Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Propaganda campaign heralds Weast's coronation

Parents who signed up for the MCPS e-mail alerts about school closings and other urgent news were surprised to find Uzbekistan-style propaganda heralding the reappointment of the school superintendent.

Freezing rain closed the public schools early, but it didn't keep the Board of Education from unanimously appointing Jerry Weast to another four years as superintendent.

MCPS breathlessly related the news in an e-mail to busy parents at 11:29 a.m. on February 13:

"Greetings, [Name]

"The Board of Education unanimously voted Tuesday to extend the contract of Superintendent Jerry D. Weast for an additional four years."

Short and to the point, and certainly more than what we needed during a snow day, but it was only the preamble:

"'For the last eight years, Dr. Weast has provided outstanding leadership for Montgomery County Public Schools. Our students are performing at levels never before seen in our community, and I know that we are poised for even greater success with Dr. Weast at the helm,' said Nancy Navarro, president of the Board of Education. 'The board knows that there is much more work to do to close the achievement gap and to truly give every single child a world class education. We are confident that Dr. Weast is the right person to lead these efforts to ensure that every child succeeds.'"

That's not what Navarro told supporters when she was campaigning last fall, but that doesn't matter any more. The Weast propaganda mill was just getting warmed up:

"During Dr. Weast's tenure, students at all levels have achieved record success." Of course, that tenure coincides with the federal No Child Left Behind law, but it's too much to expect Weast to share credit with President George W. Bush. The MCPS propaganda blast continued:

"For example:

" * The Class of 2006 set numerous historic highs in participation and performance in Advanced Placement (AP) courses. The Class of 2006 broke the previous AP record set by the Class of 2005, with 56 percent of the class taking at least one AP exam and 45 percent scoring well enough to earn college credit.

" * Performance by the Class of 2006 was three times higher than the national average for 2006 graduates and twice as high as the average for graduating seniors in Maryland.

" * Newsweek magazine once again ranked all 23 eligible high schools in the top 3 percent in the nation, including 5 in the top 100.

" * 88 percent of kindergartners are reading simple text and there is no achievement gap between White students and their African American and Hispanic peers.

" * 46 percent of fifth graders are taking sixth grade math, compared to 2 percent six years ago.

"Dr. Weast is only the second Montgomery County Public Schools superintendent since 1953 who will have served longer than eight years. The terms of Dr. Weast's new contract remain the same as the previous contract. He will be paid a salary of $239,754. The contract also provides for a retirement plan, life and health insurance, a flexible spending account and a car."

The announcement failed to state that Weast will continue to receive $100,000 a year, tax free, in his retirement plan.

Following all that breathless news is a copyright notice - a phony one, since government communications are not protected under federal copyright law.