Dear Senator Schiavoni,

About a month ago, I posted a simple question on a Facebook post that you had shared to your followers. While you chose not to answer the question directly, I still appreciated that you took the time out of your Sunday to at least respond, but that's when things got very weird. I began noticing that my comments on your post were disappearing from public view and in some cases deleted altogether. Some of them even reappeared later on in the day.

I was going to let it all go until I saw your recent televised debate on "The State of Ohio" with ECOT Spokesman, Neil Clark. At several points in the debate, you expressed your concern for Ohio's children and how well ECOT is meeting their needs. Shockingly, you even expressed your support for school choice. I am only writing this open letter to you now because, aside from your debate talking points, I haven't been able to find any evidence of your concern for my children's needs, our school choices and the 10's of thousands of others that have been and are currently being positively impacted by ECOT.

The Question:

"Senator Schiavoni, How much time have you personally experienced with students or teachers in ECOT Classrooms?"

Your No Answer Answer:

"I've spent a lot of time looking at the entire picture of our education system since I started in 2009...call my office and I'd be happy to talk to you about it. 614-466-8285"

I have to be honest. I found your dodge and lack of public response to my simple question quite concerning. Mostly because from what I've been reading, you seem to have a very deep rooted and aggressively negative opinion of my daughter's school. So much so- that you have been relentless in sharing your attacks and insinuations about ECOT with your followers... always retweeting and sharing all negative media released without a care to the sponsor, accuracy, transparency or motivation of the pieces. I can't even imagine what you must of personally experienced in ECOT classrooms to be so riled up. 

Just browsing your Facebook and Twitter feeds, there's a veritable cornucopia of school hate and disdain for ECOT out there. Scarily, these relentless attack messages seem to be resonating well with some in your legion of followers. You've got folks out there so fired up by your opinion regarding ECOT that they have me little worried about what they will do to squash the public school choices of my family and their other Ohio neighbors.

With this narrative you're pushing, you must have had a terrible experience when investing your time in ECOT's classrooms with actual students and teachers learning about how a school like this has transcended a flailing public education system, innovated and by many accounts, saved students lives. Maybe you've experienced something while you were there studying up that you should share with us.

So, let's get back to the question. Have you ever even been in an ECOT class?  

I'm personally concerned because I am the parent of a soon to be 5th year ECOT student as well as a couple traditional brick and mortar students. Not to mention, there's another bun in the oven. K-12 public education is a big part of my family's daily life.

What my family and so many others have experienced at ECOT is a school that has evolved to meet the unique needs of more and more students across the state despite all efforts by those who feel threatened by it so much that they relentlessly attack it. My wife and I believe in and support great schools of all formats and great teachers of all styles. Combining our personal ECOT experiences with my professional background in educational technology, we believe that with ECOT's help, true student-centered learning is finally becoming a reality for Ohio's kids. Parents today are able look at each of their children's individual needs when making the choices about how and where they will be educated. In our most humble opinion, ECOT and school choice are the greatest things to happen in Ohio since we started public educating our children 9 years ago. 

A couple years back, I started paying extra close attention to the statewide charter school debate and after systematically dismantling many articles like the ones you constantly regurgitate, I discovered a crystal clear anti-school-choice agenda driving much of that press and your subsequent retweets and shares. These feeble attempts at journalism include regular and repeated:

  • Mass generalizations of a diverse charter school landscape
  • Inaccurate/incomplete/incompetent reporting of school performance statistics combined with simply embarrassing efforts at modern day statistical analysis
  • Wildly misrepresented descriptions of the student and teacher experiences at ECOT including flat out lies
  • Legislators displaying a total disconnect with technology and the needs of today's students
  • An ever running stream of conspiracy theory
  • Divisive politically charged babble driving an "Us Vs. Them" narrative aimed at pitting traditional brick and mortar schools against all other options

It's a total cluster. The worst part is... all mixed up in the debate fires you are helping to stoke is a healthy dose of disparaging comments towards real people... your constituents,  parents, teachers and even children in our state- many of whom arrive at ECOT after enduring life and other school circumstances that folks like you and I couldn't possibly imagine. 

Now Back To The Question:

The Facebook post where I asked my question was on your comment and an article you shared from your close friends at Ohio Senate Democrats about ECOT's recent decision to sue the Ohio Department of Education.  

 

This is a pitiful play of words. Your comment is obviously just political gasoline and intended to make those who don't know any better believe that ECOT doesn't teach. If you had spent a minute in any of ECOTs live online classrooms, you would know for certain that ECOT's hundreds of amazing teachers directly engage and teach students every single day.

A responsible comment would have pointed out that ECOT's dispute is centered around whether an arbitrary 5 hour brick and mortar truancy measure should be apples to oranges applied and used as an official measure (represented as "log on" time) to quantify eSchool student attendance.

Anyone with a thread of eSchool knowledge would know that this measure is simply lazy and asinine. It's only a measure that would be proposed and supported by those who have no firsthand experience in the modern-day live online classroom and very little understanding of educational technology capabilities that have been around and evolving for over a decade. It's embarrassing for our state and a sad dismissal of the choices that 10's of thousands of parents like me have made for our children.

But it's not even that simple...

The biggest story here is the total breakdown of leadership.

Great Leaders "Inspect What They Expect" 

I'm no politician. But if I was, and there was a school in my state with the trajectory that ECOT has had, I would feel obligated to get inside... meet the teachers, staff and students.... Talk to some of my constituent parents who have made that choice... Go under the hood in some live online classes and see why it's working for so well for these teachers and kids. I would feel a duty to my constituents to spend many hours if not days getting the firsthand experience required to represent these Ohioans and their school. We're talking about a school that has grown to one of the largest K-12 progressive schools on the planet... right here in your own state and in your backyard. Do you understand why people are so shocked that rather than you choosing to learn about why and how this school has exploded in demand and helped deliver 20,000 diplomas since starting with zero students a little over 15 years ago, you've instead chosen to invest your time tweeting trash and penning garbage legislation trying to defund and destroy something valued by so many of us? 

Your complete lack of interest and effort in learning more, your contentious public statements and the horrendous legislation you sponsor has left us reeling and questioning your true motivations. Your choice to attack ECOT on your uninformed perception of ECOT's student and teacher experiences has us questioning how in tune you really are with ALL of our kids needs as well as the emerging capabilities of educational technology. Your decision to misrepresent taxpayer costs rather than promote competent and complete fiscal analysis of ALL school funding makes it clear that you've drawn a line and picked a side. Based upon your actions, you can't honestly say you support school choice as you did in the debate. Can you?

Those of us who actually support school choice invest the time to thoroughly inspect what we expect. Families like mine have supported school choice on the heads and futures of our own kids for years. We prioritize and foster the most important public school discussions..... like what are the actual human consequences and taxpayer costs of the school bullying epidemic? If you need some help on topics like this, there are no shortage of ECOT families for you to learn from. Also, we've thrown you a bone here -> Bullying Costs Taxpayers Millions, But Who Really Cares?

It's not just you though. legislators claiming to serious about innovation, education and children have no excuse for not only dismissing this school but also for dismissing and possibly even censoring the voices of parents, students and teachers who live it, breathe it and believe in it. These legislators should all be ashamed of themselves

Shouldn't first hand, current and relevant experience be a requirement for our elected officials before even allowing them a seat at the table to talk about education much less push such negative commentary about one of Ohio's schools? Shouldn't they thoroughly inspect what they expect by considering the complete story, all of the critical data and ALL of our voices?

Pushing legislation, rules and actions that may effectively displace 10's of thousands of our state's children, teachers and education administrators should not be handled so carelessly. These efforts are such a large threat to our families, our state economy, our right to choose and all of Ohio's future. We're fired up too and rightfully so.

So I'll ask again, but this time I'll ask the same question in 5 different ways.

  1. How much time have you personally spent with students and teachers in ECOT Classrooms?
  2. Was it more time than you spent attacking ECOT on Twitter and Facebook?
  3. Did you spend more or less time in ECOT classrooms than you did validating the contents of the hatchet media stories about ECOT that you regurgitated on your government media channels?
  4. Have you invested enough time in ECOT classrooms with students and teachers in order to establish the necessary credibility to hop up to your statehouse power podium and wax poetically about education in our state... not to mention pen and sponsor catastrophic educational legislation?
  5. How much time did you invest with a variety of ECOT families to feel like you can equitably represent them and their needs in your role as their State Senator?

We don't need to play phone tag or fill up each other's voicemail boxes. If you choose to answer these questions, I would invite you or someone from your PR team to post your answers right to the ECOT PALS Facebook page where your taxpaying constituent parents, students, teachers and other ECOT supporters are able to learn from your responses.

Respectfully, 

Jeremy Aker

Ohio Taxpayer

ECOT Parent / Traditional School Parent

Advocate for Public School Innovation & School Choice 

Originally Posted August 10th 2016 - Updated March 8 2017


ECOT is currently involved in a legal action with the Ohio Department of Education. The department is attempting to limit school choice by ripping funding away from ECOT and other eschools based on selective and retroactive enforcement of absurd attendance rules. 

We need your help. Please Take Action Now to support school choice and ECOT in Ohio.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by authors and interviewees on ECOT PALS blogs are the author's and interviewees alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions or positions of The Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT) or any other individual or group. Would you like your opinion or story to be published on the ECOT PALS blog? Please contact us to inquire.


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