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Obama's speech to students not a concern among local districts

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President Barack Obama's scheduled talk to students Tuesday, Sept. 8, has caused a fury of reactions from parents, schools and politicians.

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Obama critics have accused the president of imposing a political agenda on children, causing many parents to make phone to school districts asking if schools will show the speech.

In his speech, President Obama will talk to students about taking responsibility for their education, about working hard to succeed and the importance of staying in school.

The address will be shown live at 11 a.m. Central Time on the White House Web site and on C-SPAN. The White House also plans to provide classroom activities for students at all grade levels to stimulate discussion on the importance of education.

Several school districts in Bemidji appear to show little fear over deciding whether to show the President's speech to students.

TrekNorth Junior and Senior High School will show the President's address to students.

"If the President is going to take time from his schedule to address our public schools, it is our job as public school educators and public school students to listen," said director Dan McKeon.

McKeon said teachers at TrekNorth discuss with students on the first day of school about the values of education, hard work and persistence. He said he is excited the students will get this same message from the President.

Scott Anderson, director of Schoolcraft Learning Community, was busy moving supplies into the elementary school when he got wind of the President's scheduled speech.

"My reaction based on what I know so far is that we don't plan to show anything," said Anderson.

Anderson stated no political reasons for doing so, only that there was little forewarning and information given to him at the time. He said he was open to having teachers do follow-ups in their classrooms once they have seen the speech.

Jim Hess, superintendent of the Bemidji School District, sent a recommendation to all district schools that the speech would not be shown, and all teachers should maintain their first day of school schedule as originally planned.

"I think it's great that the President wants to address our nation's students and encourage them to well in school," said Hess.

Hess said he will make the recording available to staff to use later if they feel it is appropriate, as long as it doesn't contain any political agenda.

"I think the President is sending this message because he feels America's future is in the hands of his students," said Hess. "I salute him for this; I think it's the right thing to do."

The White House will release the text of Obama's speech before the live broadcast so parents can review it and revise instructional materials offered to schools.

Despite the frenzy of political debates over the President's speech, this is not the first time a president has talked to students about the importance of education. In 1991, President George H.W. Bush did a live telecast/radio broadcast motivating students to achieve success through education.

"Unfortunately people are very polarized today," said Hess. "We have to be careful that we don't use our school to try to advocate for any one political persuasion. We have to be very cautious."

awilliams@bemidjipioneer.com

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