Citing late notice, local schools won't use Obama speech

A Tuesday speech by President Obama aimed at pupils won’t immediately be made available to those attending schools in Columbia and Richmond counties.

Having learned about the intended speech this afternoon, Columbia County schools Superintendent Charles Nagle said teachers will not have enough time to incorporate the president’s speech into their lesson plans.

With school out on Monday for Labor Day, teachers would only have one day to prepare for the noon speech scheduled to 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 released statement from Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s office.

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

However, 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 what Mr. Obama intends to speak on.

“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, said schools spokesman Louis Svehla.

“We’re not altering our schedule,” Mr. Svehla 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 said he is encouraging them to record the speech and then 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.”

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