The School Board Members, the Superintendent, and the Principals of our district's High Schools all received a letter from a concerned parent last night. The letter is full of illustrations of dysfunction, but also this letter is positive in that examples of how to fix this dysfunction are offered as well. This is almost like a parental "exit interview." It is an interesting read, and will no doubt spark conversations around the district which hopefully will lead to positive changes that will benefit students and parents. I look forward to discussing the issues in this letter with my counterparts on the school board.
1 July 2016
To: Escambia School District School Board Members
Malcolm Thomas, Superintendent
I am writing to you as a “beyond mom” as I no longer have school-aged children. I am writing because I want to share my experiences with you because YOU are my elected officials. YOU are supposed to be looking out for the families that live in your district. I want YOU to make the Escambia School District better because I know it can be better. We have some great kids in this area.
My experience with XXXXXXXXXXXXX High School and Escambia School District encompasses 7 years, 4 students (with many classmates/friends), 3 principals, 5 assistant principals, and more teachers than you can imagine. Some of my experiences have been good, and a few have been great. Many have been below average, and unfortunately, some have been absolutely awful. Like most “letters”, I am going to focus on the awful because you need to know. You need to make it better. No child, no parent, no one should have to experience “awful” when it comes to something as important as education.
Regardless of where you go in the community – the grocery, the hair stylist, or the doctor’s office – somebody has a crazy XXXXXXXXXXXXX story and it’s not about unruly children. The stories are most often about how they can’t get in touch with teachers, how the school administrators do not return calls, and how their child isn’t getting the help they need. The stories are about how the parents feel disrespected and their words insignificant. While you constantly talk about the benefits of parent involvement, your actions tell a completely different story. And, this story is just sad.
You may be asking yourself, why aren’t people happy? Although graduation rates are up test scores are improving each year, that’s not enough. We, the parents, want HONESTY, COMMUNICATION and a STUDENT-FIRST ENVIRONMENT.
Parents expect an accurate reflection of their child’s accomplishments (and failures) without the condescending attitude projected by many in XXXXXXXXXXXXdistrict leadership. Learn to admit when you have made a mistake, apologize (because we are all human and mistakes happen) and then fix it. Many district and administrative employees are more focused on proving they are right, and that the parent/student is wrong than finding out the true answer. It is okay to be wrong – just own it. When you “circle the wagon” to figure out how to hide your errors, believe me when I say, we all see through the smoke. We are embarrassed for you and sad for our children.
Parents want honest communication – with an emphasis on honest. I am not talking about recorded messages. I am talking about me calling you and you listening. I am talking about my student sitting down with their counselor and discussing their future, what’s happening at school, and their academic schedule. If a child is not doing their work, call parents immediately – do not wait until a month before graduation to notify families that their senior is not on track to graduate. I have record of 62 emails and 12 phone calls sent over a period of 3 ½ years to an assistant principal asking the same question before I received an answer. In what world is it okay to wait 3 ½ years to return an email or a phone call. If you do not know the answer, just say so. Tell me you will find the answer. Tell me when you will call me back. And, here’s the kicker – do what you say you are going to do, when you say you will do it. Most importantly, don’t just make up something that you think I want to hear. I want the truth, the facts. If I ask for the reference where that “fact” comes from, produce it without trying to bully me into dropping the issue.
In each school, there is one professional that should be on the job every day to make sure the student is on track to achieve their dreams. It is the school counselor. The American Society of High School Counselors define their job as, “Helping all students in the areas of academic achievement, personal/social development and career development, ensuring today's students become the productive, well-adjusted adults of tomorrow.” In short, they are there to do what many parents cannot or will not do. Somehow, this vital function has been lost in the counseling department at XXXXXXXXXXXXXX High School. Throughout the 7 year experience, counselors (all 4 of them) do not return phone calls, refuse to answer questions, give out inaccurate information, and are so uncooperative with college recruiters they refuse to even visit the school. Most of the students have no idea who their counselors are or what exactly they are supposed to do for them.
Here are 15 of the really awful things that need your attention:
read the full content of this letter here