Friday, November 22, 2013

Drive-throughs and Dilemmas

Yesterday on my way to teach I stopped at the River Hill McDonald's. As I pulled into the parking lot I noticed that the entire drive-through area was torn up and cordoned off by traffic cones and yellow tape. I hesitated.

Then I noticed a man waving. I pulled up. "Is the drive-through closed?" I asked. "I am the drive-through," he replied, holding up a walkie-talkie in one hand, and a laminated menu card in the other.

Well, okay then.

He relayed my order, and I drove around where another nice man, bundled up in the cold, took my money and brought back my change. Then I pulled forward where a shivering woman brought me my order. As I pulled away, I marveled at the clever response to their problem, but I also thought, "That's no way to run a drive-through."

And it isn't. It is an ingenious solution to a finite, temporary challenge, and it shows someone in management is on the ball there. And yet, I don't think they considered how cold their employees would get, nor how demeaning it might feel to them. But it works. And the drive through customers are served.

This is precisely what goes on in our schools in Oakland Mills. They are not bad schools. They are wonderful schools. Realtors, and other people who make judgements based on tests scores or hungry children may tell you otherwise. But those of us who have first hand experience know the truth. They are great schools.

But they are over-burdened. Every day faculty and staff face major challenges that get in the way of learning. Every day they come up with creative ways to respond. But these aren't temporary challenges. So they add one crisis solution on top of another crisis solution and they just keep moving forward. Because that's what they do.

It's no way to run a drive-through. Or a school, for that matter. Scientific research shows us that continuing to operate under high levels of stress is extremely unhealthy. That is true for organizations, too. Our faculty and staff are hard-working, caring, highly qualified and we keep on piling more on them, because they just keep coping.

I sincerely hope that one of the results of the community meeting in Oakland Mills is that County Government, the County Schools, and the Oakland Mills Community Association work together to respond to the concerns of parents who are already there in the trenches, supporting their children's education.

Let's not leave our Village Schools standing out in the cold.



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