This is a bulletin board in the Ducketts Lane RECC. Each member of the staff--teachers, therapists, support staff--has been photographed holding a sign announcing her "strength" as determined by the Gallup Organization Strengthsfinder online assessment tool. (I have altered the photograph out of respect for their privacy.)
These people are my people: my colleagues. Some have become friends. I wrote about them earlier this Spring when I learned that their Regional Early Childhood Center was being discontinued due to space issues at their (brand-new) school. I can tell you from personal experience that they have some pretty amazing strengths and they didn't need an online tool or a bulletin board to validate that.
It costs a lot of money to open a new school. Two years ago this school opened with a brand new team ready to meets the needs of special needs preschoolers. Before that happened there were applications, interviews, hiring procedures, orientation, and training. All of those items are necessary costs to getting a program up and running.
Now, two years later, those same people have founds their positions eliminated, their program dissolved. So now the cycle begins agains: applications, interviews, hiring procedures, orientation, further training. It's expensive. And that doesn't include the human cost of bringing together a group of people, expecting them to bond and function at the highest level, and then dispersing them.
I have heard that it was known when the school opened that it would have capacity issues within two years. I can tell you who didn't know this: the people who made a commitment to coming to the Ducketts Lane RECC. A friend said to me, of the school system,
When big decisions are being made from above, you can pretty much guarantee that the people at the lowest end of the hierarchy, the people who will be directly affected, will be the last to know.
So, what's my point? And what's the big deal with the bulletin board?
My point is this: the school system is telling us a lot these days that we have to cut back on programs and staff that directly support students, because "we just don't have the money." It seems to me that this is a case in point that we are just not spending our money wisely.
That is not the same thing.
I was unable to isolate exactly how much money we have spent on the Gallup organization, but I can tell you it's a lot. It certainly could have helped fund kindergarten and media paras. Opening and closing an early- intervention special needs program in the space of two years was an incredibly expensive choice to make, too. In addition, shifting employees around like so many widgets in a factory may look good on paper, but it is bad for students, families, staff, and school communities.
Friday night my friends at Ducketts had a party to celebrate the good times they've had and the community they have built with one another. They honored each other for their real-life strengths, based on real-life relationships. In a few days their community will be no more.
Last Fall, PTACHC members were told that the appropriate way for community members to pass judgement on The Board of Education was to look at how they are voting to spend public money. Are they being good stewards of tax dollars?
What do you think?