"A teacher affects eternity, he can never tell where his influence stops." Henry Brooks Adams

Sunday, October 9, 2011

We Need More Good Guys and Fewer Test Prep Gurus--Guest Blog by Natalie Hunter--

Fresno County California School Superintendent, Larry Powell, has decided to save his school district by technically retiring and foregoing his $288,000 yearly salary for the remaining three and 1/2 years of his term. The first plan was to be rehired with a $31,000 per year salary, yet Powell has decided to give that to charity. Powell said in an interview on MSNBC TV's 'The Ed Show,' "It's time for us to step up and do something. America has always given. It's a time to do that thing right now."

Powell's approach to education reform appears in stark contrast to that of Philadelphia's superintendent who leaves office with a controversial $905,000 buyout package. Education Week states that the controversial private donors have withdrawn from the buyout, leaving the Philadelphia School district to bear the entire cost. "How much do we need to keep accumulating? There's no reason for me to keep stockpiling money," Fresno's superintendent, Larry Powell, 63, is quoted as saying by the Associated Press.

Powell also gave up his $250,000 life insurance policy and says that he will be added to his wife's health care plan. Because of taking early retirement, according to the superintendent, he will receive $28,000 a year less in pension payments for the rest of his life. Larry Powell said that the decision was a serious one that he discussed at length with his wife. Computing that if he lived to be 87, the age of his parents now, he would lose $900,000 in pension benefits, including $200,000 less in earnings for the remainder of his term. Clearly a significant sum of salary, pension and other benefits, Fresno Superintendent Powell decided to sacrifice personal gain for the sake of education in his district.

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has applauded Powell for his gift. Duncan issued a statement that said in part, "Larry Powell's leadership is an absolute inspiration. Through a lifetime of dedicated service in education and his generosity, he has made it clear that he is personally and professionally invested in the students, parents, teachers and principals in Fresno. They are very lucky to have him."

Indeed Fresno is very fortunate to have such a leader as Larry Powell. In a time when school districts across the country are struggling to make ends meet and countless teachers, media specialists and other educators are unemployed causing the quality of education to decline, the example of Mr. Powell is like a beacon in the wilderness that is the United States' public educational system, whether we're dealing with traditional or online schools. Individual courage to stand up and make sacrifices for the greater good is just what is needed now, and perhaps others will follow his lead to save our education system. Natalie Hunter