Tuesday, January 31, 2012

A parent asks a question (part six)

After five email exchanges (starting here) with our elementary school’s principal and district administrators, I felt no closer to an answer about how much the school had increased its use of disciplinary measures this year. In her last message, the assistant superintendent offered to arrange a meeting to explain the district’s “curriculum” to me, but showed no interest in hearing what parents had to say about what’s actually happening in the school. I wrote back:
Well, I’m getting the strong impression that you’re not interested in hearing what parents have to say about what is actually happening at Hoover. (Please correct me if I’m misreading you.) The possible meeting that you’re describing is sounding awfully one-sided.

In any event, I think it makes sense to get the numerical information before having any kind of meeting. Could you send me the forms that I would need to get information about the increase in incident reports and suspensions at Hoover from last year to this year?

Thanks,
The reply:
Good afternoon, Mr. Liebig. Thank you for writing.

Please find attached the district’s guidelines for submitting a request for public records. If you would like us to provide an estimated cost associated with your information request, you may request this at the same time you write the specific nature of your request to the custodian of our district records, Superintendent Murley.

If you have any questions about this procedure, please let us know.

Thank you again,
Yes, I outright invited her to correct my impression that the district is not interested in what parents have to say. Invitation declined.

To be continued.
.

7 comments:

Wendy said...

Good Lord! I can not believe their response to such a simple question! Well, I can believe it. Especially love the "we can include how much this request will cost" part. WTH? It continually amazes me how schools speak about parental involvement yet at the first real question they throw up the roadblocks and the attitude. How dare you question us and the decisions we are making that impact your children on a daily basis. I have never been able to get over this aspect of school and how as parents we are suddenly supposed to just accept with no questions asked about how they treat our kids for 7 hours a day. Can't wait to see how this plays out.

FedUpMom said...

"estimated cost"? She expects you to pay to look at information in a system that you have already paid for with your taxes?

Billy Zelsnack said...

Oh geez. They are pulling that "estimated cost" thing on you too? Murley pulled that on me when I was trying to get him to tell me Longfellow bus ridership and cost.

TeacHer said...

I think you've been more than polite here and that what you're asking for is completely reasonable. Let me just say that first.

The only explanation I can come up with for as to why they're dodging your questions is that perhaps they don't want to release the data on suspensions and behavioral incidents for fear of alarming parents about bad behavior in the schools.

But that in itself is sort of silly because behavior that constitutes a suspend-able offense varies so much from school to school. At a lot of schools, dropping the F-bomb in class could get you suspended. At my school you have to do something WAY worse than that to get suspended - like, say, threatening a teacher or another student. So, let's say suspensions numbers are creeping up…what does that really mean?

I guess the other possibility is that they're just being patently difficult…I try to think better of my fellow educators than that, though….I hope that isn't what's going on here.

Chris said...

Billy -- as one reader wrote to me, "Parents are important partners in education, unless you have a question--then you have to make a FOIA request!"

Chris said...

TeacHer -- We can only speculate about why they're so unreceptive on this issue. I think discipline raises some uncomfortable issues for this district. The district has recently gotten some bad press for having significant racial disparities in student suspension rates. I wonder if this new approach to discipline is somehow an attempt to address that issue. My concern is that, rather than actually improve the treatment of minority students, the district's solution seems to be to treat *all* kids as harshly as they were previously treating minority kids.

Chris said...

Wendy & FedUpMom -- I agree. What I don't understand is why the school system thinks parents will go along with these policies when they're imposed in this way.

PBIS is a great example. The district made absolutely zero effort to see if parents (or teachers, for that matter) wanted this dumb system imposed on their kids. The result is that a lot of parents are dismissive of it. One dad told me, "We openly mock PBIS is our house." Is that the dynamic the district were shooting for? Can they be surprised?