Tuesday, November 20, 2018

School Committee Meeting

For some time, the town has been grappling with the research about adolescents and teens' need for adequate sleep and the need for just-right school start times. The discussions and debate about how to do this in ways that meet the needs of all students, educators, and families in the district continued over years. Last night, the school committee made a decision to change school start times to give teens and adolescents more time to sleep. The decision was met with mixed reviews since the decision will impact many since they will face schedule changes to current school, work, child care, and extra curricular activities.

Personally this decision will not affect me much. I will start school about an hour earlier and end about an hour earlier. The number of hours I teach a day will be similar. Colleagues with young children will be impacted the most since they will have to adjust childcare routines which may be challenging for them in time and dollars. Families with young children may also face the need for greater childcare too. Some children will be getting up very early which means their parent time in the evening may be limited if they get the hours of sleep they need. For some families this may be difficult, and for others it may not be a big issue. There's great variation in people's family and individual schedules, childcare needs, and finances so it's difficult to choose in ways that meet the needs of all.

My takeaway from this entire discussion is that we need to look for new and better ways to make inclusive decisions. Too often I believe that decisions that affect schools and students are not as well organized, modern, and inclusive as they could be. I believe that it's important for schools and all organizations to work with good vision and mission as their foundation for decision making, and it's important to review, revise, and refine mission and vision statements regularly to lead systems in ways that matter.

Many educators felt left out of this decision. While their points of view were included late in the process, I believe it would have been a better process if their points of view were invited and seriously considered earlier in the process. Often educators' and other integral stakeholders' points of view are left out of the decisions that affect their work and services which I believe is an issue that leaves school systems less strong and dynamic than they can be. I think we can do better in this regard by modernizing decision making processes and utilizing better vehicles of communication, debate, and discussion. As I noted at last night's meeting, many decision making processes that were in place when I began teaching 33 years ago remain, and some of those processes are now outdated and in need of change.

As many discussed, last night's decision was a complex decision. There were no easy answers. A decision has been made, and the next step is to move forward to meet that change with good work and continued advocacy for more inclusive, modern, and successful decision making processes and teamwork in learning communities. Similar to a number of financial issues tackled a few years back, this issue represents a need to rethink organizational structure and processes so that we elevate the ability for all stakeholders to work together with strength. The civility, empathy, and respect throughout the debate last night was a positive feature of the discussion, one that needs to continue as we move forward. Onward.