Over six months ago I saw a message on the Beacon School Parents page that the teachers needed our help and there were problems to be solved.
I showed up. I was concerned but also open to hearing all parties. I was struck by how disengaged from this chaos many members of the board as well as the Superintendent
seemed to be in the midst of the impassioned speeches.
There were other troubling things too:
“Problems with graduation rates”
“Low test scores”
Evidence supports that schools perform well if parents and the community are engaged. At this very meeting I met some like-minded parents. We made a plan to get to work.
Many hours of effort followed.
We started to see things that worried us. There might be gaps but there were other issues left unaddressed. We heard from people who tried to bring programming, volunteer
their time or raised specific issues with little or no follow-up from the district.
As our questions and statements started to become more pointed we found the response from the BOE as well as the Superintendent seemed to focus on us. A Straw Man of the
parents, who by now had formed a group, was constructed.
- Angry mob
- Not respectful in how we engaged the Administration
- Not from Beacon
- Did not seek out BOE members individually
- And more
Valuable time wasted discussing us. Policy meetings to revise the public comment policy; real issues got lost. Was this the point? A review BOE meeting videos over past two years shows a pattern. Groups or people, who challenge the status quo, have a similar experience. At the end of their rope, they get angry – which only proves the point that they are not respectful.
Here is what we have sought from the beginning:
- Trust in our district leadership
- A united district, welcoming the community.
Research also shows school boards in high-functioning districts share traits; relevant to our discussion tonight is:
- Effective school boards collaborative with staff and the community. Establish a strong communications structure to inform both internal and external stakeholders in setting and achieving district goals.
There are also danger signs for boards. Most concerning are the following:
- Focused on external pressures as the main reasons for lack of student success, such as poverty, lack of parental support, societal factors, or lack of motivation
- Quick to describe barriers to community outreach
- Conduct all meaningful discussion during executive session and public discourse is frowned upon.
- Lack of understanding of their oversight role in the district and seeking what is legally permissible versus optimal.
With reference to issues regarding a lack of trust in district leadership -- It would have been challenging for any Superintendent to earn the trust of the community when they
had no role in a process to hire that person.
What is the cost of a lack of trust?
It can only be measured in opportunity lost.
- Programs that never happened
- Collaborations that never occurred
- Fearfulness to do more than the minimum
- Low moral
- A diminished experience for the students
Over 350+ parents, teachers, students, and stakeholders remained in the auditorium. Board Members Anthony White and Bill Zopf remained in attendance along with Deputy Superintendent Ann Marie Quartironi.
We thank all of those that stayed and listened to the speakers.