Obama’s words beneficial, says school board

Harry Butler mug file

As he sat in an East Middle School classroom and watched President Barack Obama tell kids to stay in school, District 51 School Board Vice President Harry Butler hoped students would take the president’s words to heart.
“I think it will encourage kids to say: Here’s a man from a single-parent family, and he achieved the office of president. What’s to say I can’t achieve my goal in life?” Butler said.
His fellow board members echoed Butler’s positive reaction to the speech, televised nationwide Tuesday morning. Board member Ron Rowley said the speech was worthwhile.
“A great number of our students need to hear that message,” Rowley said, adding it may encourage “the few kids that heard it” to stay in school.
The 31 local schools with permission slip tallies by Tuesday afternoon estimated 136 students opted out of seeing the president’s speech. Some schools showed the program live or later in the day if it fit in with curriculum, while others sent kids home with permission slips Tuesday, asking parents if their children could watch the speech another day.
Rural Gateway School was not able to stream the program, and five elementary schools — Dual
Immersion, Glade Park, Independence Academy, New Emerson and Taylor — did not show the program because the schools were not in session Friday, when permission slips went home with students, according to District 51 spokesman Jeff Kirtland.
Regardless of parents’ views of Obama, board member Cindy Enos-Martinez said she hopes people will appreciate the president’s message.
“All he’s doing is encouraging our kids to get an education,” she said.
“There are circumstances where students don’t get that encouragement and support. The liability belongs to all of the community, all of the nation to encourage kids to do the best they can do now and in the future.”
Board candidates in District E also weighed in on the speech. Candidate Amber Sigler said she planned to discuss the president’s words with her son when he came home from school.
She said she doesn’t agree with all of Obama’s policies, but “as far as our children working hard, I totally agree with that,” she said.
The speech’s message about plowing through hard times instead of quitting also resonated with her.
“Who doesn’t struggle growing up?” Sigler said. “You can’t quit when it gets hard.”
Candidate Rose Femia Pugliese said some projects and worksheets suggested by the White House to go with the speech concerned her, but the speech did not.
“One specific question tells kids they should listen to their politicians and follow them,” Pugliese said. “As long as teachers balance ‘listen to politicians’ with having a right to debate, then I think it’s OK.”
Kirtland said he didn’t know whether any District 51 schools used or will use the suggested lessons. He said chances are they incorporated the speech into the current curriculum.
School Board candidate Greg Mikolai said this isn’t the first time a U.S. president has spoken to students during back-to-school season, and he believes any president, regardless of political party, passing along an encouraging message is good for students.
Presidents George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush and Ronald Reagan spoke to students during their presidencies.
Topics ranged from saying no to drugs to raising the bar for student performance, and they always involved education.
This is Obama’s first back-to-school speech as president but not his first event at a school. He may have been hosting a town hall, but the president’s second most recent visit to a school before Tuesday’s event at Wakefield High School in Arlington, Va., was at Grand Junction’s Central High School.


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