Below you will find the comments I made to the Francis Howell school board at the January 20th meeting. I tried to give the board some ideas and ways to move forward — they may not be perfect, but I tend to find that the district is not leading or looking for solutions.
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At last months board meeting we had an amazing teacher speak about stress and lack of support currently felt within the district. She wasn’t just speaking for herself but providing a voice for many other terrific teachers throughout the district, teachers looking for leadership and a path forward.
These teachers are trying to build understanding around what is preventing them from doing their job of educating our children. It’s nice that the district is giving some additional time off, but this is a short-term solution to a long-term problem. I don’t think our great teachers find value in losing classroom days, as they truly want all kids to continue learning.
The question becomes how do we support them, how do we give them the time needed for proper planning, or even to have a full lunch break? Many parents want to help and be part of a solution. I would propose the district implement a Volunteer Recess Para Program for willing parents. This isn’t a silver bullet but would be an immediate step in the right direction. [I would prefer to open up all volunteer opportunities for parents, but was trying to take into account the boards complete fear of covid — this option could allow for outside visitors]
I also ask the district to review the budget, to determine if a portion of the 1 million dollars ear-marked for strategic planning would be better served in supporting our current teacher needs. A focus on the future is excellent but not at the detriment of our current students.
Beyond this, the board must begin the process of restoring community trust — trust broken by recent events. Here too there are basic and common-sense items that can be undertaken.
First, I request the board seek out an independent party to investigate all information surrounding Prop S. The what, when and why of our current situation is needed information to put proper policies and controls in place. [During this meeting the board discussed and choose not to follow through with this action.]
We must do all we can to make sure we aren’t in this predicament again.
Second, I request we immediately cease the use of ‘Though Exchange’ for decision-making until proper access controls can be put into place. These controls must guarantee those providing input into the district are proper district stakeholders.
Third, I request that the by-laws governing all District Committees be made public and require approval by the Board of Education.
With these actions the community can gain a better understanding of district operations and decisions, as we begin the process of restoring trust.