One of the strengths of a democracy is our right to question public officials and hold them accountable for sharing the truth with us. Their answers may not always be what we want to hear, but reasonable people can reach reasonable resolutions.
There is an insidious "virus" which can erode, or even destroy the positive climate characterizing Marion County's public schools. Consider the following "bombshells" for a moment:
- "You’re hiding public records because you don’t want the public to know the truth."
- "You’re changing the attendance boundaries and my child now has a new school."
- "Music and art are being eliminated because of budget cuts."
- "Our taxes are going up because of administrator and teacher salary raises."
Suddenly, the network of parents' phones starts humming; neighborhood social gatherings "confirm" the dire news; and the principal is besieged and inundated with requests either to "discuss this in your office" or schedule a community-school meeting.
What you need to know is schools today WANT to communicate honestly and openly with their stakeholders. Therefore, when something you hear doesn't make sense or if it is new and disturbing, conflicts with your previous assumptions (“can’t possibly be true, yet I heard it”), is reported by your child as fact, or in any way upsets your status quo, you can take positive steps to not only discover the facts, but to help defuse your own discomfort level.
When you as a parent are uncomfortable with something you hear about your child’s school, consider the following:
- Call the school, but don't do so anonymously. Identify yourself so reasonable and trusting two-way communication may be conducted. Most schools will not respond to anonymous correspondence.
- Speak only of your concerns. If "all" your neighbors share your concern, the schoolhouse door is open to them to meet with the principal or teacher on their own.
- Go first to the source of your concern. Don't "jump over the head" of the teacher to contact the principal if it is a classroom issue. Similarly, if the issue is school-related, your first contact should be the principal (or assistant principal), not the superintendent or school board. Just as any effective business organization would do, the school will redirect your concerns or questions back to the appropriate level so the problem can be dealt with where it originated.
- Use appropriate in-place committees or groups to raise your questions about a rumor, such as the PTA or PTO clubs, parent forums, parent-teacher conferences, and the like.
- Discuss the matter in a civil and respectful manner. After all, you are expecting the same manner of response from the school personnel with whom you are speaking.
- Read the information sent home from school with your child and the school / district web page if you have access.
- Read local newspapers, where information contrary to the "rumor" may have been reported.
- Take your children’s reporting with a healthy dose of skepticism. Kids often embellish without realizing it.
Our schools are here not only to educate and prepare children for their lifetime, but also to serve the school community. Schools want you to know everything about current and future activities and plans. You should know everything about the operation of your school. You have the right to know. Students' belief in their school can only be as strong as that of their parents.