For relations among parents, the Livingston community at large and the Board of Education to improve, effective and open communication is a must. As a parent with three children in the Livingston Public Schools, I have experienced improvements in communications between parents and the schools. I am an active user of the school website, where I can follow information regarding homework assignments of teachers who post them. The STARS system allows electronic access to, among other things, student progress reports, report cards and attendance records.
It’s important to recognize the commitment of those teachers who are not constrained to use e-mail just during school hours. When I receive e-mails from teachers or guidance counselors about my children in the evenings and on weekends, it gives me great comfort to know that they are thinking about my children on time that could easily be taken as their own.
Consistent with the District's Strategic Plan, there is still room to make classroom communication better. Homework posting is uneven among teachers and needs to improve. We need to develop methods so that teacher feedback on tests and assignments are more productive.
The website should be a place where parents and relevant stakeholders can locate current information about curriculum and instruction at all grade levels. I appreciate the weekly e-mail bulletins that announce district meetings and activities of interest, highlight school achievements and promote relevant community programs. Still, these bulletins should not compete with similar e-mails from HSA/PTA or other groups and perhaps there is a way for better coordination.
As a candidate for Board of Education, I have become more attuned to the different groups that are designed for more broad-based input, whether they are PT Council groups such as HSA/PTA, PPEC, and PAGE or Board appointed groups such as the Strategic Planning Committee.
We need to learn more about how well the recommendations of these groups are actually being vetted and discussed by the Board. I am not suggesting that all recommendations made by a committee be automatically adopted by the Board, but for those people who have taken the time from their days to participate in serious discussions for the betterment of our school community, they need to know that their recommendations were given serious consideration, and to the extent not adopted, a reason as to why they were not acted upon.
Probably the most important aspect to improving relations between the Board and the community is simple respect and honesty. When our public officials are dismissive of people who take the time to ask questions at the public session of a Board meeting, that sets a tone that is unbecoming for our community. When our public officials engage in wrong-doing, and then make misstatements about what occurred, that creates an atmosphere of mistrust which negatively impacts any positive progress the Board has made in other areas. When a Board member says they will take “responsibility” for their actions, we in the community are entitled to know exactly what that means.
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