A group of parents and students met with our school superintendent tonight to talk about our concerns that the lunch period in our elementary schools -- which is only fifteen minutes, including the time spent waiting in line and coming and going -- is too short. (Their petition is here.) Over the course of the meeting, people expressed other, related concerns as well -- such as some schools’ practice of insisting the kids eat lunch very quietly, or while fully dressed in their outdoor winter clothes (since there is otherwise not enough time to dress for recess). People also expressed dismay at the role No Child Left Behind, with its forced emphasis raising standardized test scores, has played in causing school administrators to increase instructional time at the expense of the lunch and recess.
The superintendent, who is new this year, was personable and good at conveying that he understood people’s concerns. Nonetheless, I left the meeting feeling that there was a noticeable gulf between him and the parents in the room. What was missing was any acknowledgement from the superintendent that, when school administrators are deciding that it’s a good idea to make the kids eat lunch in under fifteen minutes, without giving them time or permission to converse in normal voices -- and sometimes even bundled up in winter clothes -- something has gone very, very wrong. The superintendent seemed to respond to those concerns by saying, “Well, I can see your point.” Meanwhile, the parents in the room seemed to be thinking, “What the hell is going on in the Iowa City public schools?”
Part 2 here.