Last Friday after Ralston let out, I started receiving calls asking whether I knew anything about the School Board’s decision the night before to not renew Scott Carson’s contract as principal. I presume that people were calling me because people know that I volunteer my time to the district. However, even though I had attended and spoken at the School Board meeting the night before, I had no information about this decision which I now understand had been made in closed session which is appropriate for personnel matters.
I eventually was able to learn that the School Board had made this decision, which was publicly announced on Monday. I have two daughters at Ralston, and an in-coming 6th grader, so I have a vested interest in stability at the school. I have spoken with members of the School Board about my views on Ralston, but I have not inquired of them why they made the decision that they have made as it is not appropriate for me to be seeking confidential personnel information. This information pertains to Mr. Carson, and only he should be making the decision to divulge it; no one else. It is also of no benefit for me to speculate. Rather, my job as a parent is to advocate for my children, which in my opinion means raising the positives and the negatives about Ralston to those in a position to listen and consider, and hopefully concur and try to effect changes. I have also taken it upon myself, despite my already busy schedule, to volunteer my time in an effort to raise money for the district as I believe that will help alleviate some of the stressors that Ralston faces. I do this even though it is unlikely that my children will ever receive much benefit from this.
Through the years, I have spoken with people within the Ralston community, the District Office and the School Board in my efforts to create a better school and district. I will note for all those who have questioned the School Board that there are two members who have current students at Ralston, and two others who have elementary school children who will attend Ralston. My experience with each of them has done nothing to suggest that they are trying to achieve anything different than what I am seeking – a good, stable, healthy learning environment.
I have had the opportunity this year to interact with Mr. Carson, and I have found those interactions to be positive, and that he is a pleasant, thoughtful individual. I have thought that he was doing a good job, and it is clear that he had the support of at least a number of teachers at the school. However, if those that are better informed than I who are seeking the same end result that I am seeking believe that he was not the right person for the job, I do not believe that it is for me to second guess based on nothing but speculation and innuendo.
I will also state the obvious (and if it wasn’t before, the dialogue of the last few days should make this clear). While there is much that is good about Ralston, there are things that could be improved. Adolescence is a very tough age. Developmentally, it is also a real transition, and as a result, it is well known that the middle school years are not easy. In an ideal world, that would mean that there is substantial adult involvement while still enabling the kids to have some independence in a more meaningful way than is experienced in elementary school. What that does not argue for is a school with 1200 kids, classes of 30 and individual teachers having 180 kids, and an administration of 3. Yet, for financial reasons, that is what we have. And it can be a mess for everyone involved.
Having had numerous conversations with interested parties, I can say first hand that the School Board, District Office, Ralston Administrators and teachers all know this, and many parents discover it as well. I have not seen anyone associated with the district not trying to solve for this. But financial and other constraints make this very difficult. The sniping of the last week certainly does not help.
Which brings me to why I will not be wearing black tomorrow, and I encourage others to join me. Protests may be a convenient way to voice frustration, but they do nothing to solve problems. Only becoming actively engaged in trying to find solutions is productive.
This community has shown that it is capably of engaging to improve its schools – I need look no further than this past weekend’s School Force Mardi Gras Madness fundraising event which drew such a sizable percentage of the school parent population that it sold out, and was an unqualified success in raising money to support the schools.
More importantly, I am furious about the phone call that I received from one of my seventh graders today informing me that one of her teachers announced in class that students would be receiving extra credit for wearing black tomorrow. I will state here that I have already registered a complaint of the inappropriateness of this with the district – my child’s grades should not be effected by whether or not I agree with a personnel matter.
I also do not appreciate the pressure that my children will have from their classmates that is being pushed by both teachers and parents. While I know enough about this message board to know that there will be plenty of comments thrown my way, I also know that it is important to speak out about what is wrong – and using grades and kids to vent frustration is nothing but wrong.
For those who are interested in helping the district, there are many ways to constructively do so. I encourage everyone to find them and contribute in a positive way.