Wednesday, April 6, 2011

School Committee Observations

Disclaimer: I have a life (No, really!) and only managed to catch part of the School Committee meeting earlier this week.

This is pretty cool. Salem Access TV has some city meetings available for online viewing. You can actually watch the School Committee meeting I'm about to discuss here. (Full disclosure, didn't work for me.)

Anyway, I turned on the meeting this week to try to catch some comments from the public on the proposal by James Fleming to rename the Witchcraft Heights Elementary School. Unfortunately I was too late. I previously mentioned the Salem Patch poll on Facebook. Here's an update. 251 oppose the name change, 5 approve. The Salem MA facebook page posted a similar poll. Results there are 579 opposed, 17 in favor, and 4 maybe. I would hope the writing is on the wall there.

I did see one interesting opinion that gave me pause. The commenter suggested naming the yet-to-be-built senior center after Councilor O'Leary. That idea may have some merit, and should really be considered. There is no renaming cost to naming a new structure. If I were the city I'd poll the population, making sure to get more than ample senior participation, on this concept.

But back to the School Committee. When I turned the TV on there was quite a conversation going on about Massachusetts wiretapping law, and how it was illegal to record someone without their consent. (If you're a longtime reader you know that certain Derby Lofters like to do this.) You can read more about the recording issue in John Zorabedian's piece for Salem Patch. Cameron came across as incensed by this recording of teachers by students, and it really made me wonder what was captured on the recordings. I have to believe it was scandalous in that there was more than simple teaching and learning going on. One of the school committee members' comments made me wonder if threats against a teacher were caught on the recording. Alternatively, I wonder if a teacher was recording saying something improper or unprofessional. There making a big deal about it if some kid was just recording the lesson to study.

Moving on, I know it's akin to suicide to criticize a teacher, but here I go. A large portion of the meeting part that I was able to see involved a presentation on new technology, done by some teachers and somebody in the technology department for the school district. First, it is kind of embarrassing when you are one of the technology leads for the district, and you need to have the Committee stall for you because you can't get the projector for your presentation to work. Additionally, it was almost impossible to make any sense of what any of the presenters were saying. When did teachers' communication skills become so poor? I mean, they really came across as incoherent. I get that they were probably nervous. They were in front of their bosses, and a crowd, and on TV, but public speaking and communicating ideas is a huge part of their jobs. The committee was rude, and didn't help the situation at all. All I can say is that my spouse and I were horrified, and wondered if we need to move before our child reaches school age.

The only thing worse than the incoherence of the instructors was the conduct of much of the School Committee members themselves during these presentations. Did they forget that there were microphones in front of them? They were constantly talking during the presentation, often muttering to each other. Fleming (OK, I have issues with him, but seriously) cracked I don't know how many jokes while these people were tyring to teach him something. I also specifically heard Dr. Walsh, Dr. Crane, and Mr. Carr's voices several times while the teachers were in the middle of speaking. They showed an utter lack of respect for the people trying to speak before them, and it was truly poor form. Show some respect people!

I wondered if this wasn't really as bad as it seemed on TV, so I told someone who was there that I was shocked at how inarticulate some of the teachers seemed, and how rude some of the committee was. I asked if it was any better in person. His response was simple. "It was excruciating."

1 comment:

  1. I have attended a couple of school committee meetings in my lifetime, G. I discovered that they are even more boring and outrageous (rude behavior of elected officials) than city council meetings. I would rather watch reruns of Gomer Pyle.


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