School official passes recent ‘weather’ tests with high marks
Posted: Friday, February 18, 2011 9:14 pm
By: By Glenda Caudle
I’m stepping outside my role as a feature/editorial writer this week and using my turn at the Friday “Just a Thought” column as an opportunity to address my friends and neighbors, instead, as a member of the Union City School Board. The following column was presented as a public address during a meeting of the school board Monday evening, during the time allotted for board member comments. The sentiments are entirely mine and may or may not be shared by any other board member.
I would like to speak, for a moment, to recent events which have affected our school system — specifically, the disruption caused by weather.
I would like to express appreciation to Mr. Houston for his commitment to carry out the board’s policy to operate our schools in a manner consistent with our goal of providing as much time as possible for students to learn. Fulfilling this vital mandate — one it might be assumed would have the enthusiastic support of the community — can, nevertheless, be a burdensome and thankless task at times, and nothing makes it moreso than when a director of schools must second guess the weatherman.
The issue would not loom quite so large if the board did not also insist and common opinion did not require — quite sensibly — that the safety of students and educational personnel be given careful and appropriate consideration. It is difficult to imagine circumstances where two positive policies can come into such direct conflict as in the necessity to make a decision about a “weather” dismissal.
As a board member, a tax paying citizen, a grandparent of students in this school system and a parent who, for many years, kept an alert ear out for announcements of school closings, I must tell you that I do not envy your job, Mr. Houston. Nevertheless, I am grateful that you and your predecessors, including Mr. Baxter Wheatley, have been willing to endure the unpleasantness of rising far earlier than most other residents of the community and heading out into what sometimes proves to be dangerous and almost always is a set of unpleasant circumstances in order to assess whether or not we should have school. As if that were not enough, you then subject yourself to the response of the community to your honest and best decision.
I have become increasingly aware, over the last few days, that those responses are sometimes humorous, sometimes sympathetic, sometimes puzzled and — unhappily for all of us — sometimes bitter. I deeply regret that you and any of the administrators, teachers and support personnel who worked so hard to be not only in their classrooms but also on the front lines offering assistance to families who faced less than optimal situations because of the weather were subjected to such attacks.
The simple facts are these: You were not hired to manage this school system because you have control over the weather; You were not given your job because you have the ability to know, from moment to moment, precisely what the weather will be during the course of a school day; You most certainly were not assigned your responsibilites because you would prove amenable to shortcutting the educational process in an attempt to make things easier for yourself.
While boards have the duty of setting policy for their own schools and must do so with sensitivity toward the values of the community, it has been the belief of the Union City School Board for so long as I have been aware that tacking on a few minutes to each school day — in effect giving teachers an extra five or 10 minutes of class time — does not adequately make up for complete days deducted from the school calendar; thus, the board has always insisted that missed days be made up, and for the past few years, it has been understood that these will be added to the end of the school calendar. That policy, too, introduces its own complications in to the decisions that must be made and the reaction of families to those decisions. Families can be frustrated by a decision to attend school on weather-challenged days but may also be frustrated when there is a school dismissal that must be made up according to board policy — not the director of schools’ personal policy.
Families, of course, have only their own preferences and needs to consider and that is as it should be. Each family should determine what is best for their circumstances, weigh it against the policies and the penalties that are — of necessity — a part of the policy, and determine what they should do in their own best interests. What an amazing first-hand learning opportunity for children this presents. It is an excellent thing when parents use it wisely and set an example of the peaceful resolution to potential conflict — when they seize it as a chance to show respect for others, even in the face of disagreement.
As to what you were hired to do, Mr. Houston, it is specifically this: to preside over the educational attainments of the children of this community as the “executive” in charge of the business of education, to exercise common sense care for the students and personnel who are a part of our school system, to do more than simply rise to — instead to work to exceed — the mandates of the federal and state government for educational opportunity and to do all this within the framework of policy determined by the Union City School Board.
It is a tall order. It must be in order to live up to our mission statement of preparing students to live, work, contribute and excel in an ever-changing world.
I see ample evidence that you are fulfilling those requirements admirably, as is our excellent staff.
Glenda Caudle may be contacted by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Published in The Messenger 2.18.11