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Wednesday, December 13, 2006

McNamara: Needham principal made the right move on honor roll



City & Region columnist Eileen McNamara weighed in today on the decision by the principal of Needham High School to suspend the publishing of the names of honor roll students in the local newspaper.

Here's the top of her column:

Paul Richards wants to change a culture, not to coddle its kids.

That would have been hard to discern from the mockery the principal of Needham High School was subjected to yesterday on talk radio.

Richards earned a full measure of media contempt not for awarding trophies to everyone on the varsity football team or for replacing letter grades with a pass-fail system. He was excoriated for suspending, on an experimental basis, the longstanding practice of publishing the names of honor roll students in the local newspaper.

"Gosh forbid we hurt anyone's feelings," sneered Scott Allen Miller of WRKO, whose scornful sentiments echoed across the dial. Richards is coddling underachievers. Richards is undermining academic excellence. Richards is setting kids up for a "big fall" when they have to compete in the "real world."

On the contrary, Richards is doing all he can to keep each of his 1,400 students strong to transition into that world. He is investigating, by trial and error, how a school system might nurture all of its students while celebrating those who excel. It is not an easy balance to strike anywhere; it's especially difficult in suburban Boston.

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