Educational Leadership on the Line

In a few hours, the League of Women Voters in our area will host a candidate forum for those running for our local school board. As you can imagine, it has been a challenging year and it will be an interesting forum to watch. I intend to do so. Rarely, do I post more than one blog a day. Today, is one of those times. This post is directed towards the local readers of my blog. I am encouraging the use of critical thinking when you watch the forum tonight. Thank you.

Educational Leadership

As you watch the candidate forum for our local school board, you will notice some buzz words in both the questions and the answers. Among them will surely be:

“All children”

“Trauma informed”

“Equity”

I also hope you hear the words,

“Transparency”

“Communication”

“Diversity of staff”

 “Compensation for and retention of high-quality teachers”

For years, I’ve done a great deal of reading on educationally related subjects, as well as learning about leadership, strategic planning, and communication. I’ve been involved in numerous building and district committees and was an active, engaged volunteer for 20 years.  While I expect we all have individual expectations for our students, as well as individual expectations on how those needs can and should be met, we all want a district that puts our students first, no matter what individual differences our students exhibit while learning or interacting socially at our schools.

Mostly, I want to hear the words:

“Student-centered”

“Individualized”

“Interdisciplinary Learning”

“Inclusion of stakeholders in decision making”

And, especially, “transparent.”

When you hear that we serve all students in our district, what does this mean to you? I want you to really think about that when you listen to answers tonight.

Do you have a child that fits in? Do they enjoy learning? Do they enjoy the activities that a larger school system, such as ours, offers to its student body?  Is there something positive at school for them?

Do you have a child that learns in a way most other students do not? If so, what is being done for your student?  Here, I’d urge you to think beyond the individualized educational plans (IEPs) of special education students.  What about those students that don’t have these plans and still need support and/or enrichment?

Do you have an average student, struggling student, or gifted student that still does not feel served by our system?  Why do you think that is? What could be done about it? Listen to the candidate answers to glean where they might stand on servicing the underserved. Listen from your perspective, as it applies to your student, and your family. Then, think about it from the perspective of someone else’s student or family who might not be like yours. What is the common ground? I guarantee you’ll find some. Just think about it.

To me, by referring to all students, it means ALL – not just the most vulnerable students, but also the average or above average student, for they can struggle, too.  Many struggles in our students are not easily seen. We have to look. We have to focus, ask hard questions, and truly examine how well the system is working for each member of our student body.   All students deserve to have their needs met. All. Not most, not just yours, or just mine, but all.  It is a bar set high and will take some doing to get there.

So, how DO WE get there?  I will be listening, and hope you are to, for ideas on HOW …. not just the use of buzz words to fill the space and give our stakeholders what they expect or want to hear.  I want to know how – specifically!  For I know that without a plan, actions will not follow. How will we BEST serve ALL students? It will take OUR village to do it. All of us, for all of them!

Trauma-Informed Education

For several years, I’ve asked the question, “What happens when the trauma occurs in school?”

I have yet to receive an answer.  And, if you are shocked by this question, you are not fully informed.

Students, just like any group of humans, can experience trauma anywhere. And, it does not have to be physical trauma. Trauma can and does take place on our emotional systems as well. Has your student been called stupid by a staff member? Have they had a racial slur thrown at them by someone in the building?  Is there some other intolerance that causes distress to their emotional well-being?  If the answers to any of these are yes, there is trauma occurring within the system. So, again, what is the plan to combat this?

If we are going to use this now popular platform for our system’s educational base, any and all trauma occurring at school must be addressed.

Transparency

Transparency, to me, is one of the most important aspects of any system, including schools.

Our stakeholders deserve more transparency in the decisions that are made regarding our students, staff, and buildings.  Since I’ve written about transparency before, I will leave it at that.  I hope to see more transparency in all aspects of our school system, but especially from the Board of Education.

In Summary

I hope some of these areas are addressed tonight in the panel. I hope the forum isn’t entirely focused on how the pandemic was handled by the district. The pandemic will pass. But, the need to reform our educational systems will remain and the time to start addressing those reforms is now. 

I’ll be watching and waiting for some answers. One thing that bodes well for change is that five people in our community decided to run for two seats in the upcoming spring election! I, for one, am thankful that there is choice and the potential for new voices.  I applaud all of them for their bravery in running. Running for the Board of Education reveals an individual’s beliefs. They opened themselves up to public scrutiny when each of them made the decision to run for a seat on the board. I know it’s hard. And, for that reason, I thank all of the candidates for running.

Best of luck tonight, and in moving forward!

4 Thoughts

  1. This is a useful preparation to listening to those speeches and debates. I really like your word lists- what you can expect to hear, what you hope to hear. And then listen harder. I also love how you consider different groups of students and ask your reader to consider their own but then put themselves in the shoes of the others.
    I hope you will try to find a larger audience for your piece- it is valuable.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I echo Fran here. I am thinking particularly about the trauma that occurs in school. I have been substituting in a class when a student became verbally abusive. He definitely freaked the other kids out. I was worried about them, what they took away from the encounter. I have been in primary grade rooms where a particularly bad day for one child has affected everyone. Oh, school is a place where healing strategies need to be incorporated and USED. I also agree 100% that the pandemic will pass, but the necessary reform that it highlighted must be undertaken SERIOUSLY. As Cornelius Minor said, “A return to ‘normal’ isn’t what a lot of students need—or deserve.” I hope the forum is truly educational!

    Like

  3. I am not in your area, but conversations like this are happening all over. I appreciate the framing you offer audiences, especially your lists of words. It make for a powerful writing.

    Like

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