Network TV news magazine shows continue to highlight education in quirky ways. They rarely air reports on the biggest policy issues in education (though one show mentioned below did report on the Common Core Standards last year).
Instead, this past weekend, ABC’s “20/20" reported on a set of parents who feuded with the PTA president of their children’s school, though this feud ran amok. Meanwhile, “CBS Sunday Morning” ran a sweet profile of a custodian who has been counseling students on the side for years.
On Friday’s “20/20", (and I’m counting Friday as the beginning of the holiday weekend), Chris Connelly reported on a war at Plaza Vista School in Irvine, Calif., between parents Jill and Kent Easter and fellow parent Kelli Peters, the PTA president. The Easters believed Peters had disrespectfully referred to their son as “slow,” the show reported. The Easters launched a “vitriolic campaign” against Peters that included letters to school officials, lawsuits—and something more.
One day in 2011, the show reported, the Irvine police received a tip that Peters had drugs in her car. The police searched the car in the school parking lot and found a large bag of marijuana and other drugs. Peters was distraught because she knew the drugs were not hers.
The rest of the report focuses on how the police unraveled the mystery of who planted the drugs. (OK, it’s not that much of a mystery and—spoiler alert—the Easters were convicted.)
It doesn’t say much about the state of education in Irvine or anywhere else, but it is the kind of story that “20/20" loves.
On “CBS Sunday Morning,” which carried the earlier piece about the common-core standards, there is a story by correspondent Steve Hartman of the type that he specializes in—uplifting profiles of hard-working folks who just go about doing their jobs and do good.
Hartman profiles Charles Clark, the custodian at Trinity High School in Euless, Texas. Clark takes to his job with dignity, taking pride in how clean he keeps the toilets. But for the past 25 years, the custodian has taken on a second duty: informally counseling students at risk of failure, particularly boys in need of a father figure. He helps those who “may be falling through the cracks,” Hartman says, all with the OK of the school’s regular counselor.
“Who do you think gives me my clients,” Clarks jokes about the professional counselor.
The segment is short, but it speaks volumes about the good people who can be found working in the nation’s schools.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Education and the Media blog.