Bad timing for Obama speech at one local high school

After receiving a robo-call on Thursday from Chatfield Senior High about President Barack Obama's speech to the nation's schoolchildren, which is scheduled for later this morning, I expected that my twin daughters, who are juniors at Chatfield, would return from school Friday with information about whether or not any of their classes would be showing the speech. Instead, they told me the subject hadn't been raised by any of their teachers -- a development that puzzled me until my wife and I came upon an e-mail newsletter from Chatfield principal Bernard Hohman over the weekend. Turns out the address will take place during a passing period at Chatfield, a massive facility in which students must hustle between classes in order not to rack up tardies. As a result, few Chatfielders will be able to see the speech live, although recordings are being made available for fourth-hour teachers who wish to screen it. As for those students whose parents are horrified at the prospect of them hearing the views of that man, no matter how benign, they have to bring a note, and they'll be expected to use the time to study. Yeah, sure.

Read the e-mail update below:

News From Chatfield Senior High

September 4, 2009

President's Speech

President Obama will be giving a national address directly to students across the nation on Tuesday, September 8 at 10 a.m. The President will be challenging students to take responsibility for their learning, to set educational goals and to work hard. He will let them know that as the future work force of the United States, students need to graduate. President Obama will also call for a strong partnership, shared responsibility and commitment on the part of educators, parents and students to ensure that every child in the United States receives a quality education that prepares them to compete in the global economy and live rewarding lives as American citizens.

This is the first time an American President has spoken directly to the nation's school children about persisting and succeeding in school. Teachers and students at Chatfield Senior High will have the option of watching and listening to the President deliver his message on a teacher by teacher basis. Because our passing period will occur during the speech, we will record the speech and make it available to fourth hour teachers at the end of fourth hour. Any teacher who chooses to show the speech will turn on the classroom television at the designated time. The end of the speech will be timed with the end of fourth hour. Any classroom discussions or activities will be connected to the district curriculum and skills such as listening with a purpose and critical thinking.

Parents/Guardians who choose not to have their child view the President's address must send a note to school to be presented to the fourth hour teacher indicating he or she is opting out. Students who are opted out of viewing the speech will be provided an opportunity for an alternate assignment. The speech is planned to be 15 to 20 minutes in length. It is our expectation that students who opt out will use the time wisely to study in the commons or the auditorium. Students who want to view the speech but their fourth hour class is not watching it, can report to the library to view it.

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts