Sunday, May 17, 2009

Richard Woods GOP Convention Speech

Richard Woods, candidate for State School Superintendent, spoke to Georgia Republicans at the 2009 Convention held in Savannah. The following is his speech as printed prior to the talk:

I thank you for the opportunity to stand before you today and speak on the subject of education. Over the past 21 years, I have had the privilege of working for this great state and the community of Irwin County as a classroom teacher and administrator. As our next state school superintendent, I will bring years of practicality, real life experience, and educational success to this post. But more importantly, I come before you today because I asked myself the question, "Am I happy with the direction Education has taken in Georgia?" I ask you as well, "Are you happy with the direction education has taken in Georgia?"

· Are you happy that almost 30% of our students drop out of school?
· Are you happy that nearly 40% of our rural students fail to obtain a high school diploma?
· Are you happy that there continues to be very noticeable performance gaps between population groups in grades 1-8 on our state test?
· Are you happy that many students begin their college experience by sitting in remedial education classes?
· Are you happy that Georgia consistently ranks in the bottom 5 on the SAT?
· Are you happy that the legislation known as "No Child Left Behind" continues to leave more and more children behind in school?

The answer for me is a resounding NO! In order to correct an educational system that continues to live on the verge of life-support, I am proposing a practical dose of educational CPR in order to put the heartbeat back into education.

C is old fashion common sense. Our actions, decisions, and goals must reflect practicality. Noted educational leaders, Max Thompson and Heidi Hays Jacobs, have stated that our new curriculum is still too broad and lacks needed depth.

We must do more to build a solid foundation in the critical areas of reading, writing, and math during the primary years. Research has shown that a child must be on grade level in reading by 3rd grade and in math by 5th grade or face joining our unacceptable dropout population.

I do support a curriculum that is rigorous and challenging. However, it must be practical, obtainable, and appropriate for all learners. Our children are not carbon copy machined parts who fit nicely into one box. Not everyone is designed nor has the desire to pursue the same post secondary experience. Our curriculum and educational system should not promote the concept that to do anything less is a failure. The doors of opportunity will open to any child who has true mastery of the basics. I must emphasize true mastery.

P represents partnership. The D.O.E. and our local systems must reduce the bureaucratic, redundant, and unnecessary paperwork that is being piled upon our teachers. We must allow them to do what they do best, close their doors and teacher. They should be allowed to work smarter, not harder.

Financial flexibility from the national and state governments needs to arrive in the form of block grants. This would allow school systems the financial freedom needed to address educational issues. We should not lose jobs or fail to purchase textbooks because funding is locked into uncompromising programs. Our LOCAL SYSTEMs, not Washington D.C. nor Atlanta, are far better qualified to judge what is needed to solve the challenges they face.

R is relationship building. The most important part of any relationship is the willingness to listen. We must hear the concerns and comments of those in the field. As you next superintendent, I pledge to you that I will be an individual who will listen to and represent ALL of Georgia.

Finally, you have a choice. You can choose to continue to boast in the progress of mediocrity or you can join me. Join me in putting common sense back into our decision making. Join me in creating productive partnerships. Join me in building relationships with all of Georgia. By doing so, we will work together to move out of the shadow of others and become the leader of education for our nation!

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