The Canary in the School District’s Coal Mine

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Last night’s school board meeting had a lengthy agenda: well-deserved awards and recognition, public comment about a recent termination, and presentations on the performance of Lakeview Elementary and Whitewater Middle School, among other topics.

Considering the recent termination, one confronts this uncomfortable question: if determining the right course in an isolated employment matter is difficult, how is one to believe confidently that the district will properly oversee the conduct of an entire school (of sixth, seventh, and eighth graders, for example)?

Some may be understandably concerned, even hurt, by a single action, but is it not more concerning to fail to act – or even to see the need for action – for hundreds of students in a building where so many are adrift?

One’s main concern should be, and in my case is, the environment of these schools.

Perhaps this is the district’s canary in the coal mine.

A few other remarks:

1. There’s no better part of a meeting than the recognition of genuine student accomplishment. A city fire truck was outside, and that’s always a welcome reminder of Whitewater’s endearing practice of taking successful students on a fire-truck ride through the city.

2. When the tiny (and ugly) Central Office building is crowded with attendees (as was true last night), someone from the district should be offering refreshments to those waiting outside.

A meeting of this (easily estimated) size would have been more comfortable in a larger space. Whitewater has a multi-million-dollar high school that looks better and accommodates more people than Central Office ever will.

Better still: a meeting in a large room allows everyone to see everyone else’s recognition; awards are a community matter even more than a board matter.

3. It’s agreeable to talk with one’s fellow residents.  I had the pleasure of speaking with a senior-citizen attendee whose only purpose was to learn more about the district.  Admirable.  She had a pencil and tablet, and we talked before the meeting began about the changes over the decades in the city.

4. Presentations should be part of an online agenda, attached as documents.  A proper open-government approach requires as much, and gives information to the whole community without the need for a public records request.  Officials who would prefer fewer requests need only offer more information.

3 comments for “The Canary in the School District’s Coal Mine

  1. Attendee
    05/29/2019 at 12:21 PM

    Nice post.
    When your site linked to parts of the school board agendas we wondered why. Look, many many people know that there’s a middle school problem. How it gets fixed is the big issue. I think everyone would like to hear a complete description of the school.
    DEfinitely the right focus.

      05/29/2019 at 12:53 PM

      Cases involving educational inadequacy – of method, perspective, perhaps even effort – are harder to identify than a sudden event involving a few people. If harder to identify, then harder to measure adequately. We are fortunate, however, that recent referendums are over; there’s more time to focus on deeper issues.

  2. Sue
    05/29/2019 at 7:55 PM

    our middle school is the weakest part of the whole system. kids come in doing well but leave unprepared for the high school. i’ts totally true about people knowing about nothing gets fixed.