Letter: My family is at Chief Jo by choice

April 21, 2013 

What really is the issue here?

When we moved to the Tri-Cities 2 1/2 years ago, my wife and I interviewed and evaluated multiple middle schools in our effort to find the right learning environment for our son, who was then approaching the middle of his sixth-grade year.

Though deciding to live in West Richland, we chose Chief Joseph Middle School over the others in the Richland School District -- and we have been thoroughly satisfied with our decision.

We made that choice based on the quality and of learning environment at the school; the quality of classroom instruction; and the caliber, commitment and engagement of the teachers and administrators at Chief Jo.

That is not to say that the other middle schools did not also have some or all of these qualities, but it was clear that Chief Jo had it all -- and it still does. When we bought our house a year later, we moved to a location within the Chief Jo zone.

It is true that Chief Jo has an appreciable number of students from socio-economically disadvantaged families. So what? Chief Jo is blessed with a diverse student population, and frankly that makes the educational experience for all students richer and better.

If that diversity is what is actually bugging the parents, then I say shame on you! (Lest you tag me as a bleeding-heart liberal, I assure you I am not. I am a conservative Republican who served in the Reagan administration.)

Judging a school only by its composite test scores is fallacious, naive and unfair. Composite test scores reflect mainly the demographic of that school's student population, and not the quality of instruction and learning that takes place.

Unfortunately, students from disadvantaged families statistically achieve lower scores on standardized tests; that is not right, but it is true. And denigrating the quality of teachers -- teachers the critics have not even met -- and impugning their skill, commitment and professionalism as a ruse for achieving a personal (I won't say selfish) objective is irresponsible and shameful as well. There is nothing wrong at Chief Jo.

If parents simply want to avoid the disruptions of shifting their children to a different school (and I understand and sympathize with that), then let's deal with that issue. And by the way, the matter of limited program offerings at the currently smaller school should easily be solved with the balancing of enrollment.


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