AP – By Heather Carney, Naples Daily News
Public schools in Broward County will show President Barack Obama live. Schools in Palm Beach County are showing today’s back-to-school speech live, too. Students in Lee County public schools will also hear what the President has to say live.
Other Florida school districts like Hendry and Miami-Dade are leaving the live showing up to the discretion of individual school principals.
But Collier County Public Schools decided that none of the district’s schools will show the President’s education pep-talk live.
The back-to-school speech has been a politically charged controversy in Collier County ever since Obama first addressed students in 2009. He will give his third back-to-school address today at 1:30 p.m.
Collier schools didn’t show it then; nor will they show it now.
“In the past, this event was somewhat controversial,” said Beth Thompson, chief instructional officer with the district. “Parents called-in and said they did not want children to watch the speech.”
She said Superintendent Kamela Patton and a team of district administrators made the decision not to show the speech live. Instead, the district will give teachers the opportunity to share the speech at a later day if it fits with the curriculum.
“We’re trying to maximize the message,” said Patton. “We want teachers to show it in a controlled setting.”
Lee and Collier schools are giving parents the chance to “opt-out” from watching the speech, whether they watch it live or at a later date.
Thompson and Patton explained that teachers can present the message as a resource for history, speech writing, oral techniques or for other instructional purposes.
Joseph Burke, Superintendent of Lee County Public Schools, thinks it’s important to make the speech available to all students.
“The President clearly defines what it means to have a good public education system,” said Burke.
Miami-Dade County Public Schools aired the speech live the past two years. Before taking the Collier County superintendent job, Patton worked in Miami-Dade Public Schools for 24 years.
So then, why the decision not to show the speech live in Collier County?
“I know that historically we haven’t shown it. I always want to be sensitive of the past,” Patton said.
School board members and local party representatives are keeping their mouths shut. No one wants to admit that the decision is a political one.
County voter registration numbers show that Collier County has double the number of registered Republicans than
Democrats – 89,603 to 44,334. Lee County has 157,876 registered Republicans and 107,196 registered Democrats.
School board member Barbara Berry said the board should not be involved in the district’s decision.
“The running of the schools is left up to the district. This is not a political decision. This decision shouldn’t be up to the board,” Berry said.
Democratic national party chairwoman Sandra McClinton remembers there being “a big hassle” about the speech in past years.
“If you can’t trust the President to talk to your children, who can you?” Mclinton said.
She said that since the students are not of voting age, the President’s political affiliation shouldn’t make a difference.
“The students should be able to hear an even line,” she said. “I would trust any of our presidents to speak to the students.”
Attempts to reach the Collier County Republican executive committee Tuesday were unsuccessful.
Obama is not the first President to directly address students. In 1991, President George H.W. Bush gave an address to schools nationwide. Ronald Reagan also answered questions from students at the White House in 1986. The session aired nationally.
In last year’s back-to-school speech, some of Obama’s comments included:
“You future is in your hands. Your life is what you make of it. And nothing – absolutely nothing – is beyond your reach. So as you’re willing to dream big. So long as you’re willing to work hard. So long as you’re willing to stay focused on your education.
“The farther you go in school, the farther you’ll go in life.
“We shouldn’t be embarrassed by the things that make us different. We should be proud of them. Because it’s the things that make us different that make us who we are. And the strength and character of this country have always come from our ability recognize ourselves in one another, no matter who we are, or where we come from, what we look like, or what abilities or disabilities we have.”
This year’s speech may make an educational impact on students. Or it may not.
Source: Fox News