March 6, 2017 by stoptheblockhvrhs
This is our second post today – be sure not to miss Trust our Teachers posted earlier. We received this from a parent; an open letter to BOE chair Andrea Downs.
Dear Mrs. Downs;
I am writing to you today as a taxpayer, voter and parent of a student who will be a Freshman at HVRHS next year. I find your email to be insensitive, misleading and potentially harmful to our community.
I take issue with several of your points.
1) DISSENT IS NOT MISINFORMATION: You said, “Unfortunately, it would appear that a lot of misinformation was disseminated throughout our broader community.” This is insidious and insulting, as it implies that there are people in the community who are deliberately spreading false information. There are teachers and community members, who, after researching the 4×4 issue, have questions, concerns or even strong opposition to the schedule change proposal. Questions, concerns and opposition are not misinformation. I have heard members of the administration blame the parental uproar on information coming from a few “bad seed” teachers, an accusation which shows a lack of respect for the integrity and professionalism of the faculty of HVRHS. More frighteningly, it ignores the responsibility of the Administration and the Board in creating this current, emotionally-charged situation.
2) LACK OF COMMUNICATION IS THE ISSUE: I lay the blame for this furor squarely at the feet of the Administration and Board, who, while “educating themselves” have not included the parents, teachers or students in the process. The problem here is the medium, not the message. The parents should have been included months ago, should have been told that a change might be coming and made aware of the possibilities and the implications. As with the new grading practices, no opposing or even questioning views are being allowed to even enter the conversation. (For example, of all the articles in the Lakeville Journal explaining the new grading practices, not one has mentioned any potential issues or pitfalls. It’s been a whitewash.) That is what is making the parents feel so powerless and enraged. Great changes need to be managed carefully. It is imperative to create consensus and buy-in from all stakeholders. Study after study has shown that the success of a new schedule, such as the proposed 4×4, depends heavily on the buy-in of teachers, students and parents. You and the administration have created no consensus or buy-in.
I believe many of us could be supportive of the new schedule IF it were implemented with appropriate training for faculty, IF our concerns were answered before it is put in place and IF the new grading practices were implemented first and their impact assessed. All of these “ifs” require time, consensus and buy-in.
3) THE TERM “PROPOSED” SCHEDULE CHANGE IS A POLITE RUSE: I have the distinct impression, based on the oral and written communication coming from the Administration and HVRHS, that the schedule change is not a proposal at all, that rather it will be in place for September, regardless how many questions and concerns remain unaddressed. That was my clear impression after the February 23rd parents’ meeting. Furthermore, the HVRHS March Newsletter’s headline was “HVRHS Introduces a New Schedule for Fall 2017.” It does not say “proposes.” This is at the heart of the uproar: the clear impression that the changes will go forward, in spite of the many unanswered concerns; in spite of all opposition.
4) THE DATA DRIVING THE CHANGE IGNORES THE MAJORITY OF THE SCHOOL POPULATION: You wrote, “We know that there has been a lot of discussion about the D and F data but there has also been discussion about how we best support students who are either our highest achievers or somewhere in the middle.” At the meeting on February 23rd, the data on the Ds and Fs took center stage. There was literally NO discussion about how it might help the higher achievers. To add insult to injury, the data presented about the AP enrollment was WRONG…the numbers literally do not add up. Check the math on the column with the enrollment numbers for this year.
5) THE PROPOSED SCHEDULE CHANGE IGNORES THE HIGH ACHIEVERS: I am a parent of a high achiever. My son is an honor roll student and has been getting great grades since Kindergarten. My biggest disappointment with his nine-year Region One experience has been the total lack of enrichment opportunities for him. There is no Talented and Gifted program, for example. Instead, the majority of resources and time are spent on bringing up the lowest achievers. All children must be provided for: the struggling learners, those in the middle and the high-achievers who want and deserve more. My son’s experience this year at Sharon, with its new Dr.-Canady-driven schedule, the “enrichment” piece has not been satisfactory. And it will not be satisfactory at HVRHS under the current proposal; it is logistically not feasible. Enrichment sounds good, but if it is executed without sufficient training for the teachers (which Dr. Vogel seems to think they do not need), it will follow the pattern of Region One’s treatment of high-achieving kids. They will be left to sit and wait until the rest of their peers catch up.
6) NOW IS NOT THE TIME TO STONEWALL: We parents do not feel we are being heard; the lack of communication from the Board and Administration is the issue. To say “We are not doing this to stonewall any kind of discussion” is to point out that you are doing exactly that. To say “it would be premature for us to have this discussion at this time” is completely wrongheaded. A discussion of this nature is MONTHS overdue. The February 23rd meeting only happened because parents had independently organized a meeting for that same day in Sharon; the meeting at HVRHS was organized specifically to override and preempt the Sharon meeting. I wonder if any parents’ meeting would have occurred at all if it had not been forced by the Sharon meeting. To delay any discussion for later in March seems backwards. Students are soon to be choosing their classes for next year. If you propose discussions later in March, they will occur after this crucial time frame and underscore the fact that you have no intention of delaying the implementation of the new schedule or listening to any concerns.
Mrs. Downs, the anger and frustration are real and are only going to be stoked by communications such as yours. You ignore parental and student concerns at your peril. To go ahead with not allowing public comment, to go ahead with drastic changes without building consensus and buy-in will shatter the confidence between parents and Board and Administration. I urge you to reconsider your agenda for Monday and allow parents’ and students’ voices to be heard.