The against the regarding plans for eliminating the self-contained Gifted and Talented Education (GATE) program is a perfect example of how not to conduct the business of public education. With zero input from any parents, a committee of district office employees, teachers and classified staff decided to phase out the self-contained program at the end of the 2012-13 school year.
The backlash brings to mind similar missteps committed by the district and its employees in recent years. I thought we were going to get beyond that under the new regime of Superintendent Shalee Cunningham, who has visited all of the sites and spoken to parents, assuring us that her administration will be one of transparency and two-way communication and working together to educate our kids.
About one-quarter of the people on the Facilities Planning Committee have the title “parent” rather than “district employee” beside their names. That alleviates suspicions some might have had, myself included, that the results are essentially a foregone conclusion. (Although, frankly, the boundaries look pretty much like I would have drawn with my Sharpie a year ago during the debacle of the Hill closure.)
Dr. Cunningham acknowledged in an email that parents should have been included in the discussion, and she apologized for that mistake. I, for one, appreciate her publically owning it, although I am not certain she was involved in the nuances of the initial discussions surrounding the Lynwood GATE elimination. She needs to tell all of those other committee heads and district employees and classified employees at the sites to make her statements about transparency and inclusion a reality now.
You’ll have to forgive all of us who’ve had kids in Novato public schools for years, Dr. Cunningham: we lack trust. And history shows we have very good reasons for not trusting district employees and the Board of Trustees.
Sure, we’re wanted when it comes to providing hundreds of thousands of hours of free labor each year. And we’re wanted when it comes to donating hundreds of thousands of dollars to support the sites and School Fuel each year. And we’re wanted to work to pass parcel taxes and then pay the darn things each year.
But, otherwise, we should really just send little Johnny and little Jane to school each day, well fed, with homework done and, preferably, lice-free.
Here's the lesson I'd like school district employees to learn: I’ll give you my time, I’ll give you my money, I’ll pay my taxes, and I’ll give you my lice-free, well fed, eager-to-learn children. But it’s a package deal, and I’m coming along for the ride. And so are the parents of 8,000 other students.
So let’s keep talking.