Over the past few weeks, I’ve heard various school-related people make the statement that they aren’t trying to hurt our kids with the decisions that they make. For instance, School Superintendent Dr. Ember Conley had this exchange with KPCW’s Leslie Thatcher on Monday:
Leslie Thatcher: “It doesn’t sound like you have convinced those signing a petition. They are basically saying that this change is going to have a huge negative impact on our kids.”
Dr. Conley: “I live and breathe this job and this community and for our students. I would never do anything to harm our students. In fact, it’s the exact opposite. Change is really hard”
First, I want to make it clear that I (and most people I know who have been critical of the board/district) don’t believe the School Board or the Superintendent have some master plan to harm our children. You don’t run for a basically non-paid position like the school board, that lasts 4 years, with the intent to destroy our schools. I assume the reason is because you have a passion for it and want to instill your values and ideas on our educational system.
That said, it does concern me that criticism of ideas is sometimes interpreted as a personal attack. For instance, I don’t think the majority of the 435 people signing a petition to keep our reading aides in our classrooms think Dr. Conley or Dr. Einhorn are trying to hurt our kids intentionally. I would guess the majority of the 435 people just disagree with removing reading aides from our classrooms. They just think it’s the wrong thing to do.
Likewise, when Dr. Conley uses the “I am not trying to harm our kids” statement as an answer to a question like Ms. Thatcher’s on Monday morning, it does everyone a disservice. An answer like that doesn’t explain the district’s position. I know board members and Dr Conley have answered those questions many times, in many places, but Ms. Thatcher provided Dr Conley with an opportunity to summarize her thoughts and convince some of those 435 people signing the petition that perhaps the school district knows what it is doing.
Instead of saying, I’m not trying to harm our kids, she could have said something like, “This will actually have a positive impact on our children. ESL students will be better off because studies have shown that reading aides are ineffective in helping ESL kids and the only known factor to improve performance in English Language Arts is by focusing on Kindergarten and providing an interventionist as ESL students progress. Non ESL students will benefit because once ESL students are performing better, teachers will have more time to focus on every student individually. So, while it seems that removing reading aides is detrimental to our students, I believe it will benefit almost every student in our school district.”
Now, is any of that true? I don’t know. I just made it up. However, I assume if the school district is making this change that they have as good or better reasoning.