Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Sept 8th School Committee Meeting Comment

At the August 18th meeting, I commented about a lack of communication between the school system and the community. Tonight, I'm sharing an example that highlights this problem. I want to be clear that this is not about me personally. I am obviously informed. My concern is for the knowledge and involvement of the community.

On the 18th, more than one person recommended I speak to my PTO regarding my concern to keep the community informed on and involved in educational matters. September 2nd, McMahon PTO president Jodi Wolverton sent an email about the redistricting committee. I immediately asked if this information was coming home with students to reach all families. She said, no, 400 contacts and the Sun Journal was satisfactory. When I pressed further, she claimed it would take an hour and half to make and distribute the copies, and asked if I was volunteering to do it? I said yes, and she forwarded the information to Mr Hood. When I spoke with Mr Hood today, he said the expense of making copies was not worthwhile when the money could be spent on educational materials.

September 5th, my daughter brought home two notices about fund raising from the PTO, but no information on redistricting at all has been distributed in a fashion that would reach all families, and not just from PTO, but from part of the school system. When I contacted Ms Wolverton about neglecting the redistricting information in favor of fund raising information, she was fiercely adamant that the PTO's function is not to ensure the full communication with the community on such matters. The school committee cannot rely on the PTO, at least at McMahon, to inform all parents about issues not on the PTO's agenda. They deferred to what was convenient because using their contacts to reach parents on such matters was a favor, not an obligation.

My husband said, “But isn't McMahon getting its fair representation? And Mr Webster said in his email to you that he would try an automated call in the future?”

Yes, this is true, and I am very happy about those facts. But, in his email to me, Mr Webster also implied that I need not be so concerned because McMahon won't be affected. Whether McMahon is affected or not is a moot point.

It is not the job of the school committee, superintendent, PTO or principal to tell any family what information is pertinent to that family. Each family should be fully informed, and then given real opportunity to share input. Then, those elected and hired to make decisions for the city should do so. No one's role as a community member is skipped because of convenience or what some else decides is important to or affects that family.

The school committee determined that two representatives from each elementary school were necessary to avoid repeating past mistakes. So, those representatives should be properly chosen. The pool of candidates should be all parents, who were informed and given proper time to volunteer. Conversation at the August 18th meeting stressed that the right person be chosen for this job, but filling most of the spots a week before the deadline to volunteer seems to contradict that.

My husband agreed with these points, but still said, “Honey, what is the purpose of making a complaint when what's done is done?” He was worried that I would sound negative, contrary, vindictive for not getting my way.

The purpose is to hope for a better course of action in the future. The first step in the redistricting process did not instil good faith for transparency in this or future actions. If the system cannot figure out how to inform the community properly on the forming of a simple committee, then how are citizens being informed about more complicated and controversial matters such as curriculum, high stakes testing, or school and teacher evaluations? I am not blaming any one part of the system, but some part needs to take communication on as its responsibility. My husband and I both agree that entity holding the contact information for families and in direct contact with students would be the best candidate.


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