Friday, November 09, 2007

Susan Semonick On Schools - Parents Claim School District Insensitive to Families

Parents Claim School District Insensitive to Families

Only one day after the decision to reconfigure the South/Central area schools into a K-5, 6-8, and 9-12 format, Superintendent of Schools, Cheryle Beaumont sent a letter to parents of students in the affected school communities that has apparently touched off a firestorm of anger. Evidently, it was not so much the content of the message that angered some parents as it was the method in which the letter was delivered. These parents are upset that they were not informed or consulted before the letters were distributed to elementary school student to take home to parents. It would seem that the education system is working and that even young students can read and understand the gist of the information in the district's letter. I was told that some children were very upset and were crying as they went home. The issue was that some parents had not told their children about the changes to come and were waiting for the certainty of a Board decision before having those discussions with their children. Certainly, these parents thought that this would be the prudent and responsible thing to do to instead of causing unneeded anxiety. The Board's timing of the delivery of the letter and the way that it was done did not leave parents with any time to provide a safe and caring way to share the news with their children. The letter was not in an envelope, nor even folded and stapled, but was rather much like the standard notice home of a "hot lunch order" or "lice infestation".

This action would seem to go against what is stated in the district's letter that "every effort would be made to meet the needs of students and to keep parents informed".

Where was the transition team or counseling department? Where were the principals in all of this? If this was any part of a transition plan, then the district needs to go back to square one and rethink the plan because some key areas of concern are missing. When world tragedies happen outside our schools, we look out for our students and provide the supports needed and implement caring plans to take care of the different aspects of student needs. When events happen in our own school communities should we not expect the same, if not more?

I understand why the district might feel the need to get its message out quickly, especially when the media is almost instantaneous. However, in a rush to be expedient, it looks like they trampled on some of the very same students that they are charged with taking care of. What happened to "Safe and Caring Schools" and social responsibility on the part of adults? What has happened to acting in principled and responsible ways?

The following is a quote recognizing Manners Month this past September.

"Without good manners, we cannot function as a society. Manners are the shared patterns of behaviour that allow us to work and play together, to help one another and to succeed in our endeavours. The first set of attributes in our Graduate Profile have to do with students being Ethical and Respectful Citizens who act in caring, principled and responsible ways, respecting the diversity, gender, age, race, ability and cultural heritage of all people and the rights of others to hold different ideas and beliefs.' A lot of that has to do with good manners."

-Cheryle Beaumont, Superintendent of Schools, Langley School District

When I first heard about the parents' complaint, I thought Wow, it can't be true, how this was handled; it must be an isolated incident. But, from what I am hearing, it is not.

For families having to wait until after June 15th to know if their child will be accepted to the school of their choice is ridiculous. If the Board had even attempted to look into the future, they would have already made allowances to their policy before or at the same time that the reconfiguration was imposed. They certainly have enough forethought with the boundary changes to James Hill, in consideration of the pending possible school closure of Murrayville.

Being in the throws of this for at least 10 months, you would think that since they are pushing the middle school concept through, that they would like to know where and what the parents are doing in the elementary schools and 6-12 grades. To have these delays will not allow for the schools that will have more students to staff it properly. And, what about those schools that may have too many teachers because students have decided to leave? It could be that more than the usual number of teachers will be laid-off unnecessarily at the end of June because it is even more difficult to "unhire" a teacher that you have no students for in September. Imagine what the summer will be like for them? I hope this is not what we will see happen.

When they make the statement "the parents will have the choice to place their children in any school as long as there is space", what does that mean to a parent? What does that mean to the district? Obviously, two different things.

Hopefully, everyone can quickly come to some sort of mutual understanding that is in the best interests of the students.

Thinking of our stars,
Susan Semonick

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