I attended my first Coffee and Conversation event with the Board of Education yesterday. Hosted this month by Running Brook Elementary School, it was a chance to chat informally with Board members about matters of interest and concern.
Five out of seven members were in attendance. I got a chance to speak with four of those. One of the members was busy every time I looked over. I admit I didn't persist and stay until she was freed up because I had somewhere else to be. I also had a nice chat with Principal Troy Todd, who I knew from my days teaching music and movement in RECC programs throughout the county.
I was there to express support for the Board and also to give them something to put on their list. The passage of ESSA legislation comes with it the statement that Music and Art are Core Subjects. I wanted to know how the Howard County schools will be responding to that designation. In particular, I'd like to see full music and art instruction restored in elementary schools where it has been cut back. I got some great feedback from individual board members and I feel that they truly listened to me.
I also enjoyed hearing the concerns of other parents. Some that I remember: how competitive things are at the high school level, adequate CPR/Heimlich maneuver training for teachers and staff, training parents on how Canvas works, creating more challenging IEP goals as students master current ones.
As I talked with one parent about our respective school communities and our children's experiences, it came out that I had taught her son. As we parted we shook hands and exchanged names. When I told her mine she stopped and tilted her head a bit.
"Julia? The Julia?"
I wasn't quite sure what to say.
"Oh, of course. I see your name a lot."
"That's because I'm a bit of a busybody on social media."
We laughed, and parted ways.
I suddenly felt rather conspicuous.
Overall I found the event to be pleasant and informative. There was one man who seemed to stay in one place with the intent to be accusatory and combative, but while I was there Board Chair Cindy Vaillancourt gently but firmly pointed out that there were other people at the table who wanted to speak. He seemed incredulous. Did anybody else want to speak? he asked.
Several of us allowed as how we did. And he reluctantly yielded the floor.
There's a lot of hard work that goes into serving on the Board of Education. It seems that handling difficult people and difficult situations is a necessary skill.
A shout-out to principal Troy Todd and RBES staff (and possibly parents?) for graciously hosting this event. If you haven't ever been to one, you should.