A Minute With: School principals on "Waiting for Superman"

Thu Oct 28, 2010 1:52pm EDT
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By Zorianna Kit

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The documentary film "Waiting for Superman" has been generating a lot of buzz since its release in September for its portrayal of problems within U.S. schools and what might be done to solve them.

The movie, directed by Oscar winner Davis Guggenheim ("An Inconvenient Truth"), explores charter schools -- public schools operating outside the boundaries of public school systems -- competitive lotteries to get into them, and roles played by parents, students, teachers and unions.

Reuters asked four real-life principals to watch the film and talk about its themes. Each principal was asked the same questions. Following are some of their answers.

Q: Give us your overall impression of the film.

Carol Markham-Cousins, Washburn High School, Minneapolis, Minnesota: "I was grateful that some very important issues were brought to light, but I was extremely put off by the emotional tug that occurred in regard to the lottery. I also felt like the film set up charter schools as being the answer. I used to be a principal at one of the first contract charter schools in the nation, so I'm very familiar with the fact that some of them work well and some of them don't.

Q: The documentary does seem to favor charter schools. Are they the answer to problems in public education?

Paige Tracy, Arbor Ridge K-8 School, Orlando, Florida: "The way I saw it, it wasn't so much that charter schools were the answer, but that charter schools can do what public schools need to, but can't. Charter schools aren't bound by teacher contracts and teacher unions. They have more flexibility and freedom to do what needs to be done."

Q: The film highlights some problems with tenure, which can give teachers jobs for life. Are you for or against tenure?   Continued...

<p>School principals, who watched the documentary film "Waiting for Superman" at Reuters' request, in a combination photo. Images released to Reuters courtesy of the subjects. Clockwise from top left are Paige Tracy, Donald S. Wilson, Davita Solter and Carol Markham-Cousins. REUTERS/Handout</p>