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Open Mike

I've got too much on my mind

There have been more than a few things that have been brewing in the back of my mind lately. Chiefly, but assuredly not the only thing, is the city staff's new four-day work week.

I have nothing against the new four-day work week Sunnyside implemented earlier this month. In fact, the new schedule has already helped me out a bit. And besides, who wouldn't want a four-day work week? I know I would. But I do have a couple of problems with it.

First of all, what is the deal with the police department? In case you don't know, the police department reception area is closed on Fridays. The public can still access on-call staff through that dang phone in the entrance way, the same method the public has to use to reach police department staff after hours throughout the week. Let me say this, I would like to take that phone out of the wall and throw it into the Yakima River. Honestly, it is the police department. What happened to stressing public contact, all that other good stuff? Having to use a phone to get ahold of someone at the police department is liking making a call to a company and getting its voice operator to direct you, and then having to wait on hold.

The city needs to find a way to staff that front desk. We are the 58th largest city in the state out of nearly 300 cities, but it is amazingly complicated to get assistance at the police department. When trying to get someone at the police department, the public should never be asked to reach out and touch someone.

Also swirling around in my mind lately is the realization that the discussion of privatizing the ambulance service is sure to come up in the next couple of months. I hope the city doesn't privatize the ambulance service. I have heard some horror stories about the private ambulance service the city has had in the past. While the scenarios have certainly changed, I would hate for the city to look at taking away a service the residents of Sunnyside have supported for so long. Let us, the people, decide what kind of ambulance service we want. I know one thing as a taxpayer, I don't care if the staff at the fire department sits there all day playing pinochle. Just knowing that they are there if needed makes me want to spend a few extra bucks.

Another thing I can't get out of my mind is how useless the Washington Assessment of Student Learning (WASL) is. Tell me if you don't think the WASL is an entire waste of a child's time in the classroom. The WASL is flawed on many levels. The test is so subjective. My understanding is students have to explain how they came up with the answers to the questions on the test. I don't know about your kid, but my youngest would surely flunk the WASL based on this criteria.

Take math for instance. My son, Ethan, can give me the answer to any math problem that is appropriate for a child his age without hesitation. But he has trouble explaining how he reached that conclusion.

There needs to be some way to judge if a student is learning in class, but the business-driven WASL test is not the way. Children learn in different ways, ways that are not conducive to what the WASL is asking of students.

I know, let's go back to the old way where teachers teach and judge their students on what they show they know. Good teachers know what each of their students are capable of, not some person judging the results of a lopsided evaluation system such as the WASL.

While we are talking about education, how can students do well on the WASL or any other test when they are not in the classroom on a consistent basis? The key to education is consistency. Students need to be in class every day to do well. Check out the 2004-05 Sunnyside school calendar. A parent might as well keep their child at home in the winter months. Out of 22 "work" days in November, students are not in school six of those days. Six days is a lot. Think about this, if you weren't at work for six days, how much you would miss? Out of 23 days in December, students only go to class 13 of them because of the Christmas break. Why do students and teachers need 10 days off for the holidays?

. Mike Kantman can be contacted at (509) 837-4500, or email him at mkantman@eaglenewspapers.com

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