District 1: Katherine Benefield

District 1: Katherine Benefield

July 26th, 2012 in Opinion Times

District 1's school board election is most relevant to the good-school/neediest-school dilemma cited above. Two-term incumbent board member Rhonda Thurman has been the vocal crew leader of the board members most willing to shun the needs of the neediest schools in order to funnel more resources to the mainly white suburban schools that she favors.

Thurman wrongly sees school support as a zero-sum game: for schools she favors to win, others must lose. Never mind that a school system divided racially against itself cannot solve larger problems. Thurman demonstrated that mean mindset in a board meeting last Thursday, when she vehemently opposed the cost and time scheduled for K-5 teachers at Clifton Hills Elementary -- one of the system's neediest and poorest schools in a minority neighborhood -- to receive special training in teaching literacy to minorities.

"We get paid to educate students, not to educate teachers," she declared, neglecting both the standard practice of professional development, and the fact that federal Title I contracts for on-site teacher training to better address the needs of poor minority and immigrant students is widely deemed necessary in impoverished neighborhoods.

Her well-qualified opponent, Katherine Benefield, decided to run precisely because of Thurman's negativity and lack of vision. She is a welcome candidate: a veteran teacher who has worked with special needs students, and as lead supervisor in the system's technology services. She offers a more constructive education approach in all ways-- from support of magnet schools, to fair treatment, to targeted and useful technology.

Benefield has developed technology applications for the classroom, written software and worked in virtually every school. She has intimate knowledge of the system's broad needs at individual schools -- and of "the things that are dropping away" because of Thurman's influence.

She supports revision of the new state teacher-evaluation criteria that mismatches performance criteria for teachers assigned to schools that have poor parental-support, prompting good veteran teachers to quit their jobs. Her knowledge and insights into the school system reflect balanced, practical and wise judgment. Few candidates come with her well-rounded knowledge. We strongly endorse her for election.