Yesterday a reader wrote to ask, “How can we work to save all these wonderful schools?”
This was a fantastic question, and it reminded me that I had been meaning to write something like this for a few days now.
Now that the public meetings concerning the demographer’s report are over, what can now be done to work to save all these wonderful schools? After we commiserated a bit about the worry and grief these school closing rumors are bringing to the lives of our children (my daughter has cried over her school closing repeatedly during the past two weeks), I came up with some suggestions.
Now, these are not earth-shattering by any means, they are just a few logical suggestions that might help.
And yeah, they will take work.
So here are my suggestions for how we might find a way forward. If you have others you’d like to add, please do so in the comments below or on Facebook or Twitter. We need to work together to free all of our daughters and sons from worrying about the future of their schools.
- Talk to everyone you know. Tell them your opinions about the report and the plan to close schools. Encourage them to read it for themselves. Get them to share their opinions with you and others. I’m certain that the hope (on the part of at least some of the board) is that as time passes and the summer progresses, people will lose interest. We have to keep that from happening.
- Go to the board meetings. They are held on the 1st and 3rd Thursdays every month at 5:30, except when they change it. When you can’t go, watch it on ETV, but going is better. It lets the board see you and see that you’re serious.
- Contact the board members. I’ve posted email addresses for every board member on the HCS Board Contact Info Page. I would recommend starting with your board member, but I would contact the others as well. With just a single exception, I’ve been impressed with the board’s responsiveness to email contacts. If you include your other contact information, they will often call you as well. This doesn’t mean that they will agree with you, but you are at least being heard.
- Organize. Facebook pages are good (You can find a list of the ones I know of over on the right side under HCS Facebook Groups); face to face meetings are better. Get other people involved and call meetings to discuss the issues. Invite your board member to attend if she or he is able. (I have found Dr. Robinson, my board member, to be extremely approachable and interested in hearing what parents have to say. Again, she and I don’t agree regularly, but she does listen. For that I am grateful.)
- Contact Dr. Casey Wardynski, the new superintendent, after July 5th and give him your opinion (and the opinion of as many people as you can speak for) directly. I don’t know Dr. Wardynski (and if it matters, no I didn’t support him in the selection process), but I am hopeful that he will at least be willing to listen.
- Friend and Support your Teachers, Aides, Staff and Principals. They are the ones caught in the middle, and they often feel like no one is standing up and fighting for them. They have been asked to pay the price for a lack of leadership with their jobs and salaries (which have been frozen for everyone and lowered to the state minimum for all newly starting teachers).
Despite the flawed leadership of this system, Huntsville still has absolutely superb teachers. They need to hear from parents regularly about everything: good, bad, suggestions, encouragement, and even criticism (of the constructive nature) if it is needed. I have not encountered a single teacher in this system who doesn’t desperately crave parental involvement and support.
Whenever possible, speak publicly in support of our teachers. I’ve never met a teacher who was teaching for the money. As they are getting paid less and being asked to teach more (class sizes are going to be dramatically larger next year), they need our praise and support now more than ever.
If we can offer that as a community, we will continue to attract good teachers even though the leadership of the system isn’t paying them what they’re worth.
The one really great thing about this ridiculousness is that our community is becoming even stronger because of our shared desire to educate our kids. Hopefully Dr. Wardynski will recognize this and do everything he can to involve the community in the decision-making process he’s going to face full-force on Tuesday, July 5th.
With apologies to Stephen King, thank you, Constant Reader, for reading, writing, and standing up for our kids. Despite the circumstance of our meeting, I’m grateful to get to know each of you. Like you, I’m doing this for one reason and one reason only: to provide great schools for my kids. So long as we don’t give up, we will see our schools and more importantly our children achieve amazing things.