Wednesday, June 1, 2016

What's Your Issue?

  • Music/arts education
  • Fair treatment of teachers and support staff
  • Special education
  • Transparency/MPIA requests
  • Reducing high stakes standardized testing
  • Addressing racism
  • Bullying, sexual harassment, sexual assault
  • Mold and hazardous conditions
  • Electing a better board of education

What's your issue? One? More than one? What about one or two I haven't even listed? More recess, healthier school breakfast and lunches, non-sexist dress code, school overcrowding, school redistricting...

Right now in Howard County parents are pretty much on their own. The necessary qualities for collaboration with the school system are notably absent: respect, responsiveness, accountability, transparency. If you want to make change, you need to create your own network and mobilize your own grassroots organization. It can be overwhelming.

So many important issues are being neglected or downright suppressed that parents and community members are put in the position of advocating, organizing, investigating, publicizing, seeking and assessing stakeholder input, reaching out to public officials. In short, they are doing the work of the school system.

It is a heavy weight to carry.

How do parents, who may be motivated by one specific and all-consuming issue, find a way to work together for over-arching goals without losing forward momentum on their own? It's hard. Parents don't have the money and institutional resources that are provided to the school system. They are taking on this mission on top of everything else they already do.

Juggling priorities when so many are desperately important is a challenge. I don't think it's impossible. I continue to be impressed with the tenacity and compassion of Howard County Parents. This is not a stupid population HCPSS is serving. If something needs doing, they get to work to get it done.

That doesn't mean that this is the way things ought to be, however. No one I know has a desire to run the school system. The goal is school system leadership that knows how to do the job and does it, with respect, responsiveness, accountability, and transparency.

I don't think that's too much to ask.


A footnote: I lead off with music/arts education because that's how I first got involved--in trying to defend elementary music and art programs from cuts to instructional time. I don't put it first because I think it's more important than the others. I put it there to say: this is what reached out and grabbed me and said, "Pay attention!"



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