program, did a stellar job of leading the program. Last year’s participants were 20 bright, motivated students who are exactly the kind of kids we should be supporting most in their efforts; they’re tomorrow’s doctors, teachers, and scientists.
But instead, the school is cancelling this outstanding program. It’s my understanding that the advisor position is unpaid; who can blame [advisor] for not wanting to volunteer all those hours again this year? And [advisor] and the students had to scrounge and fund-raise for every dollar to buy supplies, while listening to student athletes boast about the free clothes, food, and supplies showered on them. New Albany High School is sending a clear message that academic priorities come in a distant last, far behind sports.
With the investment of just a few hundred dollars to compensate a faculty advisor and provide supplies — a small fraction of the cost of any of the athletic teams at NAHS — the Science Olympiad program could continue, and these students could receive the support and encouragement they deserve for their outstanding academic and scientific achievements.
Please: Reinstate the Science Olympiad program at NAHS. The school system’s web site claims that it “connects children, teachers and a community to a life-long quest for excellence.” The Science Olympiad participants are among the most excellent students in the system: Send the right message, instead of letting them down.
Thanks very much.