2009-09-17 / Front Page

Schools Air President's Speech

Obama tells students to "work hard, stay in school and take responsibility for their learning"
By Chanin Rotz-Mountz STAFF WRITER

Having had the opportunity to review the "nonpolitical" transcript penned to encourage students to set goals for themselves and continue working hard, local school administrators from the Central Fulton, Forbes Road and Southern Fulton school districts gave their student bodies the opportunity to hear from President Barack Obama in a nationwide address aired last Tuesday from Wakefield High School in Arlington, Va.

Prior to the content of speech being released by White House staff in preparation for the September 8 speech, area school districts began receiving e-mails and telephone calls from parents and guardians. Their concerns were not taken lightly, according to top administrators, who took the time to not only review the president's remarks on going back to school but also gave students the option of not having to participate in the event.

Dr. Julia Cigola, superintendent of the Central Fulton School District, reported to the "News" only three parents contacted the school regarding the speech. Cigola stated those parents were assured their children would be presented with the option of "opting out" if the speech was shown.

Staying true to her word, she added that teachers were also presented with the choice whether to show the speech or not. "It was teacher discretion, and we didn't monitor who showed it or watched it," she said.

The speech was aired at Mc- Connellsburg High School during the senior high lunch, and "again, students could opt to eat elsewhere or just not listen to it," said Cigola. It was noted, however, while being aired during lunch approximately 120 students enrolled in 10th through 12th grades remained in the lunchroom.

"At the end of the day, we can have the most dedicated teachers, the most supportive parents and the best schools in the world and none of it will matter unless all of you fulfill your responsibilities. Unless you show up to those schools; pay attention to those teachers; listen to your parents, grandparents and other adults; and put in the hard work it takes to succeed," President Obama told those students.

"Every single one of you has something you're good at. Every single one of you has something to offer. And you have a responsibility to yourself to discover what that is. That's the oppor- tunity an education can provide ..." he added.

"My take on the speech is that the content was entirely on education - encouraging students to set goals, stay in school and take responsibility for their education," Cigola stated. "Any benefit the students derived from the president's advice would depend on the student and whether the student thought the advice was worthwhile. Hopefully there were students who found merit in the president's advice."

At Southern Fulton, concern was similar as the buzz spread on the possible topics or political nature surrounding the speech. A handful of parents contacted the district, Superintendent Ralph Scott shared, the Thursday prior to the nationwide address, and all parents/ guardians residing in the district were notified ahead of time about the "opt out" option.

"The information we had received from the Pennsylvania Department of Education did not substantiate that concern," said Scott of the possibility of a politically charged message. "The transcript released prior to the speech allowed school officials to confirm the message as nonpolitical. Furthermore, the district did not use the White House 'lesson plans' that were first proposed and then subsequently revised."

All Southern Fulton School District students enrolled in grades one through 12 were given the option to watch the speech. Of the student body that numbers 920, approximately 50 elementary and 19 junior/senior high students opted out.

Scott stated the airing of the speech was allowed because the content was directed toward encouraging students to take responsibility for their own education and did not contain any messages on controversial issues.

Scott along with Dr. Cigola both concluded they would continue to show a presidential address to their students on an annual basis as long as the content was focused solely on the importance of education.

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