Saturday, July 25, 2015

Mold and Truthiness

Have you been following the ongoing story of mold issues at Glenwood Middle School? It appears to be a textbook case of what happens if the powers that be are not forthcoming with stakeholders. Take a look at this statement from a parent, quoted in the HoCoTimes article:

"As a community, we need to demand confirmation of mold remediation and INDEPENDENT indoor air quality testing of all rooms and inspection of walls and ceilings for presence of mold--This should occur FOLLOWING the completion of the HVAC upgrades, BEFORE the start of the school year," read a post about the email July 22. "We cannot allow our teachers and students into a building without knowing that it is a safe environment."

When you see someone asking for independent confirmation of the facts it tells you one thing: trust has been breached. You just wouldn't ask for a third party to get involved if you believed you were being told the truth. This should be a huge wake-up call for the Howard County Schools. Losing credibility and trust in the community means that hcpss will lose its leadership role. What kind of authority can it hope to have under these circumstances?

In a PTACHC meeting during the last school year Director of Communications Rebecca Amani-Dove stated unequivocally that the only reliable sources for information about the school system were the Howard County Public School System website and her. Period. "If you can't find it in the website, call me." She made a rather veiled reference to other sources peddling misinformation with a warning that they couldn't be trusted.

If the only places you can get "the truth" about our schools are the hcpss website and the director of communications, then here are some sources that can't be trusted:

  • School principals
  • Teachers
  • Members of the BOE
  • PTAs
  • Newspapers
  • County Government

...just to name a few.

Talk about controlling the message. "There is only one truth: our truth." I found what she said so breathtaking that I haven't been able to figure out to convey the institutional hubris of it. Until now.

I don't think that the parents and teachers at Glenwood Middle feel that there has been enough truth shared with them in response to a very serious health issue at their school. It looks like they feel that the school system has been more concerned with controlling the message and less concerned with collaborating with the community.

Once you lose the moral high ground in your community, you lose the authority to make significant decisions that require compliance. You lose the authority to command large sums of money from the County without oversight in your operations. You lose your status as the place parents want to send their children.

Huge loss. So much bigger than financial costs incurred by remediating mold. What's lurking behind the walls and ceilings at Glenwood Middle is more than a health issue. It's doubt.


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