Schools to review Obama speech before showing

President Obama's back-to-school address Tuesday won't be seen live by pupils in Columbia County schools, and possibly not in Richmond County, either.

Columbia County schools Superintendent Charles Nagle said teachers will not have enough time to incorporate the president's speech into their lesson plans, particularly because school is out Monday for Labor Day. Louis Svehla, spokesman for Richmond County schools, said the system won't require teachers to show the noon speech, which will be broadcast on the Internet at www.whitehouse.gov/live and on C-SPAN.

"It would be very difficult for us to set that up on such short notice," Mr. Nagle said.

In the speech, Mr. Obama "will challenge students to work hard, set educational goals, and take responsibility for their learning," according to a statement released by Secretary of Education Arne Duncan's office.

The education secretary is also providing schools with a menu of classroom activities to accompany Mr. Obama's speech.

Mr. Nagle still is worried about the potential political nature of the speech and said he has received numerous comments from parents in the heavily Republican county opposed to letting their children hear Mr. Obama's comments.

"We've been inundated (with comments)," Mr. Nagle said. "We're getting a lot of mixed calls; mostly that this is an opportunity to politicize."

The superintendent said he also is bothered that he was not advised of the president's plans sooner or received more details on Mr. Obama's speech.

"I don't even know what age group this is directed at," he said. "I don't want kindergartners sitting there waiting to see the president. A lot of kindergartners still think I'm the president."

In Richmond County, teachers may show the speech if they are able to incorporate it into their lesson plans, but no one is required to do so, Mr. Svehla said.

"We're not altering our schedule," he said.

Typically, federal education plans are passed on to local school systems via the state Department of Education, Mr. Nagle said.

State schools officials didn't immediately respond Thursday to an e-mail inquiry regarding Mr. Obama's speech.

In his comments to parents, Mr. Nagle is encouraging them to record the speech and discuss it with their children at home.

Also, he is not against teachers discussing the speech with their pupils, but only after it is viewed by administrators.

"I sent an e-mail encouraging principals to review the Web cast if they like," he said.

"If they find merit with the speech and the lesson plan activities, and it works with our curriculum, then they should feel comfortable including it in school with certain groups."

Reach Donnie Fetter at (706) 868-1222, ext. 115, or donnie.fetter@augustachronicle.com.