August 5, 2015

“NOT EXACTLY”- A note from Cherokee County (GA) School District: A HEADS UP note on a WSB TV story we posted on Twitter and Facebook about English speakers

Posted by D.A. King at 9:15 am - Email the author   Print This Post Print This Post  

Mr. King,

I hope you’re doing well today… you may remember me from my many years as managing editor of the Cherokee Tribune.

I’m writing to alert you that the WSB-TV article you have forwarded via social media includes false allegations that are so serious that we are responding not only to you, but also copying the elected officials who were tagged in your Twitter post.

The WSB-TV story posted online contains a complete fabrication in regard to operations at Canton Elementary School STEM Academy, a 2014 Georgia School Bell Award winner. There is no program, initiative, policy, practice, etc. for older students to translate for younger students.

The school has ample English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) teachers and bilingual staff to teach, translate for and assist in all ways the students who come from non-English speaking homes. To be clear, 42% of the school’s students are classified as ESOL, but that does not mean the children do not speak English… as you know, it means they come from homes where English is a second language, so they do not necessarily have the same exposure to vocabulary, advanced sentence structure, etc. as all of their classmates. Older students stay in their own classes; younger students stay in their own classes. There likely are instances of children in the same class at Canton Elementary School STEM Academy voluntarily helping a child in a neighboring desk with reading… just as there as instances in every school around the world of children helping classmates in classes in every subject every day – this is and always has been a part of school… I’m sure you remember this from your own childhood.

When I brought the report’s inaccuracy to the attention of WSB-TV, news managers apologized and immediately ensured all broadcast reports were accurate and pulled the story from its Facebook page; the web story was initially overlooked in this correction process, but managers advise that it will be pulled down today.

This appears to be a case of a reporter looking for drama where it didn’t exist; if you have not read coverage of the event that the station covered and somehow led to this story, there is a report in the Cherokee Tribune posted here, as well as a story with photos on the CCSD website here and Facebook page here. The Welcome Back Bus Tour was an extremely positive, innovative idea developed by teachers and Principal Beth Long to better engage the community, and it was billed a success by all parties.

Barbara Jacoby
Director, Public Information, Communications and Partnerships
Cherokee County School District
P.O. Box 769, Canton, Ga. 30169