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Online Extra: Superintendent Sam Houston's Letter to NBC

September 20, 2007

Mr. Jim Bell
Executive Producer
The Today Show
NBC News
30 Rockefeller Plaza
New York, New York 10112

Dear Mr. Bell,

I want to thank you and the Today show for its recent coverage of one of our students, D.J. Grafree, and the exceptional job that the principal and staff of Somerville Road Elementary School have done in caring for him.

Having said this, I must tell you that I was stunned this morning to see Matt Lauer’s segment in which Barbara Corcoran, your real estate expert, commented incorrectly that Decatur has “bad schools.”

Mr. Bell, nothing could be further from the truth. Decatur City Schools have been recognized regionally and nationally for excellence. We have received School Match’s “What Parents Want” national award for 13 consecutive years. We are the only school system north of Birmingham, Alabama, to offer the International Baccalaureate Diploma program at both of our high schools.

Programs such as our long-standing partnership with the Kennedy Center, our Suzuki Violin program for all second graders, and our Wetlands Edge Environmental Center set us apart in providing high quality learning experiences for our students. Decatur hosts 19 Fortune 500 companies, whose CEOs tell us that the quality of our schools makes it easy to recruit outstanding employees from all over the nation and the world.

Ms. Corcoran’s unsubstantiated, irresponsible comment was hurtful to all of us who are passionate about Decatur and its schools. Furthermore, it reflects poorly on the journalistic reputation of the Today show and of NBC.

I urge you to take whatever steps are necessary to rectify this situation, and I invite you and the Today show to return to Decatur and see our school system first hand. You will find a community that values public education and invests in it. Our teachers and administrators are well trained and highly committed. Our parents are supportive and involved.

We look forward to seeing a retraction and correction of this damaging statement on an upcoming episode of the Today show.

Sincerely,

Sam L. Houston
Superintendent

SLH/ph

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