The Recorder – My Turn: Greenfield School Committee must move forward with public forums
Published: 08/23/2022 20:57:40
Modified: 08/23/2022 20:54:04
This letter is in response to a recent Recorder article about the Greenfield School Board and its survey of parents. Due to the very low response rate, the committee assumed that there was no point in holding periodic forums for parents to discuss any issues they might have. The article pointed out that the parents may have been too busy to answer the survey because life is so complex right now. While I believe that may be a problem, I would suggest that the committee may be going about it the wrong way.
If the issue is to encourage more communication between the community, which I could say includes non-parents/guardians as well as students and business owners, then there might be a need to be more proactive to reach out. I encourage the committee to pursue the idea of open dialogue forums. I would like to see them held in a neutral site like the Senior Center. They could consider having a topic they pitch for 10-15 minutes that the community is interested in and then open it up for comments on any topic with more reasonable timelines. I was happy to see that committee member Ms. Deneeve was interested in pursuing some sort of forum approach.
The article also mentioned the committee’s concern about the legal issues associated with the forums. While I’m sure there are issues, if the committee really wants these forums, they can come up with guidelines to deal with the issues rather than using legal constraints as an excuse to shut down the discussion. Perhaps another way to address some people’s more specific concerns would be to have some school administrators available for 10-minute conversations with interested parties. Administrators took turns on the forums, maybe two or three each time. If people need more than 10 minutes, they can make an appointment with the administrator during business hours.
Designing an open and respectful communication process is an essential part of a school community. Community members need to know that their school committee is there to listen to them and be the bridge between them and the school district. The school committee had the right idea here, they just need to be more proactive and willing to work to develop the process. I hope the school committee will realize the importance of communication and give it the time it deserves to develop.
Shirley Gilfether is a Greenfield resident and retired educator with 42 years of service.