We need strong leadership in our public school systems especially when it pertains to local school boards. When it is not there, things suffer: schools, students, teachers, communities, parents, etc.
Even when people are not in total agreement and people have rather strong debates on heavy issues, strong leadership from a group of elected officials can still be shown.
But what I saw in last night’s WSFCS School Board meeting was far from showing leadership. And since this system is about to look for yet another superintendent, this school board needs to really step forward. Last night was three steps back.
And this school system is suffering.
Yes, I am a teacher, but I am also a parent of a special needs child in the public schools. His IEP literally stipulates socialization with other students, specifically typically-developing children when possible. What happened to him last March when remote learning started was an unmitigated disaster. His learning regressed and he missed his schoolmates. But physically, he is much more compromised if he contracts the virus than most students.
His mother and I want him to go to school. It’s that necessary for his growth. But the plan hatched from last night’s WSFCS School Board in no way satisfies my concerns as a parent.
Last night’s meeting was possibly one of the most dysfunctional gatherings of people (who spent time and money to sit in those very chairs) as I have seen in my 23-year career. After witnessing and listening to comments, arguments, motions, and opinions during that school board meeting last night, I felt nothing but disappointment and a void that comes from lack of leadership.
It does not take much effort to see that many on the board do not like each other. I could care less if they did or not. It’s not a prerequisite. But it is also apparent that the board does not work well together. And that is a must have if a school system is to navigate through a time of crisis such as this.
Not only was last night’s meeting a prime example of why not to have PARTISAN school boards, but it was an embarrassment as a taxpayer, a parent of public school children, and as a teacher in one of its schools.
If I am correct, what happened last night was that a plan to bring students back into schools was voted on without a single metric in place, something that was supposed to be decided and voted upon.
If I am correct, there was no standard policy on wearing masks that was voted upon.
If I am correct, the board neglected to make sure that ventilation in each school building was up to CDC standards.
If I am correct, there is only a loosely constructed plan to keep spacing and cleanliness up to CDC standards.
If I am correct, teachers were not part of the dialogue.
If I am correct, science seemed to take a backseat to emotions and politics.
Just looking at this morning’s report in the Winston-Salem Journal it is apparent that what happened last night seems more rooted in people-pleasing than safety.
The board also reversed its decision to rely on two core indicators established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and recommended by the Forsyth County Department of Public Health to guide the district’s reopening. Those indicators are the number of cases per 100,000 people over a 14-day period and the positivity rate over a 14-day period.
Based on those indicators, the district falls into a zone where transmission of the disease is at a high level.
But what happened last night was based on other “metrics.”
Crowley noted that there are other metrics to be considered, such as the impact on mental health, the rate of child abuse and the toll that remote learning takes on families.
“I respect the COVID metrics, but there are other things,” she said.
“Look guys, this is a terrible burden for everybody sitting behind this panel and the three who are at home,” Crowley said of her fellow board members. “It’s incredibly stressful trying to come up with the right answer when there is no precedent, and yes it does seem like the target keeps moving because everything says high risk…. High risk doesn’t mean everyone is getting infected.”
No, “high risk” actually means “high risk.”
“High risk” means that everyone is in danger. “High risk” means keeping people from being infected.
Two board members in responses to inquiries about the vote last night cited increases on “child and domestic abuse, alcohol and drug use, overdoses and suicides, mental health complications, crime and others.”
Alright, then show me those metrics. Show me the data. And why was that data not brought up in the school board meeting?
And if those things are on the rise, then that means they were already present. So then, how has this school board fought for more resources to deal with those problems when there was no pandemic? Ironically, all of those factors existed before we went to remote instruction.
Covid-19 didn’t exist though.
And do the members of the board who voted in favor of last night’s plan really believe that every mitigating action that can be performed like masks, distancing, cleaning, temperature checks, and the like will always be followed by every student in every school building? By every adult?
Those aren’t rhetorical questions. They need answers along with an agreement from each person on the board to substitute teach in a variety of schools later in November or December.
And the flu season is about to start and the weather is about to get colder. All of the environmental and seasonal buffers that school systems relied on in August to help with curbing the spread will be taken away.
Oh, and there’s this – the NCDHHS data graph of new cases.
So much seemed to not matter in last night’s meeting that should have.
I expected so much more as a taxpayer, parent, and teacher.
Much, much more.