James Snow blames primarily Del Norte County teachers and administrators for most of the problems he perceives in our schools ("Schools must improve as our kids are not bottom feeders,'" June 27). I have been teaching high school math in both public and private schools for more than 30 years, including the last 11 years at Del Norte High School, and would like to take issue with his conclusion. Prior to moving here, I taught in five other schools in three different states, including a public high school in Northern Virginia that is rated one of the best in the country.
In Del Norte County I've found most of the teachers and administrators to be as skilled as, or more so, than any I have worked with elsewhere, and I've encountered some of the best math students I've ever had the pleasure of teaching. For instance, in recent years our math students have participated in formal math competitions at Humboldt State University with students from other schools and have performed as well as or often better than their counterparts from Arcata and McKinleyville schools. Also, for a number of years our students' AP calculus scores have been above the national average. There are similar success stories here in other academic subjects.
Over the years, I've also been struck by the many wonderful programs at the high school and the dedication of the teachers who coordinated them, a few of which include: AVID (which supports students capable of college-level work, but who need a little support); Interact; Speech and Debate; Odyssey of the Mind; Friday Night Live; Academy of Natural Resources; Dance and Theater; our amazing music program; a student government that is actually given responsibility for helping to administer the high school, and that takes its role seriously; and our athletic programs, whose coaches are a strong support to the classroom teachers. I am continually impressed by the dedication and excellence of the school district's teachers and administrators, the support and opportunities provided to motivated students, and the innovative strategies used and tremendous efforts made to challenge and interest students who are less than motivated.
I agree that, despite the efforts and successes described above, many problems do exist in our school system, as evidenced by some of the recent statistics published ("In Focus: Del Norte County Children," June 23). We do have a number of under-performing students, but I would suggest that accusing our teachers/administrators of being the primary cause and of being less than talented, hardworking or dedicated, is a rather simplistic reason to offer in response. The problems facing this school district (and others) are not just academic, but much more complex, and mirror many of the social and economic issues and challenges faced by the community at large.
The responsibility for solving these problems must be shared, and solutions must involve the entire community, including the families of our students. These problems must be addressed, but please don't start with a knee-jerk reaction, placing the blame on those who work in our schools.