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You are here: Home Section Table On Our Minds Letter to the Board from Diane Greenwald: Trust the Parent Body: We are your Partners, your Constituents, your Clients, your Funders and the Guardians of the District
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Letter to the Board from Diane Greenwald: Trust the Parent Body: We are your Partners, your Constituents, your Clients, your Funders and the Guardians of the District

volunteerThis letter was sent from resident and parent Diane Greenwald to the Board, the Superintendent, the SHS Principal and a member of the Restart Committee following the Public Zoom session on Tuesday night June 28

I am very impressed with the listening session. It was an important response. I am so pleased that the PTA president and PTC president spoke with grace and clarity about serious issues to improve their inclusion at the table as partners and representatives. I particularly support what Leanne Freda said and feel very well represented. I am grateful to our local medical professionals for offering helpful insights. I have already made clear to the Board and admin in previous letters my hopes that the district avoid creating binary choices about who can experience in-class learning, and to honor our deeply held values that all students have strong and unique developmental need for in person learning when possible and safe.

Perhaps its not constructive to be critical with a deadline looming but it can’t be ignored that this situation that led us to this emergency session was fueled by rumors that pitted parent against parent and was created by a lack of communication — and it was avoidable.

Further, this episode revealed that the administration was unable to quickly provide a general summary, which was and is needed, and is still largely missing. It is deeply worrisome. Regardless of whether the July 31st deadline is real or not (now pushed back a week)— school reopening is looming. We are all in this together, living with uncertainty day to day. I think our community can hear plans in formation, if fact, we would prefer it.

Though working hard, I think perhaps administration needs to work differently — with greater collaboration, humility, openness and creativity and welcoming greater input and oversight to ensure that the process is meeting external, transparent milestones. A large, inclusive restart committee with many sub committees is a great structure and I have tremendous respect and gratitude for all those around the table. But… where is documentation of all the work? Where are the initial plans with committee sign on? Where are the voices of the committee members sharing their thoughts and seeking ours? Where is the advisory report from the restart committee to the Board? A letter to the community? Where is the evidence of creative brainstorming, collaboration, deliberation, consensus building and transparency?

We know this is a set of bad options for learning but we still need the best of them to emerge. And we need to know what is happening with virtual learning instructional improvements, should we need it, and we likely will. What resources are being prepared to support teaching and what accountability is being enhanced? The teacher contract was open during COVID - does it now include any language relating to virtual learning expectations? Can you post the new contract?

As for process...
This emegency approach to listening is excellent but not sustainable so I hope the learning about building in community engage is deep and permanent. We have bumped into this problem over and over. Surveys are this administration's ‘go to’ method to capture parent input. While a survey can have its place, it is inadequate as a substitute for engaging directly with parent voices. As was evident tonight.

Community input must happen early, often and with direct invitations to opportunities held separately from the board business meetings. Not everyone can be at a committee or board table, but many can be heard, solicited, engaged, empowered! It can happen as regular focus groups, in these listening session, in coffees (when safely allowed) and in casual and formal conversations. It can happen with more outreach by the Board and greater board oversight to ensure the administration is basing decisions on community values.

My sister worked for World News Tonight for years — they had a policy that welcomed everyone from a custodian, to an intern to the CEO to attend idea meetings and offer suggestions for stories. I always loved that! In that spirit, my few ideas are: Can high school students come to school for science and math, perhaps some specials and do all other classes virtually? Could high school have a second session - from 3pm - 8?? I bet there would be a lot of teachers and students who would sign up for and thrive with that time slot. Could social studies and English cohorts be created, like civ ed? And other classes virtually?

I am an attentive participant in school and village happenings, and I learned so much tonight from so many voices. If this happened more often, it wouldn’t be this long. Unlike the isolation of a survey and the free-wheeling skreeds in social media, this forum has been respectful, informative, has built empathy, and offered good ideas and resources. But I have now spoken to many of tonight’s speakers and while all felt glad to have spoken, they each said the same thing…”we’ll see.” Trust needs to be earned.

Again, I encourage the Board to exercise greater oversight and to encourage the administration to move forward with deeper trust in the parent body. We are your partners, your constituents, your clients, your funders, and the guardians of the district and the children we all serve and love and place all our hopes for a better world.

I have said this often, there are many ways to educate children, but the single proven feature common to all successful school districts is parent engagement.

Thank you all for your devotion and service.

Respectfully,
Diane Greenwald

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