Facebook is a convenient, readily available communication tool. But, unless the participants set a specific time for their session and a specific topic, it also can be a very frustrating and confusing tool that opens window to many misunderstandings. The closest simulation to a collaborative environment is a video conference, but individual speakers still may be plagued by technical problems or distracted by their surroundings.
A couple days ago, a resident asked a few questions at the Malverne FB group dedicated to the schools. The issue in question was “silence at recess and silence during the lunch.” The answers were coming as one would expect. Group members were voicing their insight, each trying to bring their experience to the table. Then, the new phase developed. One member asked the other for clarification of his/her previous input. The original topic faded to the sideline. Later, others started coming to the discussion when the original participants in the “meeting” were no longer present—typical FB scenario.
As long as the parties realize that FB interface allows only to lay a foundation of a topic, it works fine. Establishing a basic understanding of an issue is the maximum what FB interface can facilitate. Collaboratively working on solving an issue requires face-to-face interaction of involved parties. I consider the topic of collaborative environment to be of a great importance for parents and described examples in several previous posts.
In the school environment, committees assume the role of direct interaction. There are committees mandated federally, or by the state. For example, each Title I school is required to convene committees and provide opportunities for parents to get involved so that they have an opportunity to be heard. Some committees are created ad hoc, formed just for a short term, like the Bond Investment Plan committee (enlarge the picture). It will be dissolved once the plan is approved by the NYS commission. There are myriad successfully working committees in our surroundings: (committee on how to arrange grades in buildings, drop-off zone traffic committee, curriculum, wellness, safety, legislative and instructional committee, resolutions, search, budget, building goals, district goals, etc).
The school matters are so dynamic and fast paced that working committees are vital for smoothly operating school district. Although the committees enjoy certain autonomy, they have only advisory role to the BOE or the district CEO. The collaborative process of involved parties working on issues is what makes committees important.
Why is it that Malverne UFSD doesn’t have a solid base of parents involved in committees? There are many reasons. One of them is that the SD covers administrative areas of 4 different villages! Historically, the skin color division has certainly played a role, too. And the management’s philosophy of isolationism also contributes to the problem.
While students in higher grades will glide to a successful graduation in current settings, parents coming into the system will most likely go through a tumultuous transformation. They need to do research to stay abreast of developments. The internet allows to review and discuss what is being implemented in the neighboring village, or in the farthest tip of the country. The committees help analyze, adjust, and implement the researched topics. I have a dream one day our collaborative environment attracts attention of educational foundations and the surrounding schools will head in a direction similar to that of the Mission Hill school.
What is your dream? How should the education transform?