Letters to the Editor
The following two paragraphs are excerpted from your article, "10,000 Volunteers Donate Time and Talent to Houston Schools," by Thomas Toch (Education Week, Sept. 28).
"Not all is roses with vips [Volunteers in the Public Schools], however. Sandra F. Sawyer, chairman of the advisory council, says that the program is locked in a constant struggle against inertia: 'The reality is that the number of people who want to do volunteer work is not that great. We are constantly trying to recruit new volunteers.'
"Ms. Sawyer also says that volunteers are needed in the Houston schools because teachers there have in large part failed as role models. 'It would have been ludicrous to say this in years past, but not today. Business people provide better models."'
The statements attributed to me are grossly misquoted and misrepresentative of my statements to him in our telephone interview.
The fact is that vips, for such a large, complex program, functions extremely smoothly and with vast dedication. The school volunteer program in hisd [the Houston Independent School District] probably has one of the largest volunteer bases in the country and the expansion and enthusiasm within that base is so great as to be phenomenal!
One statement that I did make to your reporter was that more of our female parents are joining the work force which makes it doubly important to recruit volunteers from business. The number of people who want to volunteer is great! We reconfirm that fact every time we invite people to participate in our programs in the schools and the misquote is a direct contradiction to the title of the article.
The most important point that I would like to clarify, however, is the statement regarding my view of teachers. My actual statement was "not all teachers are the best role models" but for every one that is not, there are hundreds who are! The Houston Independent School District is one of the few major metropolitan districts that can honestly boast of rising test scores and rising attendance records which speaks for the credibility of the teachers as well as the administrators. The business and community volunteers enhance the school's programs by providing an even broader scope and are additional role models.
Volunteers from the business community have been involved in the schools in Houston ever since vips was founded here. The major difference now is that they are involved in greater numbers and in a more coordinated manner. It has always been a very positive experience for our students.
I would suggest that your reporter stop doing his interviews and stories by telephone and come down to Houston to see for himself--he would then write quite a different story!
Sandy Sawyer President, Board of Advisors Volunteers in Public Schools Houston Independent School District