Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Compare and Contrast

There will be a meeting tonight, from 7-9 pm, at Glenwood Middle School in the cafeteria. I think it will be an extremely interesting meeting. On the one hand, you have school parents who have been tirelessly working to bring issues of mold in their school out in the open and get them addressed. In the other hand you have officials of the school system who say that students and teachers were never at risk.

On August 5th the Howard County Times published an editorial taking the school's system to task for their lack of transparency in handling the mold issue at Glenwood Middle. The editorial was clearly based on the excellent factual reporting by Amanda Yeager. On August 12 HoCoTimes published a letter from the Communications Director of the Howard County School System, which expresses her "disappointment" at the paper's editorial. She asserts that it is untrue that the school system withheld information from the community.

But upon what information is her letter based? She doesn't say. The letter presents no factual evidence of any kind. The tone is thoughtful and respectful, but it maintains a solid, "you'll just have to take our word for it" line of thinking. If you compare this letter with the Times editorial, Amanda Yeager's reporting, and the Facebook page created by the parents, something just doesn't add up.

Although I understand that there have been some efforts to paint these parents as troublemakers (some even going so far to say they are nothing more than a front for the teachers union?) this is not at all what is happening here. These are parents who would have been willing at every turn to have believed in the school system and supported it, if only they been dealt with honestly and respectfully.
They wanted to believe. They wanted to work with the school system. They still remain a bit incredulous that this was not possible.

I have my eye on this meeting tonight because, even at this late date, it provides an opportunity for the school system to "get right with" the community. Will they? That means taking responsibility. And taking responsibility means liability. And liability can be very expensive.

But the damage from this issue has already been extremely costly in terms of loss of community trust, bad publicity in the newspaper, on television, and on social media. Add to that the damage of sick children and staff, and it almost seems that transparency might have been less expensive.

As Levar Burton used to say on Reading Rainbow, "But you don't have to take my word for it." Read the articles in the paper. Read the information on the group's Facebook page. Read the editorial and the School System letter. Compare and contrast. Use the critical thinking skills you learned in school. I have respect for your intelligence and your ability to do that.

An educated and involved community will expect the best of its school system. I believe Howard County is such a community.

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