High school principal contests documentary's facts

October 4, 2010 7:02:12 PM PDT
A Bay Area school principal is upset with the filmmakers of the documentary "Waiting for Superman." The film focuses on what it calls "America's failing school system," but according to the principal of Woodside High School, it is not accurate.

David Reilly is the principal of Woodside High School, one of the schools featured in the documentary. But Reilly claims the filmmaker never talked to him or even visited the school. How then, he asks, can the film describe Woodside as a "not so-bad" school?

Newsweek magazine puts Woodside High in the top 6 percent of schools in America but in the movie the filmmaker describes it as a "not so bad" school. It is also described as a middle-class public school in wealthy Silicon Valley.

That irks Reilly because he says 38 percent of students fall under the category of socially and economically disadvantaged.

"If the filmmakers had even walked through the campus they would have seen that," Reilly said. "We kind of view ourselves as almost the United Nations we have so many cultures here."

Reilly admits there is always room for improvement, but he says the documentary has a lot of misleading information about the school. For example, the film says only 32 percent of the school's graduates meet the course requirements for California's four-year public universities.

Reilly says that is just one segment of the population.

"Students who go out of state to community colleges, students who go to private universities, whether in California or outside California, students who attend public universities outside California," Reilly said.

The documentary also focuses on student Emily Jones of Redwood City, who gets to attend Summit Preparatory Charter High School instead of Woodside High.

"It's very different than any other high schools, it's smaller, it's unique and it's diverse," Jones told ABC7 last month.

One of the reasons she and her mother selected Summit is because it offers all students advanced placement courses, regardless of their scores.

"And so all the kids are brought in whatever level they come in at academically; they take same path through high school and they are all given the opportunity to take AP courses," Ann Jones said.

At Woodside, not everyone goes through that process.

"It's not just a test; it's teacher recommendations, it's their grades in middle school, it's also what they want to do," Reilly said.

The documentary places Summit among the top in the nation.

ABC7 contacted Paramount for comment but they never returned the calls.

The dropout rate at Woodside is 4.3 percent; the state number is 15.3 percent.


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