Our readers write

Our readers write

Posted: Friday, February 25, 2011 8:01 pm

Parents painted
in wrong light

To The Editor:
I am writing in reference to a couple of recent meetings of the Union City School Board and The Messenger’s coverage of those meetings. Some parents attended those meetings to express interest in the proposed 2011-12 school calendar.
After comments from three parents at the first meeting on Feb. 14, the issue was tabled until a subsequent meeting Feb. 17. After that meeting, the school board voted to adopt the calendar which was originally introduced.
My issue is not with the board’s adoption of the calendar. It was properly voted on and adopted. My issue is with the portrayal of the parties showing opposition to the calendar. I personally attended the first meeting with the intention of showing support for parents wanting to express their wish to keep a five-day fall break in the school calendar.
I believed I would be one of many attending and had no intention of actually speaking at the meeting. But, as it turned out, there were only three of us.
Bentley Beard made a presentation concerning benefits of having a shorter summer. I’m not trying to rehash the issue but just want to point out that he made an organized presentation, supported by a study from a book recommended to him by Union City Director of Schools Gary Houston. At no time did Mr. Beard make any prejudicial remarks in that presentation. After his presentation, Amy Paschall made some comments on the same subject from a point of view concerning children with learning disabilities. After asked, I too made a couple of comments relating to idle time turning into trouble, as I have seen too often ending up in the court system. Then the board voted to table the issue until a later meeting.
I was unable to attend the second meeting and read the coverage of the meeting in The Messenger. My concern is that an “anonymous” e-mail was read, claiming Mr. Beard made “prejudiced remarks” about low-income families and it was unsettling that “trivial selfish requests from a select few” could make such an impact on the entire school system.
Didn’t school board chairman Glenda Caudle open the meeting by saying school board members are open to input throughout the year and meetings are open to everyone? What exactly is wrong with expressing wishes or concerns? The board did its job and voted as they saw fit, adopting the original calendar. That is fine. But to throw people under the bus for speaking up is wrong. To call Bentley Beard prejudiced is wrong. I have worked with Mr. Beard on several different committees throughout the county and feel very qualified to say that nothing would be further from the truth. But they gave voice to an anonymous e-mail.
Maybe the e-mail wasn’t actually anonymous, but we don’t know that because the writer wasn’t attributed at the meeting or in the paper. I personally know of two people unable to attend the meeting — one who called the director of school’s office and the second spending the good part of an hour on the phone with two board members voicing an opinion in support of a shorter summer break and the retention of a week-long fall break, referencing all the countries that have passed the U.S. in education that have year-long schedules with periodic week-long breaks. These people actually gave their names but didn’t have their opinions expressed at the meeting. Maybe it wasn’t just a “select few” voicing their opinions.
So what, a week-long fall break wasn’t voted in. The calendar is giving four days instead of five for a fall break. It is actually disrupting two separate weeks of school since it gives students a Thursday and Friday of one week and then a Monday and Tuesday of the next week. Was it really so “trivial” and “selfish” to wish for a straight five-day week, thinking it might not be any more disruptive? I’m not saying the school board is wrong in their vote. But we’re not wrong in expressing a wish or concern either.
I know every year at the beginning of the school year, each school has encouraged parents to become involved. The education of our children is not to be left merely to the teachers. It is a greater experience when the schools and parents work together. And that is all that we as parents were trying to do. We followed proper procedure to suggest another alternative and the board followed proper procedure when they voted against an alternative.
I don’t pretend to know the difficulties in devising a working calendar. I truly appreciate all the hard work the school board puts in to this job. I support their decision because it was properly voted on. I know it is often a thankless job. So let me stop and sincerely say, “Thank You.” I just don’t want anyone in the future to be discouraged from voicing their opinion.
Thank you for letting me voice mine today.
Heard Critchlow
Union City
Published in The Messenger 2.25.11

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