Pasco Schools Superintendent Kurt Browning was addressing The Greater Pasco Chamber of Commerce, and he was on a roll.
“Every child needs to have those same academic opportunities as kids in affluent neighborhoods,” Browning said, during the chamber’s breakfast meeting last week.
“If we intend to educate our kids and really meet up with that whole idea of college, career and life readiness, we have got to look at every child in this district.”
It’s not an easy feat, the superintendent added.
“It takes a lot of effort, it takes a lot of resources, for the teachers in our district to really tailor education for every one of the students they touch,” he noted.
Things aren’t the way they were in the past, he continued.
“It used to be you had 25 kids in a classroom — either you got it or you didn’t get it.
“We’ve shifted from all of that. We are really looking at individual kids, cycling back in, picking those kids up, reteaching things that need to be retaught — because at the end of the day, it’s not just about completing seat time, it’s about making sure that after 180 days our kids can master those standards — that they are college, career and life ready.
“And, I mean life ready. This life will chew them up and spit them out if they’re not ready,” Browning said.
Students must be challenged — and high expectations lead to better performance by all kids, not just smart kids, Browning added.
“Let kids do the problem solving. Let them do the critical thinking. Let them own their learning,” Browning said.
“The research shows if you put grade-level assignments in front of kids, they will struggle — but guess what — they will learn it,” Browning said.
He talked about the district’s efforts to introduce the Cambridge curriculum into more of its schools. It’s academically challenging, but can yield 100 percent Bright Future scholarships from the state, for students passing seven assessments, Browning said.
He talks about encounters he’s had with parents when he has been out and about in the community.
“I’ll be in Publix, pushing my cart in the produce section, filling it up.
“They’ll say, ‘Are you Superintendent Browning?’
Browning: “I am.”
(Parents) ‘I want you to know we had our daughter in Cambridge. She’s not going to be in Cambridge when she comes back from Christmas break.’
Browning: “Why not? Cambridge is a great program.”
(Parents) ‘It’s just too hard.’
Browning: “I’m going, ‘Really. It’s too hard. Life’s hard.
“If everything is easy and simple, then where’s the learning? Where is the learning.
“You struggle in school. You’re supposed to struggle.
“It’s not supposed to be about proms and homecomings and football games on Friday night. “That’s part of the experience.
“What it’s about is making sure you are ready to get out in this very, very tough world and survive,” Browning said.
“If I have kids that can’t survive, then I have let you down. I’ve let this community down, and that is the message we’ve been preaching, over and over and over again.
“If anything is worth having, it’s worth working for,” the superintendent said.
Of course, Browning added, such high expectations requires teachers to think about the way that they’ve been delivering instruction in their classrooms, the superintendent added.
And, that begs the question: “Are our kids worth it, to ensure that they get the very best education?
“I’ll tell you what the answer to that question is, ‘Absolutely, yes, they are worth it,’” Browning said.
At the same time, excellence in teaching should be rewarded, Browning said.
“We’ve got some of the most talented teachers in the state and they work tirelessly. My goal is trying to find more money to pay them a higher salary, so we can keep the very best.
“I keep going to Tallahassee. I keep talking to the legislative delegation. We have got to pay teachers more, in order to keep great teachers here,” he said.
The superintendent updated the crowd regarding ongoing construction projects, plans to introduce more rigorous programs in some West Pasco Schools, efforts to expand mental health services and ongoing work regarding school security.
Published August 21, 2019