Friday, June 18, 2010

School Intrusion

I have been thinking about Jessica's post over at href="">Teachable Moments and how that is so exactly how I feel! School has taken so much away from the rhythm of our family life. The summer before A began kindergarten, I routinely cried myself to sleep thinking that our days of eating lunch together were kaput! (I need a cup or two of coffee before I can come up with a coherent sentence in the morning, but lunch was ALWAYS our time). It's been somewhat replaced with snack after school, but it's really not the same. In addition to my absolute disdain of the emphasis on standardized tests and teaching to the test and removing anything remotely "fun" about learning from school in order to be more "rigorously academic" (that's the term our elementary principal LOVES to say!), I hate that school affects every single aspect of our lives ten months out of the year. I won't take my kids out of school for a vacation. I know some do and I don't judge them, but I wouldn't; I would be too afraid that at the pace they are teaching, with the cyclical curriculum, my girls would miss too much.

started working (I still volunteer on my days off). You would think that the principal would be grateful for parent involvement, but she is not (the principal at the middle school is very appreciative). The principal at the elementary school sees parent involvement as parents trying to undermine her and take over. She is CONSTANTLY threatening to do away with book fair, holiday shops and anything else during school, she cites making more room for "rigorous academics" as her reasoning; she also wants to do away with all of the after-school events like Trunk or Treat, Halloween Crafts, movie nights, and Family Bingo because she feels that parents and children don't respect her authority.When A was in kindergarten, I saw how she frowned at the parents that were involved.It is well known at our school that you are more likely to get your requested teacher, and a smile or kind word from the principal IF you don't volunteer.At other schools in town, parents are invited in to help struggling readers, make apple pies, assist with crafts; the other principals ATTEND all of the after hours events, like science fairs and school dances. The principal at P's school will not attend any school functions or even enter the room at book fairs.

We have complained to the BOE MANY, MANY times and they don't seem to care.

When A was in first grade, the principal and I had a difference of opinion on how to handle a situation.  I was warned by more seasoned parents that I would be on "Her List".  Which means that not only would I be treated poorly, but my children would as well.  And sure enough, the woman is smart and savvy, but I think she definitely treated us differently than other families who never spoke up.  I saw things that I did not like and became aware of a Strategic Planning committee.  I inquired about it and the principal told me that it was just for the principals and the BOE.  When I called the Superintendent's office I was informed that was completely incorrect and the BOE was discouraged from attending, while parental involvement was highly encouraged because they wanted to know what kinds of goals the parents felt the school system should be working toward.  I felt completely uncomfortable attending those meetings (luckily, Jason attended them with me).  The principal went out of her way to ignore me when we were in small groups together.  I remember one time I spoke up, suggested something and she pretended she had not heard me until the Superintendent of Curriculum asked me to repeat my idea and liked it; the principal felt that it wasn't valid since it was offered by a parent and several of the other people in the group jumped down her throat.

When I began volunteering on the LEAD group, a parent group that advises the BOE, she pulled me aside once and said that she needed to ask me to step down from that group.  I asked why and she walked off in a huff.

Her most recent ploy, one that she feels is working, is that beginning last September, parents are not allowed to speak to her. We must submit everything in writing to the PTO President, who in turn forwards everything to the principal.  Then, periodically something comes home with all of her answers, or at least answers to the questions that she wanted to answer.  Her reasoning, which the BOE accepted, was that 1) she felt threatened by parents approaching her and 2) many parents had the same questions and she spent soooooo much time answering all of their questions she didn't have time for other important things; so this way, all the questions would be answered and EVERYONE would be able to read and know the answers and there was FULL DISCLOSURE.

The other statement that finds its way into every memo, newsletter and speech that she writes is that "from 8:25 until 3pm, they are OUR children; after 3pm, they become YOUR children again."  My mother thinks this is sweet and shows how much she cares for the kids.  I would like to think that is part of it, but I think it is more of a control tactic.