Chair Jones has stated that he wants “active, critical support” from the public. For the past few years, several of us in Dear JCPS have been trying to provide just that. On numerous topics, we have attended stakeholder meetings, had one-on-one conversations, sent emails to board members and administration, but have been unsuccessful in seeing our concerns and feedback make it into the final presentation. Similar to the “telephone game,” by the time this feedback makes it up the chain of the administration and it culminates with a presentation and subsequent board decision, it’s hardly recognizable. Outcomes surrounding assignment of students from Myers Middle School and defunding Challenger Learning Center could have been improved significantly if there had been a better method for us to provide critical input than the current system.
At various board meetings and public gatherings, several of us started to compare notes, and we realized that we were not alone in these experiences. We were especially disturbed when we heard from teachers who were afraid of (or had already experienced) retribution for providing constructive feedback to the administration. That is why we decided to start Dear JCPS.
By conducting this anonymous letter writing campaign, our intent is to collect stakeholder input on numerous topics that we feel that the board is not fully aware of, and provide it directly to the board – with no middle man. We also plan continue to seek accountability on those items of greatest concern going forward. Until a better public input mechanism can be created, we intend to create a public log of these concerns, so that they can no longer be lost in the bureaucracy.
We are all on the same team. We want to improve public education. Chair Jones says he wants our input, but we are not sure if he is aware that the current feedback system is broken. We are just trying to rebuild that bridge so that critical information can be factored into the decision-making process. Despite how some administrators have tried to position Dear JCPS as adversarial, including blocking access to our website internally (strange action for an organization that says it wants stakeholder input), our organization’s goal is simply to be the “critical friend” the district so badly needs. We hope they will accept our letters and other feedback as a way to answer Chair Jones’ call. We’re here to help.