In School Debate, Remember the Children
Hampton Union, Friday, May 8, 2009
[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]
[Shir Haberman photo]
There is yet another Hampton School Board meeting scheduled for next Tuesday. We, along with many in town, are hoping to learn the board's rationale for making the changes that have caused such a stir around school community.
While the board has rescinded its initial vote to terminate five teachers at Hampton Academy, a growing group of parents, allegedly supported by educators, still plans to push for both an explanation of why these changes were being sought and their impacts on this and other schools in the district.
The concerns being expressed by a newly formed parents group, which is calling itself "Kids First," revolve around the two teaching positions that will remain vacant at the Academy — one due to a retirement and another resulting from the promotion of a teacher to vice principal. What will happen to the two target assist teacher positions at the Marston School that were never reinstated? How will the administration at all the district's schools function and, finally, what's the value of rotating school nurses through the schools?
All this concern, of course, stems from the lack of trust these parents and, reportedly, a substantial number of teachers have in the School Board based, in large part, how the initial decisions were made. While we would not yet go so far as to say we don't trust this board, we are hopeful that members finally come clean about not only their decision-making process, but what they see as the ramifications of those decisions.
Meanwhile, with all that is going on, we believe an important constituency is being almost ignored. While the adults around them engage in what appears to be at times a pitched battle over process and personalities, the students who are — and who will begin — attending the Academy this coming fall remain as much in the dark about what will be going on in the school come the new school year as everyone else.
To our mind, this is the real shame of this situation. While the adults continue to claim they are involved in this sometimes mean-spirited process in order to benefit these children, it appears the well-being of the kids is often the last thing on their minds.
If you have a pre-adolescent child or can remember back to when you were one yourself, you know just how difficult a period it is. Not child, yet not adult, ravaged by hormonal changes and surrounded by "peers" who themselves are at various levels of development and often nowhere near where you are, these middle-school-aged children already have plenty of anxiety to deal with.
School is difficult enough at this age without the added burdens of not knowing who your teachers will be, what your schedule will look like or who will be your principal. Add to that everything they hear from their parents about the clandestine operations of the School Board and the SAU, and you have a group of kids poised on the edge of an emotional meltdown.
Some parents have said that seeing the community take charge of a process gone wrong is a good moral and ethical lesson for their children. It may be, but we wonder just how many kids are at the level where that concept is really recognizable. We would guess the percentage is fairly small.
As parents, teachers and School Board members continue to plod through this process, we urge them to really consider the children; to keep a lid on the animosities expressed and to treat even those they oppose with respect.
If there is anything we can actually teach our children in the midst of the seemingly escalating debacle, it is that change is inevitable and that people can disagree without being disagreeable.