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“Friend Report”

January 26, 2011

01/27/11 State Representative Bill Friend released his “Friend Report” this week and said, “This has been a very busy month for our family. Our youngest son has been home from Brazil—South America— along with his girlfriend. Both are working on a Master’s degree at a Brazilian university. The month has been filled with get-togethers, dinners and reunions. Our son has not been home for a year, and his girlfriend has never seen snow. It has been a delightful, yet grueling, several days. Along with the first month of the legislature, there has been a lot to absorb as well as resolve.”

On Saturday, Rep. Friend conducted a Third House Meeting in Rochester sponsored by the Fulton County Chamber of Commerce. This meeting had a large focus on education policy. The meeting had been advertised and the crowd was large. Mr. Dale Chu from the Department of Education attended the meeting to explain the DOE perspective and proposals. Bill said, “I told them that my goal was to change the “mood” of the education debate. The words used to describe the education proposals have been incendiary and have caused the debate to be untenable.” 

Mr. Chu was well received, and he presented DOE proposals in a very thoughtful manner. His presentation included three “pillars” for consideration. 

The first was “Teachers and Leaders.”  It included a discussion of evaluations, the growth model, merit pay and student performance. This explanation was to inform everyone about the program to allow teachers with high achievement to be paid more. In other words, the best teachers would make more money than those who are not performing as well. 

The second pillar discussed was “accountability and flexibility.” This discussion was about granting locals more control. The whole issue of collective bargaining was to be focused on wages and benefits only—a very controversial topic. This pillar also discussed a “parent-trigger” to allow a petition to convert to a charter school. 

The third pillar involved a topic of “options.” He discussed early graduation, charter schools, virtual schools and a teacher trigger to change to a charter. These suggestions are all proposals that invoke a great deal of conversation in the education community. 

The result of the meeting was positive and people responded very well. Representative Friend said, “I am convinced that a change in attitude will yield very good results. As we discuss proposals to change and improve education, the conversation needs to remain civil and respectful.” 

He closed by saying, “Remember that this process must include comments that are respectful and well thought out. Strong language can be used and beneficial without being profane or personal attacks. Let’s strive to be respectful in our criticisms.”

“It’s your government. Stay involved.” State Representative District 23 Bill Friend