Out of Bounds On GATE; How the Editorial Board Works

I was surprised to read in Rob Van Herk’s letter of Wednesday,
Aug. 30, that Jackie Stevens was guilty of diminishing the work of
teachers at most of Gilroy Unified’s elementary schools.
I was surprised to read in Rob Van Herk’s letter of Wednesday, Aug. 30, that Jackie Stevens was guilty of diminishing the work of teachers at most of Gilroy Unified’s elementary schools.

In fact, I was so surprised, given Mrs. Stevens’s passion for education and the fact that she herself is a (non-Rucker) elementary school teacher, that I immediately pulled up her offending letter on www.gilroydispatch.com to see for myself.

Mrs. Stevens’s letter criticizes GUSD because they do not fully support the needs of GATE students throughout the district, and because they undermine the success of the self-contained GATE program at Rucker School. She offers concrete incidents to support her opinions.

But nowhere, either directly or by insinuation, does she say anything derogatory about any elementary school teacher in the district. Mr. Van Herk is erecting a straw man argument.

In order to rebut the points Mrs. Stevens actually makes, Mr. Van Herk would have to address the actual issue. He would need to assert that GUSD actually supports the GATE program and fully and enthusiastically communicates to potential GATE parents the value and existence of the program. He would need to offer concrete examples where they do so.

He makes no attempt to do so, which is interesting in and of itself. Instead, he gratuitously accuses Mrs. Stevens of diminishing the work of other elementary teachers.

Instead of supporting his points, he compliments his son’s kindergarten and first grade teachers. As it happens, I agree that Molly Leach and Socorro Vasquez are fabulous teachers. But self-contained GATE does not begin until third grade, so his argument, such as it is, is completely irrelevant to the question: a red herring argument.

Mr. Van Herk is indulging in the usual sins common to defenders of the status quo at GUSD. He fails to address the issue. Instead of making points and supporting them, he maligns his ideological opponent by accusing her of saying things she never said.

Moreover, he signs himself “Rob Van Herk, Gilroy,” as though his sole connection with the district is that of a concerned and involved parent. He should admit to being a district employee when writing letters about “the great work that’s happening at other schools.” That would be honest.

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Speaking of opinions and how to express them …

Leadership Gilroy very kindly invited the editorial board to a panel discussion about the editorial board, and asked many pertinent and intelligent questions about how the editorial board operates, while plying us with a delicious lunch at West Side Grill.

One class member suggested that we inform the reading public of exactly how the editorial board functions. This is how:

We meet Tuesday mornings for an hour. Editor Mark Derry emails out an agenda of news stories we will discuss; the other members are free to add topics of interest. At the meeting, we discuss the stories and throw in our respective two (or 12, or 72) cents.

If we come to a consensus, one person is detailed to write the editorial. If passions run high and we do not reach an obvious consensus, we vote. If the split is exactly 50-50, we do not write the editorial, as there is no editorial opinion as such.

If there is a majority, one of us writes the editorial, giving the minority’s point of view as well. In such a case, you will notice phrases such as, “By a narrow margin…” and “Some people argue that …”

The writer emails the finished editorial to Mark Derry, who edits the piece before running it. I hasten to add, he edits only for clarity and to add points which the editorial board discussed but the writer forgot to include, never to slant the editorial to his own particular opinion.

We occasionally have visitors: usually these are people who are upset by an editorial stance and think we do not understand the reality of the situation. Rarely, they are correct; usually, we understand just fine, but disagree with them.

They can always write a letter to the editor, just as, if one of us disagrees with an editorial stance, he is always free to write a column of his own on the topic.

Cynthia Anne Walker is a homeschooling mother of three and former engineer. She is a published independent author. Her column is published in The Dispatch every week.

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