Greetings Dr. Hargens, Chair Jones and Board Members:
I’m here on behalf of a new organization called Dear JCPS. You may have heard of us. 😉 We represent hundreds of parents, community members, and another hundred or more teachers across the district. The list of supporting members is published on our website at dearjcps.com, and it grows daily.
We started our organization because we looked for a parent advocacy group and realized that there was not one in JCPS. When we have spoken with people moving in from other communities, they were surprised to learn that there is no independent group to advocate and present feedback from the stakeholders’ perspective.
We know that you are busy and get a lot of input from a lot of sources. Yet, when big decisions are being voted on, sometimes valid concerns and great suggestions we have heard on the ground were not making their way up to the persons making recommendations to the board — feedback that we knew could improve the outcome for the students of JCPS — Our goal was to find a way to give those voices wings.
We started as an open letter forum so that more stakeholders would have the opportunity to have their ideas and concerns heard before important decisions were made by the board. We’ve also come to discover that parents and teachers are sometimes hesitant to share their suggestions and opinions with those higher up out of fear of retaliation. So we also have started listening to the feedback we get on social media, in private messages, and in person visits. We plan to research and vet that information into concise message points for the board to consider.
Our group has met and begun selecting the topics that we will include in our agenda for this year. These topics revolve around supporting public education, while advocating for equity, narrowing achievement gaps, reducing effects of standardized testing, investing in students in poverty, reading recovery, more enrichment and less test prep for kids in poverty, customer service breakdowns and transparency within the district. We also seek accountability from JCPS after items have been voted on by the board. Examples, Closing of Myers Middle School, bringing in an outsider operator for Challenger, and will be keeping an eye on the progression of the Vision 2020 document, and the exit strategy for the priority schools.
We have representatives in every one of your districts. Each of you will have a member on our team who will be available to you, if you need us to look into something for you. That person will also provide you with regular
updates from our meetings. Hopefully as we grow we will have representatives in every school, as well.
We know the district is looking ahead five, ten years down the road. Sometimes when you turn the boat around, some kids get caught in the wake. While overall, numbers may be improving, often it’s the same, kids year after year, who feel the greatest impact from these changes, which is what can propagate learning gaps. Long term goals are great, but a sense of urgency and collaboration with the folks in the trenches is also important to minimize collateral damage. We feel like we can help provide you with Information that can lead to better short term details without derailing the long term plans. These two concepts are not mutually exclusive.
We would rather see the district invest more early on than let needs fester. It costs considerably more to bring a 9th grader up from a 3rd grade reading level than it does to bring a 4th grader up from a 3rd grade reading level. Those investments will pay off tenfold.
Every child deserves and education, and regardless of the obstacles a child faces, the goal is for every student to be successful in their life after graduating from JCPS. We are here to support and raise up the voices of the stakeholders for the betterment of our children’s futures.