Friends or Foes? Sometimes or Always!
I admit I’m disheartened by Superintendent Dr. Theresa Alban’s presentation of the Frederick County Board of Education’s decision regarding the appeal of Social Studies Alive.
Not because of the outcome, I expected that once I saw two of the board members – Jimmy Reeder and Donna Crook – were not seated on the dais.
What takes wind from my sails is that I had hoped Dr. Alban was different from the previous superintendent. I thought Dr. Alban not only listened to parents concerns, but took action on them.
I had asked her to send a letter home to 3rd grade parents informing them of the concerns regarding their child’s text book. Denied.
There was a request made to use Find Out First to inform parents of the same concerns. Denied.
Before the “appeal,” the appellants requested a compromise to save time and money. That compromise was to send the book home with the 3rd grade students along with a letter informing them of the Reconsideration Committees recommendation to remove the book along with the appellant’s concerns. Denied.
I asked Dr. Alban and the Board of Education to record the hearing so parents could hear the arguments for and against immediate removal. Denied
I asked the Board of Education to allow a reporter from The Frederick News Post and/or The Gazette to sit in at the appeal hearing so a neutral body could report to the community what happened. Denied.
Every aspect of this journey before has been recorded and public audience – except the August 6 appeal hearing. Even Dr. Alban availed herself of the valuable tool of Find Out First to spread the word as quickly and to as many as she could, of the decision reached at the end of that hearing.
Why couldn’t Frederick County Public Schools have respected and valued parents enough to use Find Out First to spread the concerns the parents raised?
Isn’t this our school system? Isn’t it in the best interest of all students and parents to inform them when problems rise to the level of needing a Reconsideration Committee to evaluate the integrity of a text book?
The appellants said on many occasions that they would be more than happy to sit down and be quiet if our school system would simply let every parent know there were concerns.
When your child’s school gets a case of head lice or hoof-and-mouth disease, a letter goes home to every student.
When there is a tornado warning or snow on the ground, parents are notified.
When an attempt at child abduction is known, parents are notified.
When the flu impacts students, parents are sent a warning.
When a beloved teacher/principal/bus driver retires, parents are notified.
When the school system gets state-wide recognition, parents are notified.
My point is this: Frederick County Public Schools sends out dozens, probably hundreds of notices using Find Out First or letters sent home to parents.
Why not under these circumstances?
Don’t text book concerns merit as much attention as any of the other reasons listed? Why is it not possible for Dr. Alban and her cabinet members to share education concerns with parents? Why do we matter so little when it comes to academics?
Why are we only informed, celebrated and invited when we are selling cookies and wrapping paper but marginalized and shushed when we want to talk about the things that matter most to us – Education?
I had hoped to be treated like a partner in my child’s education, not made to feel like a nuisance for caring. When our school system is always asking for parent involvement, why would you go out of your way to disenfranchise parents as is presently happening in this case?
I had also hoped Dr. Alban would take action when parents voiced concerns.
Well, to be honest, she did take action on my request to make the process involving reconsideration of school resources and materials easier. Unfortunately, the process wasn’t made easier, it was made harder.
School Board Policy 500-39 used to stipulate that if five or more parents complained about the same resource, it went automatically to a Reconsideration Committee. That tool in the parent advocacy tool box has been removed. Now only the superintendent has final say if such a committee is convened.
I had given the policy committee the benefit of the doubt and was waiting to see if they correct this error.
However, now that it has been brought to Dr. Alban’s attention, I’m certain it was no mistake.
In her July 31 e-mail to me:
“You are correct in pointing out that a change was made about appointing a committee to review a complaint and removing the stipulation that the decision must be based on whether five individuals file a complaint. The council felt changing this language was important to allow convening a committee even in matters where less than five individuals have filed a complaint. In addition, you raised concerns about the length of time involved in processing a complaint. The change now allows the deputy superintendent to expedite a decision without referring the matter to a committee. Next, to address the concern you previously raised about not having deadlines included in the regulation, specific dates are now included for the committee to issue a written decision. The timeline for the Superintendent to render a decision on the committee’s report has also been cut in half from ten to five days.”
If our school system wanted to convene a committee with less than five complaints, it would have put in language that stated it that way. They did not.
To be completely honest, Dr. Alban did a very kind thing I asked of her. Often from the dais the board and the superintendent share stories regarding student accomplishments. My youngest child attends Rock Creek. Many parents don't know it, but many of these children do not survive to graduate. I thought it would be a nice gesture if, from time to time Frederick County Public Schools could acknowledge and share our warmest condolences. Typing this brings back the wealth of emotions she inspired in her very warm presentation.
If she would bring this level of understanding to academic input and concerns, we'd have one hell of a school system.
Until that day, I am compelled to call them as I see them. What I see is a system that doesn't want parents involved in everything, just the sentimental and fund raising things.
I ask, are parents partners of our school system or opponents?