Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Bill Glynn - sit and chat summary

In his lawn chair, one man was reading near the bandstand on the Town Common. The concerts are scheduled for Weds. Was he waiting for the concert? No, Bill Glynn was waiting for folks to show up for the "Sit & Chat".

They did come. By ones and twos, a total of seven. A mother with her children in Franklin schools who also works as a teacher. A father with children in the school whose wife is a teacher. She was at the boys baseball game, so he came. Two more mothers, coordinators for one of the school PCC organizations. Another mother with two little ones just getting into the school system, curious to understand what their future in the schools might be like. Another mother (also a teacher) brought her son who will be a senior at Franklin High in September (yes, he did want to come along).

Curious, they came to see what the discussion would be like.

Curious, they came to talk about Franklin.

Bill stopped reading when I arrived. The conversation circle we started then expanded with each new arrival. Greetings, small talk (how many kids in school, what school, how did you hear about this, etc.) developed a rhythm, a gentle conversation on a summer evening on the Common.

Were the problems of Franklin solved?
No. There are no easy solutions.

Was it beneficial to talk?
Yes, it was good. There are folks concerned about what is happening. There are folks willing to step up and find out what's going on.

How would I summarize the conversation?

  • Many folks recognize that education is important. Class size increases are not good. People may be surprised when they see the number of kids in their child's room.
  • The teachers are not happy with how Mr Roy (Jeff Roy, School Committee Chair) has portrayed the FEA (teacher's union) in the newspaper. If this is his attempt at winning the power struggle, from the teachers perspective, he is hurting Franklin more than he thinks he is winning.
  • The change to the six period schedule at the high school has been both good and bad. Good in that the schedule itself works. Bad in that the schedule change has reduced the variety of electives. Bad in that along with other teacher staffing changes, some forced by the budget cuts, some with individual teacher decisions (i.e. retirements), some programs have seen a great deal of change. The example cited was five language teachers in three years. Other students had benefited from the same teacher for the four years in that language. 
  • The high school student asked how do students get involved? What are the channels available? All are available. Come to the meetings, view via the web broadcast. If they want School Committee people to meet with them that can be scheduled.
  • The conversation started too late to get the information out for this years override. People were asking what's happening, what's coming and when it all came out, it was too much, too late.
  • Some folks believe Franklin schools have always been good. They don't realize that in the 70's the school system was not well respected.
  • Some parents may be choosing to send their kids to Xaverian and other private high schools. It may be good that they can afford to do so but their students still end up at Westfield or Framingham. The belief amongst some parents is that the preparation at Franklin High is really better than that which could be obtained elsewhere. So while they can afford to pay for a private high school what are they really buying? What are they saving?
  • The concern is that while the students education has been preparing them for the evolving world at the high school today, will the preparation of the students in the lower grades now be sufficient to help them be ready for high school when they go there? Bill shared that in his work with college deans, they have expressed that their concern is many students coming to college are not prepared for it. In that case, the parents end up paying for the remedial study for the students. So what have the parents really saved?
  • What will the high school be like when today's elementary and middle school students get there? What will class sizes be like then? What programs will be available then? Will it be renovated?
  • Would there be two overrides next year? Technically, there could be one override for the operational budget in May/June 2011. There could also be a debt override for the high school renovation later in 2011 (Nov/Dec), if the current state planning schedule holds.
  • How do we get the information out? Reach out to the pre-school mothers. Reach out to all the youth sports groups. Continue the forums, the PCC meetings, the standard notifications. We need to find out how to reach the folks to help them realize that it matters to them. To their home values, to their children's future.

Did I miss something? Maybe, I am not perfect.

I think I got the gist of the conversation. Bill does plan to do this again. His August's schedule is already hectic so maybe in September.

My thanks to Bill for taking the time to have this conversation.

Many thanks to those folks who came and hopefully had their curiosity satisfied.

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Note: Bill Glynn is a first term member of the Franklin School Committee.

Franklin, MA

4 comments:

  1. Who is Bill Glynn? Thanks. . .

    ReplyDelete
  2. Michelle, thanks for the reminder for me to fully identify folks when referenced. Bill is a first term member of the School Committee.

    I have updated the posting to add this to it.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I am posting this on behalf of Bill Glynn:

    I’d like to thank everyone who took the time to come out and have an informal discussion on a beautiful summer evening. I thought it was a good meeting and I plan to schedule another one before too long.

    I’d like to comment on the second bullet item in Steve’s writeup. I disagree with Steve’s bullet and I have a very different interpretation on the meaning of the comment that was expressed about Jeff Roy during our meeting last night. One of the attendees, who knows Jeff personally, was upset by Jeff’s comments in last week’s Milford Daily News article: http://www.milforddailynews.com/topstories/x1279445955/Franklins-bid-to-save-three-teacher-jobs-fails. This person felt that Jeff’s comments seemed to blame teachers and some teachers were upset about it. The casual reader probably wouldn’t realize the underlying subtlety in her comment, but the underlying anxiety is tied to the belief that some people (perhaps many) don’t draw a distinction between the FEA and teachers at large so blaming the FEA for something is tantamount to blaming the teachers. In this case, the result is the inability to restore 3 teaching positions and the “complaint” was that Jeff’s comments may be interpreted by some as “the teachers don’t even care about helping their own fellow teachers”.

    First, the article really didn’t impress me as Jeff overtly casting blame. The first comment attributed to Jeff clearly says “we” (the School Committee and the FEA) didn’t discuss the proposal in time to restore the 3 teaching positions. The second attributed comment stated that the School Committee didn’t hear back from the FEA at all regarding interest in discussing the proposal. That’s a true statement. The article also gave the FEA President Robert McLaughlin the opportunity to share his thoughts on the situation, which he did.

    Second, I know that Jeff and all of us on the School Committee realize that an FEA statement or action may or may not reflect the viewpoint of any individual teacher or even the teachers as a group – unless of course a specific vote is taken. That’s the same situation for the School Committee. Our individual thoughts are just that until such time that a vote is taken and a School Committee viewpoint is established. Even though I can only speak for myself, I feel comfortable stating that the following sentiment is shared by Jeff and the entire School Committee when I say: I know that teachers care about their students as well as their colleagues and I truly value our teachers.

    A key issue that should be highlighted is that we have no shortage of problems and we all need to be focused on problem solving, which leads me to my final point. In my opinion, we need to broaden and not restrict the interaction between all stakeholders: residents, teachers, school committee members, administrative staff, and students. That was a primary goal for the meeting last night. Negotiations between a union and an employer are just that, negotiations. Discussions between the actual stakeholders at all levels is where education happens, ideas are generated, and problem solving starts to take place. I’m glad that a couple of teachers came to the meeting and I hope that more teachers attend the next meeting and I hope they bring a lot more residents with them.

    ReplyDelete