Wisconsin principal named to head Gunn High School
Original post made
on May 16, 2014
Denise Herrmann, the principal of a suburban high school near Madison, Wisconsin, has been nominated to become the new principal at Gunn High School in Palo Alto.
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posted Friday, May 16, 2014, 8:37 PM
Posted by Marc Vincenti
a resident of Barron Park
on May 17, 2014 at 6:36 pm
Dear Palo Alto,
I've never met or spoken with Ms. Herrmannthe new appointee to the job of principal at Gunnand so it would be wrong of me to question her character, suggest anything about her personality, or prejudge her.
For all I know so far, her appointment here may work out well. I'm encouraged that so many staff are supportive of her.
But the school where she's been principalMiddleton High, in Wisconsinhas just come through, or is still going through, a cheating scandal of significant proportions. (The reports can be found online.)
To feel confident in this hire, then, it might be important for us to know how the cheating was allowed to take place, what it says about problems at Middleton High, how it was uncovered, and what plans Ms. Herrmann has made for it to be addressed, in the midst of her imminent job-change.
Cheating has long been a big, big problem at Gunn (and Paly). (Note: I taught English at Gunn from 1995-2010.) The schools' inaction on academic dishonesty has always been discouraging, because cheating makes a majority of the kids miserable, all year, whether they do it or not.
Cheating isn't, in fact, as much an ethical issue (though it is that), as an important issue of daily morale and mental health.
Pressures around cheating are present at school every day, and present at home every night. The pressures are more continuous than those related to, say, the timing of winter break or the availability of guidance counselorsmatters of discrete, intermittent duration.
A climate of cheating, like the existence of weather, never goes away.
There's no relief or escapebecause tests and quizzes and papers are assigned and due every day, students nightly trade information on the results, and because many students and parents watch updated GPA's as intently as many people watch the stock market or daily sports scores.
(The increased frequency of grade-reportingevery three weeks, per this year's new labor contractmay further ratchet up these pressures.)
Week in and week out, the high-stakes competition in our local schools makes kids anxious. "Shall I cheat?" "Aren't my classmates already doing it?" "Wouldn't I be pretty stupid and lame, and at a disadvantage, not to cheat?"
"How important to me, really, is my sense of right and wrong?" "What do I have to do to pull this off, if I decide to go ahead?" "Shall I confide in a classmate, strategize together?" "What if they report me?" "What about all my friendships?" "And what if I'm caughtthen what?"
Once having cheated, a student must then avoid detection, wear a false face, and do what it may take to cover up.
And what does a falsified test or essay do to one's sense of genuine mastery and accomplishment?
Cultures of cheating are destructive of character and of mental health.
Because the problem isn't easily visible, and because it is hushed up, and because some parents even suborn their child's cheating, the magnitude of the issue isn't readily apparent.
But the issue is worth bearing in mind, certainly in this case, as our District makes a decision for the future.
Los Robles Avenue