Richmond County schools seek to clear up confusion about Obama's speech

The Richmond County school system is seeking to clear up what they is confusion about how they plan to handle Tuesday’s back-to-school address by President Obama.

An email sent to media today by schools spokesman Louis Svehla on behalf of Superintendent Dana Bedden states that the district has gotten a number of calls about the speech and whether teachers are going to be required to show it live to pupils. The email states that Dr. Bedden is sending notices to parents, teachers and staff that there will be no system-wide requirement or mandatory watching of the speech.

“It is my expectation that teachers will provide standards based instruction aligned with the Georgia Performance Standards,” Dr. Bedden says in the email. “If a teacher decides to show the video as part of their normal lesson planning and instructional period, it is my expectation that the viewing and any subsequent discussion be tied directly to the Georgia Performance Standards. Also, it's important that any parent or student who indicates they do not want to watch the video have that option to not participate and receive an alternative assignment.”

Included in the email is a message from State Schools Superintendent Kathy Cox who states that the White House and the U.S. Department of Education did not involve the Georgia Department of Education in the planning of the event. She further states that a letter inviting students to view the speech was sent directly to principals and local superintendents, not to the state DOE.

“There is nothing in state or federal law that would require or prohibit a school from showing this speech to students and the decision lies completely with local school officials,” Ms. Cox states in her message. “Instructional time is a valuable commodity for schools. If a decision is made to show the video, it is important that its viewing and any subsequent discussion be tied directly to the standards being taught at the school. Also, it's important that students who do not want to watch the video have that option.”

She gives the website -- http://www.whitehouse.gov/mediaresources -- that the webcast can be viewed online after school hours if school districts decide not to show it live to pupils.

Columbia County schools will not show the broadcast live, according to its superintendent, Charles Nagle.

Mr. Obama’s speech has become the latest political hot potato of his young administration as some conservative critics have raised concerns that the president will push his political agenda during his address. The president’s spokesman, Robert Gibbs, dismissed the criticisms today as political nonsense.

"I think we've reached a little bit of the silly season when the president of the United States can't tell kids in school to study hard and stay in school," Mr. Gibbs told reporters. "I think both political parties agree that the dropout rate is something that threatens our long-term economic success."

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