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Bad character. Or just Character, depending who you ask.
April 17, 2013 3:25 PM   Subscribe

Evangelical Abstinence-Only speaker Pam Stenzel speaks at George Washington High School in West Virginia. Feeling that Ms. Stenzels rally included a lot of intentional untruths, Student Body Vice President Katelyn Campbell protested the rally. Principal George Aulenbacher retaliated, threatening to report Katelyn to the college she had been admitted to as a student of "bad character." The school in question, Wellesley, responded.
posted by Navelgazer (73 comments total) 45 users marked this as a favorite

 
What's this in my eye?

That Stenzel person is pure poison. Good job, Katelyn Campbell!

Well done, Wellesley!
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 3:29 PM on April 17, 2013 [10 favorites]


That's great. Funny that the Principal would be all like, "I'm gonna tell on you!"
posted by ph00dz at 3:34 PM on April 17, 2013 [4 favorites]


Good for her. People like this Aulenbacher asshole need to learn that they can't run High Schools like their own little fiefdoms.
posted by Myca at 3:34 PM on April 17, 2013 [19 favorites]


Wellesley's response is excellent.

I mean, I pretty much figured that'd be Wellesley's private response, but I figured they'd be publicly silent and just laugh at the principal at Faculty meetings and such.
posted by jacquilynne at 3:40 PM on April 17, 2013 [17 favorites]


I read it, and then became furious that a school administrator might actually threaten to contact a school and try to bias them against a student for speaking her mind - and then started giggling uncontrollably when I saw that the school in question was Wellesley.

"Are you people aware that this student you've accepted is, at this very moment, supporting the values and principles that your institution was founded on and promotes? Scandalous, I know! I'm sure you'll reject her now."
posted by Tomorrowful at 3:40 PM on April 17, 2013 [105 favorites]


There's a High School principal in this country who thinks Wellesley would be disappointed in an incoming student who protested abstinence-only sex ed? He should be fired for that.
posted by Rock Steady at 3:42 PM on April 17, 2013 [49 favorites]


Christ, what an asshole. Aulenbacher I mean. Rock on, Campbell and Wellsley.
posted by edheil at 3:42 PM on April 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


This needs more Breakfast Club fist pump.
posted by Nanukthedog at 3:45 PM on April 17, 2013 [6 favorites]


Man I wish I'd paid more attention to my preview screen. I am not normally that poor a writer, I swear.
posted by Navelgazer at 3:45 PM on April 17, 2013


I read "Some of Campbell’s fellow students at GW High School .. plan to take up the issue at a local board of education meeting, which is scheduled for Thursday evening" as an invitation for a little *polite* email lobbying of the Kanawha County School Board.
posted by jeffburdges at 3:47 PM on April 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


We're making fun, but if this hadn't become viral, what Wellesley would've heard would've been something like "This student made a spectacle of herself and disrespected her community", from the principal, who ought to be trustworthy and I'm sure students in similar situations have had serious problems from people with more power than intellect acting up like this.
posted by EtzHadaat at 3:48 PM on April 17, 2013 [5 favorites]


We're making fun, but if this hadn't become viral, what Wellesley would've heard would've been something like "This student made a spectacle of herself and disrespected her community", from the principal

I would strongly suspect that before doing something as drastic as canceling her acceptance, they'd want to know exactly what she did that made a spectacle of herself, and probably speak to her to get her side of it. At which point we'd end up right back where we started.
posted by Tomorrowful at 3:51 PM on April 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


Doesn't that principal understand that the only foolproof public-relations strategy is no public relations at all?
posted by Salvor Hardin at 3:51 PM on April 17, 2013 [15 favorites]


Rarely have I ever been so proud to be a Wellesley alum. This kid is going to do wonderfully there- I remember as a high school senior attending a lot of admitted student days and intentionally choosing Wellesley because of how well spoken and independent the women I met there were.

Welcome, Katelyn, you'll fit right in.
posted by lyra4 at 3:52 PM on April 17, 2013 [15 favorites]


Salvor Hardin wins.
posted by Navelgazer at 3:52 PM on April 17, 2013


Well, yeah. He has the dead hand of Hari Seldon on his side.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 4:02 PM on April 17, 2013 [8 favorites]


I imagine that if she had been admitted to, say, Bob Jones instead of Wellesley, things might have turned out differently.
posted by ardgedee at 4:06 PM on April 17, 2013


I'm trying to figure out in what way these people thought this would work out for them. Rural America (where I'm from, by the way) is continually trying to prove that Footloose was a documentary.
posted by LukeLockhart at 4:06 PM on April 17, 2013 [12 favorites]


When we covered human reproduction in excruciating detail in biology freshman year of high school, I'm quite certain that our bio teacher terrified most students out of having sex and she didn't have to make shit up. Learning actual facts about what pregnancy - let alone STDs! - can do to a person was enough to make everyone think that maybe putting off intercourse wasn't such a bad idea.
posted by rtha at 4:14 PM on April 17, 2013 [10 favorites]


I'm trying to figure out in what way these people thought this would work out for them.

Because they're stuck in the 1950s, they forget that the internet is a thing.

I imagine the useless excuse for a principal thought that if they simply threatened Campbell's entire future, Campbell would back down and shut up out of self interest. People that ignorant and cowardly generally assume that everyone is as ignorant and cowardly and them.

I know that there's nothing to be done here - Campbell's going to be just fine - but I wish there was some retaliatory action that the internet torch and pitchfork crew could take. This person should not be a teacher, let alone a school principal.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 4:19 PM on April 17, 2013 [6 favorites]


Wow, good for Katelyn Campbell for speaking up on behalf of the student body. She must be counting the days until she doesn't have to go to that high school anymore (and gets to go to Wellesley!).

Out of curiosity, I tried to find some info on whether religious speakers like this are legally allowed in US public schools, but I couldn't seem to find anything concrete, which leads me to think it must be a very complex issue. Is it district by district? State by state?

Is there a likelihood that when the students take this to the board of education that the BOE would censure the principal for acting as he did?
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 4:21 PM on April 17, 2013 [4 favorites]


I imagine that if she had been admitted to, say, Bob Jones instead of Wellesley, things might have turned out differently.

Yeah, but then she wouldn't have had to attend Bob Jones University. So, win/win.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 4:21 PM on April 17, 2013 [14 favorites]


haha, what
A public Facebook page titled "Friends of Aulenbacher" was created Monday, asking for people to show support for the principal who "is under attack for hosting a seminar on abstinence at our high school." The page had about 30 likes by late Monday afternoon.
Congratulations on trying to say a 17 year old was bullying you, you worthless shitheap of humanity.
posted by boo_radley at 4:21 PM on April 17, 2013 [46 favorites]


The town will either become more enlightened, or wither and die. My hometown started getting more progressive - with social conservative preachers onboard and working together with hippies - as soon as they realized that without progress we could barely support two gas stations. So the principal will have to shape up, retire, or end up presiding over just two or three students. No matter what, justice will be done.
posted by LukeLockhart at 4:22 PM on April 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


I found this article describing Aulenbacher's career as he was appointed to run GW HS.
posted by humanfont at 4:24 PM on April 17, 2013


I found this article describing Aulenbacher's career as he was appointed to run GW HS.

That article suggests that Aulenbacher got kicked out of his previous school as a condition of that school receiving Federal grant money. Hell of a recommendation. You should definitely hire him. Uh huh.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 4:28 PM on April 17, 2013 [5 favorites]


This person should not be a teacher, let alone a school principal.

Some of my finest teachers had absolutely no interest in administration and some of my least qualified teachers had administrative aspirations.
Just sayin.
posted by notreally at 4:30 PM on April 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


I should mention that I found this as touching as I did because in my own senior year, in small-town Oklahoma, a friend of mine (a fairly conservative Christian girl, in fact) was approached by an anonymous student who had just learned of her own HIV-positive status and wanted to give an anonymous interview for the paper. My friend Nicole did this, incorporating it into a piece about actual safe-sex facts, and then the brand-new principal put the kibosh on it - something which had never happened in the history of the student-run paper. When Nicole complained, the principal threatened not to let her walk at graduation.

Nicole backed down but got the word out her own way. Katelyn Campbell is in her own class of awesome.
posted by Navelgazer at 4:31 PM on April 17, 2013 [6 favorites]


That article suggests that Aulenbacher got kicked out of his previous school

That same article says he received a Milken Educator Award, which they don't exactly hand out to slouches. Also, the whole "removed from an under performing school thing" is part of the continuing bullshit of funding being tied to standardized tests.

Its entirely possible that he's an excellent principal in many regards who is also a raging asshole. Regardless of his possible quality in other areas, he should be reprimanded in some way (maybe even fired) for threatening a student. That suggests he's more concerned about himself than about his kids. Really, that undermines any other positive qualities he might have as an educator.
posted by Joey Michaels at 4:39 PM on April 17, 2013 [7 favorites]


Some of my finest teachers had absolutely no interest in administration and some of my least qualified teachers had administrative aspirations.

That's fair. I was thinking more in terms of the additional amount of control and responsibilty that principals have, not making a value judgement.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 4:39 PM on April 17, 2013


Also, good for Wellesley. An excellent response from them.
posted by Joey Michaels at 4:40 PM on April 17, 2013


Also, Mrs. Radley wonders how the principal knew what school the student was applying to.
posted by boo_radley at 5:02 PM on April 17, 2013


Also, Mrs. Radley wonders how the principal knew what school the student was applying to.

At this point in the school year, my senior year, we knew where a fair number of people had already been accepted to, with early acceptance and the like.
posted by FritoKAL at 5:04 PM on April 17, 2013


After a long crappy day, this was exactly the bright note to end on. Good on Katelyn and Wellesley.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:09 PM on April 17, 2013


So, I went to the Stenzelsite and this was listed as her top accomplishment: "Degree in Psychology from Liberty University". 'nuf said.

Liberty (for those of you fortunate enough to not have to drive through Lynchburg, VA occasionally) is Jerry Falwell's university. It's basically a Christian Madrasa.
posted by skepticbill at 5:25 PM on April 17, 2013 [7 favorites]


[We do not do that "Let's post their email here so people can bug them" stuff here. Please don't. Thank you.]
posted by jessamyn at 5:25 PM on April 17, 2013 [3 favorites]


Some of my finest teachers had absolutely no interest in administration and some of my least qualified teachers had administrative aspirations.

I'm not in education, but every so often it occurs to me that I never, ever hear anything positive about an K-12 educational administrator. Never, ever. I only ever hear about them trying to ruin children's lives, and/or succeeding at it.
posted by Countess Elena at 6:11 PM on April 17, 2013


The problem is not just that this kind of thing happened.

The problem is how many times this kind of thing happens all over the United States and it DOESN'T get reported.
posted by delfin at 6:14 PM on April 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm not in education, but every so often it occurs to me that I never, ever hear anything positive about an K-12 educational administrator. Never, ever. I only ever hear about them trying to ruin children's lives, and/or succeeding at it.

Wow, that's shocking and sad.

In the early 1990s I worked in an elementary school for 5 years under one of the best principals, hell one of the best supervisors / administrators I've ever seen. She fostered an atmosphere of mutual respect among the staff and student body which made going to work each day a joy. She displayed great sensitivity coupled with a strong hand when required. Her mastery of conflict resolution strategies meant not only that all disputes were quickly settled, but also that everyone else on the staff and many of the students received training in the techniques she used, training which continues to serve me well to this day. She even had worked out ways to deal with Pushy Parents which allowed them to contribute meaningfully to the school but which kept them from interfering with the teachers as they did their jobs. It was routine for students to come back to visit her to keep her updated on how they were doing as they continued their education beyond K-5, even into their high school years.

She was outstanding in every way, and it was reflected in the quality of the education the students were receiving and the tight-knit nature of the staff and the community's response and participation in the school.

I'm sure there are tons of stories like this out there. They are simply unsung heroes. You only hear the bad stories because stories of people doing their jobs well rarely are scandalous and thus don't make the news.
posted by hippybear at 6:34 PM on April 17, 2013 [29 favorites]


I can't tell you how angry it makes me that the way schools get students to shut up about uncomfortable things is to threaten to take away their already-earned right to accept their own damn diploma. Any kid who is graduating has already earned their diploma, and no petty-ass principal should be able to delay or forbid them from accepting it.

Of course I don't think schools should have the right to restrict studen speech or require dress codes either, but then I'm a damn dirty hippy.
posted by emjaybee at 6:40 PM on April 17, 2013 [6 favorites]


The speaker and principal sound like nothing less than 21st century Dickens characters.
posted by hwestiii at 6:46 PM on April 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


West Virginia, may Katelyn come back from Wellesley come back and be in charge of sex education for high school students. You've earned it!
posted by Leezie at 7:05 PM on April 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


From the George Aulenbacher link:
Katelyn Campbell, the school's student body vice president, refused to attend an assembly where Christian speaker Pam Stenzel told GW students "condoms aren't safe" and warned that any type of sexual contact would lead to sexually transmitted diseases and cause women to be infertile, according to an audio recording of her presentation.

In her YouTube videos, Stenzel shouts and says things such as women who take birth control are "10 times more likely to contract a disease . . . or end up sterile or dead." She allegedly told GW and Riverside students, "If your mom gives you birth control, she probably hates you."
There's encouraging kids to abstain from sex, then there's lying to them and generally spreading FUD. This is like a terrible attempt at "scared abstinent" when the majority of teens are already sexually active.

This is even more timely, with the recent poll of contraceptive use in West Virginia teens leading law makers to consider better sex ed:
The 2011 survey polled about 40,000 students and found that although more than half of West Virginia’s minors are engaging in sexual activity, a staggering 74.5 percent are not using birth control. That’s only a slight decrease from the 1993 results, when 79.5 percent of teens reported they didn’t use any form of contraception.
...
West Virginia does require public schools to offer sex education and HIV education, but there are no standards for ensuring that sexual health material is medically accurate and unbiased by religion. Chapman also pointed out that students at an elementary level don’t receive any comprehensive health information.
Perhaps Aulenbacher's actions, and the broader backlash, will further spur politicians towards embracing a positive sex education curriculum instead of this shitty fearmongering.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:16 PM on April 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


"We're making fun, but if this hadn't become viral, what Wellesley would've heard would've been something like "This student made a spectacle of herself and disrespected her community", from the principal, who ought to be trustworthy and I'm sure students in similar situations have had serious problems from people with more power than intellect acting up like this."

I've never heard of a college really caring unless it's cheating/academic dishonesty or a criminal conviction ... or, very rarely, excessive cuts resulting in drastically lower senior-year grades.

"That article suggests that Aulenbacher got kicked out of his previous school as a condition of that school receiving Federal grant money."

This is a routine requirement for receiving a SIG grant (School Improvement Grant grant, I guess). There are four ways you can qualify -- firing the principal, firing 50%+ of the teachers, closing the school and reopening it as a charter, or closing the school and sending the students to other, higher-achieving schools. The SIG grant money, which is HUGE, is not actually interested in what's wrong with the school -- typically excruciating poverty requiring far more extensive interventions than shifting staff and students around, which are actually interventions that are statistically likely result in LOWER achievement -- just in you meeting one of those four models that ASSUMES the problem is that the school staff is appallingly bad at their jobs, not that the students are living in terrible poverty with unstable homelives.

Principals have volunteered to be fired so that their schools can get the SIG grants; we're talking like $6 million over three years for a school of 1200 students in impoverished areas; that is a LOT of money -- potentially 40 extra teachers for three years.

In this situation, this guy is a giant jackass abusing his position. But the SIG grant situation (I knew it was a SIG grant before clicking through) doesn't really tell you much about his qualifications or skills. It tells you that the federal government has set appallingly off-point requirements to qualify for extra federal money, that creates situations that tend to decrease student achievement rather than increase it.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:22 PM on April 17, 2013 [27 favorites]


Thanks for that clarification, Eyebrows.

That sounds kind of insane though.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 7:30 PM on April 17, 2013


Countess Elena: "I'm not in education, but every so often it occurs to me that I never, ever hear anything positive about an K-12 educational administrator. Never, ever. I only ever hear about them trying to ruin children's lives, and/or succeeding at it."

I will tell you a million positive stories about K-12 educational administrators. I'll tell you about a high school principal who screwed up in being heavy-handed with the high school paper (she was new to the job, had no training in student media/first amendment issues) and who apologized and invited the school board, local journalists, and first-amendment advocates into the school to talk to the paper staff and let them tear her to pieces; she turned it into a teaching moment. I will tell you about the superintendent who took a meeting with 8-year-olds to talk very seriously with them about getting bicycle racks at their school and treated them with as much respect as she'd give the governor. I will tell you about a head of transportation (busses) who never turns off his cell phone and publishes the number on the school website so anyone can call him, any time, 24 hours a day, and he ALWAYS picks up, because if your kid forgets to get off at his bus stop, that is a thing you want to talk to someone about NOW. I will tell you about a comptroller who hasn't taken a vacation in 3 years, despite being entitled to 20 vacation days a year, because he always has ONE MORE THING he wants to get done. I will tell you about a principal who walks door to door in the evening in the most dangerous neighborhood in the city so she can meet all of her students' families -- 400 of them. I will tell you about deans of discipline who spend hours and hours working with troubled students with behavior problems, trying to keep them in school. I will tell you about an early childhood coordinator who goes to every single IEP meeting for every single under-6 student in the district, and talks to every single child as much as to their parents, and remembers every child's name.

These things don't make the news, but these are the things our administrators do EVERY DAY ... on top of a job that is literally impossibly demanding -- there are not enough hours in the year to do all the things we require of them. In corporate America a supervisor typically supervises around 10 employees; a principal supervises maybe 40 teachers, plus a number of staff (aides, janitors, counselors, deans, etc.), and 600 students. It's absolutely absurd. And a lot of the people who do it are superhuman. I see them every day, and I can hardly even imagine what they do.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:49 PM on April 17, 2013 [48 favorites]


Out of curiosity, I tried to find some info on whether religious speakers like this are legally allowed in US public schools, but I couldn't seem to find anything concrete, which leads me to think it must be a very complex issue. Is it district by district? State by state?

It's not state by state and it's not complex to say that there are limits and that principals are responsible for the speech that they sanction. There is context dependence according to what exactly Stenzel said and whether the limit between teaching and preaching was crossed. The bottom line is that the principal authorized the assembly in his official capacity, so he is responsible if that assembly delved into proselytization.

Here are all the checks against this scenario and for how the Establishment Clause for separation of church and state matters: Public school, mandatory assembly, supervised and organized by government officials, all of it paid from salaries to real estate to the PA system by tax payer dollars. It stinks to high heaven long before you even get to the threats against students who were exercising their First Amendment right to express disagreement.

The reason why this kind of stuff persists is because in a monoculture like most of conservative America, it's hard for people, even government officials like school administrators, to take off the hats that they wear in church and at the dinner table and put on the ethical hat that is required of a person on duty hours in a government role. Sometimes even people with honest intent are blind to this stuff, but that's doubtfully the case here.

Silence persists because you can have people on autopilot and accepting authority. You have people who are willfully abusing authority, too, or who prioritize their religious beliefs over their Constitutional duties. You might even have knowledgable people who don't want this to be the hill that they die on and who look the other way and people in government are very prone towards following momentum.

You also have the cowardice that someone like Stenzel may be smart enough to walk right up to the line of proselytization, stick their toe over it but stay just enough on the safe side to know that nobody will make a literal federal case out of the transgressions. Then again, maybe not, as many of her published anti-sex speeches contain lines like, "You need to ask Jesus for forgiveness […]" That would be inexcusable proselytization if she said it to a mandatory public school audience. Apparently some of the students tape recorded the speech, so we may be able to find out for sure.

In any case, monoculture is the biggest problem. Try this stunt in an urban area in a liberal state and see how far you get. You sometimes see the opposite case in blue states where school administrators are too zealous in preventing voluntary religious speech from students.

The rule for government support in faith based environments and vice-versa is time or space separation. A church can pay market rates to rent a high school auditorium for services on Sunday, outside of school hours. Students can organize their own religious expression if other students are not coerced into joining. A Head Start class can be held in a church basement -- even if there are crosses on the walls -- so long as there is no proselytization during class hours in that same space.

Depending on how far over the line Stenzel went with her proselytization, Cole v. Oroville Union High School District may be a similar case: http://www.firstamendmentschools.org/freedoms/case.aspx?id=1686 The case shows pretty clearly that principals are responsible for what is said by sanctioned speakers at public events.

This article delves into some of the grey areas: http://digitalcommons.law.msu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1264&context=facpubs ... The religious origin of the motivations for abstinence-only education can sometimes be damning but often are not. Most law and morality can be traced back to religion. If the zealots are sneaky enough and hold their tongue enough, they can get away with this crap. If they slip up and show their cards, they don't get away with it.

From the article: "Abstinence-only programs pose serious questions regarding the meaning of religion under the Establishment Clause. Some of these programs are 'religious' and violate the Clause, and others are not-so either the Clause does not apply to them, or they will survive scrutiny under the Clause. As with most Establishment Clause issues the inquiry is fact-sensitive. [...] In the end, abstinence-only and sex education programs raise cutting-edge issues under both of the religion clauses and observers can expect a mixed bag of outcomes in cases involving these programs."
posted by Skwirl at 9:40 PM on April 17, 2013 [10 favorites]


Wellesley saved thousands of dollars in marketing with that move. Very smart! Applications should skyrocket. Of course, it was the right move and very well played too.
posted by ReeMonster at 9:40 PM on April 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


Wellesley's Facebook page is overflowing with welcoming messages to Katelyn Campbell who has replied "Wellesley, I love you." After the gut punch of Monday, it is a lovely outpouring of community to read through. (Class of '91)
posted by girlhacker at 10:44 PM on April 17, 2013 [4 favorites]


That was a great and informative answer, Skwirl. Your attribution of the problem to conservative monoculture habitually turning a blind eye/tacitly encouraging this stuff, rather than this sort of thing being specifically permitted under law, makes a lot of sense. It just seems so unbelievable to me that any public school administrator would think this was OK.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 1:27 AM on April 18, 2013


Katelyn's own post on the Friends of Aulenbacher page is worth reading.
posted by pw201 at 4:12 AM on April 18, 2013 [4 favorites]


Eyebrows McGee: I will tell you about a head of transportation (busses) who never turns off his cell phone and publishes the number on the school website so anyone can call him, any time, 24 hours a day, and he ALWAYS picks up, because if your kid forgets to get off at his bus stop, that is a thing you want to talk to someone about NOW.

Someone give this guy a million dollars. You would literally not believe how unresponsive the Transportation Department is in our school system.
posted by Rock Steady at 5:03 AM on April 18, 2013


A number of the high school responses on the Friends of Aulenbacher pages are impressive. For instance.
posted by Rory Marinich at 6:58 AM on April 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


In this situation, this guy is a giant jackass abusing his position. But the SIG grant situation (I knew it was a SIG grant before clicking through) doesn't really tell you much about his qualifications or skills. It tells you that the federal government has set appallingly off-point requirements to qualify for extra federal money, that creates situations that tend to decrease student achievement rather than increase it.

Not buying that. If the school wasn't doing horribly, the situation would have never come up. Is the principal not ultimately responsible for a school's performance?
posted by spaltavian at 8:40 AM on April 18, 2013


Most schools that are "doing horribly" on standardized testing (which seems to be the only measure that much matters these days) are doing so because of the socio-economic situations of the students, not the quality of the teaching or the administration.
posted by jacquilynne at 8:42 AM on April 18, 2013


I'm not in education, but every so often it occurs to me that I never, ever hear anything positive about an K-12 educational administrator.

I think it's one of those jobs where, if you do it really well, you end up basically being transparent. The teachers teach, the students learn, and nobody really notices what goes on behind the scenes to make that possible.

Most management positions — and I'd argue that school principal is a management position — are like that. You only become visible if something is really wrong.

None of this is meant to detract from the rather evident fact that George Aulenbacher is a shitheel, though.
posted by Kadin2048 at 8:47 AM on April 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


Most schools that are "doing horribly" on standardized testing (which seems to be the only measure that much matters these days) are doing so because of the socio-economic situations of the students, not the quality of the teaching or the administration.

Sure, but necessary improvement wasn't made under him. No one said he caused the problem, but he didn't fix it, or get the school on the path to fixing it, and the Feds had to step in. Not saying it isn't a hard job, but he still failed.
posted by spaltavian at 8:59 AM on April 18, 2013


So had Campbell been accepted to and sent in a deposit for Wellesley, or just the first? I'm curious.

I also find it fascinating that the (older, male) principal is generally referred to by his last name (or first+last) while the (younger, female) student is referred to by her first name (or first+last).

I will tell you about a comptroller who hasn't taken a vacation in 3 years

I will tell you about an organization that doesn't have appropriate internal and external auditing done, then, because that screams red flags and generally should not be allowed. In general, though, I have found that people involved in education at any level are dedicated to the students.

posted by jeather at 9:31 AM on April 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


Normally I am not one to comment on appearances, but Pam Stenzel has one ugly website.
posted by cjorgensen at 10:09 AM on April 18, 2013


In high school, I overheard my college counselor (who had a personal vendetta against me because I caught her cheating with her daughter/student in a class she taught) asking a teacher who wrote college recommendations for me to revise his letters and explain what a horrible person I was and what a "bad character" I had. She, of course, got to write her own letter of recommendation with each college application, and I can only imagine what terrible things she said about me. I wanted to shout it to the hills, but my parents made me keep quiet so my mom (who also worked at the school) wouldn't lose her job.

This story makes me feel really, really good.
posted by phunniemee at 10:47 AM on April 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


I also find it fascinating that the (older, male) principal is generally referred to by his last name (or first+last) while the (younger, female) student is referred to by her first name (or first+last).

In my cub reporting days, the convention that we followed was that legal adults were referred to by last name after first reference, while children were referred to by first name.

I don't know how or why that convention began, but I think it's an interesting semantic tic reflecting power structures, much in the same way a lot of Americans who hire help used to refer to the help by first names but expected to be addressed by surname.
posted by sobell at 12:06 PM on April 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


Related: A Real-Life Window Into How Virginity Obsession Hurts Teen Girls.
posted by ericb at 12:27 PM on April 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Terrifying Public High School Speaker: If You Take Birth Control, Your Mother Probably Hates You

Christ, what an asshole.
posted by homunculus at 1:28 PM on April 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


In other sex-ed news: Ohio Republicans Want To Ban Sex Ed Classes From Talking About ‘Gateway Sexual Activity’
posted by homunculus at 1:50 PM on April 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


spaltavian: "Not buying that. If the school wasn't doing horribly, the situation would have never come up. Is the principal not ultimately responsible for a school's performance?"

Most schools that qualify for SIG grants have been failing for 20 or 30 or 50 years, generally in an environment of grinding poverty and multigenerational unemployment and illiteracy. There are plenty of bad principals to go around, but there are also excellent, talented, dedicated principals who came in to totally failed schools who are doing their best to rescue the kids that they can, who are keeping things from getting worse and maybe making tiny incremental improvements. However, the federal government says all kids will be reading at grade level in 2014 -- wealthy suburban schools are starting to fail NCLB measures; impoverished urban schools have no chance -- and that the "cure" for schools failing to meet a test-score metric that was not ever possible even for wealthy schools and was imposed on impoverished communities without ANY injection of resources to help them get there, let alone the incredibly massive resources that would be necessary, is to DO THINGS WE KNOW REDUCE STUDENT TEST SCORES.

We KNOW that changing the principal (even a failing principal!) results in lower test scores the next year. We KNOW that high teacher turnover reduces student test scores. We KNOW that moving students to other schools reduces test scores. We KNOW that changing an entire program (i.e., becoming a charter) reduces test scores. The hope is that these are hiccups due to the disruption and that students will start improving under "better" circumstances, but there is absolutely no evidence, in this SIG grant system, that the teachers or principals are the problem, and there is no evidence that the problem can be fixed by changing them. It's just a political game of moving bodies around to look like you're doing something; that's why principals volunteer to "be fired" from that job as part of a SIG grant application, because it's the least-disruptive route for the students, and they won't be prevented from getting another job, because everyone knows that "being fired" so a school can get a SIG grant has nothing to do with whether you're awesome or terrible at your job. It's solely a question of playing a particular game to get necessary funding.

An appropriate response to these failing schools would be a massive, 50-year investment in the human capital in inner cities -- in employment, in health care, in infrastructure, in lead-abatement, in education, in parenting skills, in early childhood interventions. But that would be expensive and involve a lot of "welfare." So INSTEAD we set unrealistically high goals for political reasons (without inquiring into their educational value or appropriateness), punished schools for failing to meet them, and then punished teachers and principals in order to get supplemental funding to help the kids.

It's true that teachers and principals are the only part of this big equation we can control in the current system -- we can't make parents suck less, we can't ensure kids have adequate housing or food, we can't make neighborhoods safe enough for kids to get to school, we can't police gangs, we can't make jobs, we can't improve parental employment, we can't even ensure a deaf kid is discovered to be deaf before the age of five. I'm not kidding. Doing any of those things would require investments that, in the U.S., are considered "welfare" and are politically unpalatable. So instead we change the one part of the equation we can control -- teachers and principals -- to make it look like we're doing SOMETHING. Someone's at fault, it must be these people, they've been fired, now it'll get better, right? You've heard and seen all the stories about impoverished urban schools doing really, really well now that lots of them have gone through this process, right? I mean, there must be hundreds of success stories out there by now! No? Oh. Because this process bears no relation to reality.

This guy may or may not be a horrible principal. But being fired for a SIG grant isn't an indicator of his quality.

I apologize for the derail, but this stuff pisses me off. We are leaving behind AN ENTIRE GENERATION of children; we are destroying education nationwide because we refuse to face the fact that schools don't fail in a vacuum; this is the fruit of a half-century of failed poverty policies. You won't fix it by firing principals before handing out funding. Firing Congressmen, OTOH, has some promise.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 1:56 PM on April 18, 2013 [9 favorites]


Campbell's character will serve her just fine in life.
posted by Phire at 11:00 PM on April 18, 2013


I went to that high school!! .... quite a few years ago.

It's a bit of an anomaly, actually (or at least was). Humanfont's link mentioned a school "known for academics throughout the state." My class alone had people who went to Harvard, Denison, Swarthmore, UVA and (I think) Wellesley in addition to the usual pile who went to WVU and Marshall. We went on to include tenured professors of statistics, biochemistry, french, and english literature, as well as one name you'd recognize from a long-running prominent TV series. [None of those are me.]

The flip side is that it was probably the only school in the state producing that kind of success - and that's mainly due to the student population, which had a large contingent of "out of state" types whose parents moved to WV to work for Union Carbide or the medical center and had probably one of the highest average incomes in the state (Not that it takes much in a state where the AMI for a household of four is under $35,000.)

So I'm not surprised at Kaitlyn Campbell, who seems like one smart go getter. I have definite school pride for her and she'll do great. But I am really sad at the state of the school and the general growing conservatism of the state in general. My family has since moved away, and my mom is in touch with only one of her friends from there, as the rest have become tea party/opus dei types.

On the SIG grant, thanks for the background Eybrows McGee. I can confirm that Stonewall Jackson is in a poor area, more urban poor than the rural poor you might expect. In a somewhat painful irony, its population is largely African-american.
posted by Measured Out my Life in Coffeespoons at 7:38 AM on April 19, 2013


We are leaving behind AN ENTIRE GENERATION of children; we are destroying education nationwide because we refuse to face the fact that schools don't fail in a vacuum; this is the fruit of a half-century of failed poverty policies. You won't fix it by firing principals before handing out funding. Firing Congressmen, OTOH, has some promise.

E. McG. has it. I keep reading articles about schools cheating on their testing, teachers fudging the students tests or walking them through it--it's not the teachers, folks, it's the stupidity of putting 30+ kids in a classroom, not allowing remedial work when kids are identified as needing it, passing kids up a grade 'socially' rather than academically. It's the stupidity of thinking that teachers work an 'easy' job from 8-3 and have 3 months of vacation--without realizing that many teachers work ten and twelve hour days and through the summer, too. It's stupidity that good teachers aren't paid a decent wage for what they do. And the teachers I know take that crappy wage and use some of it to buy materials for their students--something that shouldn't be necessary in any civilized country.

Arrrrgh!! Our education system is so screwed.

And then we have people like this as administrators.
posted by BlueHorse at 6:08 PM on April 19, 2013


Katelyn Campbell Receives Outpouring Of Support After Protesting High School Abstinence Assembly
posted by homunculus at 7:02 PM on April 19, 2013


“No one has ever had more than one partner and not paid” - A look at Pam Stenzel, the popular Christian speaker who has renewed controversy over abstinence-only education
posted by homunculus at 5:44 PM on April 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


One High Schooler’s Fight Against Abstinence Ed: ‘If I Can Succeed In West Virginia, Anyone Can’
posted by homunculus at 12:31 PM on April 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Insane ‘Life League’ Deeply Butthurt: NY Times Rejected Dumb Ad Saying Planned Parenthood Gives Porn To Kids
posted by homunculus at 12:38 PM on April 30, 2013


Elizabeth Smart: Abstinence Education Teaches Rape Victims They’re Worthless, Dirty, And Filthy
posted by homunculus at 9:14 PM on May 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


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