Friday, May 2, 2008

D150 to Parents: Bend over and smile

The gym at Kellar Primary School was packed with parents and teachers tonight as District 150 School Administration attempted to snow sell parents on their proposal to cut specialty (music, art, PE and science) faculty in half as well as shave 45 minutes off of every school day.

The audience sat patiently as Asst. Superintendant Cheryl Sanfilip presented the changes to parents as an amazing and unlimited opportunity for our children. Although parents were asked to submit their questions in advance of the meeting, Ms. Sanfilip did nothing more than wave the 3 page list of 44 questions in the air as she repeated her talking points. She did take a few questions afterwards, but unfortunately, her answers seemed to only give rise to more questions. In her defense, the questions and commentary were relentless and completely devoid of any appreciation of the "unlimited opportunities" she was offering. Many of her answers were defensive but she was facing quite a perturbed gathering. She persisted as best as she could despite the "unprofessional" conduct of some of the audience members as described by Board Member Jim Stowell.

Remarks after the meeting made by representatives of the district suggested that parents were not listening with an open mind and had their minds completely made up before even entering the room. I submit that the same can be said of District Representatives, who appeared to have their minds made up as well, despite their denials to the contrary. I recall my final comments to Jim Stowell being "I hope when all this is over we can still be friends".

D150 says that the proposed changes will give teachers more common prep time in the morning before students arrive, and that during the course of the school day, the children will have less interrupted time throughout their day with more dedicated learning. Wow. Can't say I look forward to the state of mind my little stick of dynamite will be in after that day. Additionally, how does cutting out 45 minutes of the school day and 2 specialty teachers make that goal any more attainable?

Mr. Stowell during a private conversation after the meeting emphasized repeatedly that the later start time in the mornings would offer opportunities for language clubs, visiting guests, and special events. If in fact this is true, he should further develop that idea and present it in more absolute terms, because right now, the love just isn't there to buy into this as a given.

The bottom line is this: If budgeting shortfalls exist, why penalize the youngest, most vulnerable members of our district. Parents and board members should be unwilling to recognize the financial deficits of our district until we see the bloated administration fall on their own sword. The Administration will have much greater leverage and credibility with parents if they demonstrate by their own actions the seriousness of the problem, and do a little housecleaning of their own.

If there are bonafide merits to these proposed changes the District has not done enough to educate the parents and get them on-board. The School Board is an elected body and has the responsibility to listen to and represent the community. Based on this meeting, it appears there is significant resistance, certainly enough to warrant at least a tabling of the vote.

If the School Board and Administration is really interested in acting in the best interests of the community, they need to further explain/sell their plans, get parents and teachers on board, and act with them and not against them in the best interests of the children of District 150


C. J. Summers said...

Them pesky parents! Darn them to heck for standing up and asking difficult questions and demanding answers!

You know, the school board needs to stop acting like everything the administration says was handed to them by God on stone tablets. Board members need to ask tough questions of the administrators. The administration works for the board members -- the board members are not there to rubber stamp whatever piece of paper the superintendent sets in front of them.

Common sense tells you that cutting instruction time is not going to help the students, no matter how much window dressing Ms. Sanfilip wants to put on it. Whether it's interrupted or uninterrupted time, one thing is for sure: it's less time. The board members should be asking the administration on what "best practices" and educational research did they base this idea that less teacher contact time improves academic performance? Or even maintains students' current performance level? Can they cite the research on that? Can they back up these assertions?

The board forgets that they represent us to the school administration. They seem to think they represent the school administration to us. They're always defending the administrators and every idea that pops out at the end of a board meeting. Who is representing us, the parents???

Knight in Dragonland said...

The trend nationwide is a call for longer school days ... not shorter. I'm just completely incredulous that District 150 is trying to dress this up as something beneficial for the kids.

At least there were a few valid arguments for the idea of placing a school adjacent to Glen Oak Park, and some parents supported it. This idea seems to have zero support from parents ... for good reason!

Diane Vespa said...

Knight, they literally pulled data out of their butts to support their premise. It's like Billy said... FIRST they decide what they want the data to say, then they find the data. It's shameful.

C. J. Summers said...

Billy said that? I thought that was me. Hmm.