Rockwood School District – A taxpayers’ opinion on community engagement in Rockwood
July 17, 2012 3 Comments
The wishy-washy “Process for Community Engagement” plan that the Rockwood Board of Education just announced sounds very much like several other initiatives that I have read from over 25 years of being a Rockwood parent and taxpayer. They all read pretty much the same, with carefully worded, boilerplate platitudes about how the community is part of the “team.”
Pollyanna, I have some bad news for you. We are definitely not part of the Rockwood team. They are in charge and they like it that way.
Here’s the deal: we are the paying part of the team, and they are the spending part of the team.
Exactly what is the Board hoping to achieve with this feel-good initiative? Why does Rockwood keep hiring this consulting firm, UNICOM, when we supposedly have here in our own district the best, top-notch planners and thinkers around? I’m assuming that is the reason they can command such high salaries. What are we paying these administrators for?
The Board says that they want feedback, and we have given them feedback so many times, over and over, and the message is always the same two words: SPEND LESS. Is the Board wishin’ and hopin’ that we have maybe forgotten about all of the problems in the last two years and that we will now clamor for more spending? I don’t think so!
The recent election is a case in point. Board of Education, we voted AGAINST the bond issue and it doesn’t matter if you live in Minnesota, Missouri or Washington, D.C. – that is called “feedback.”
The message is that the taxpayers are really getting fed up with Rockwood’s spending policies. In these tough economic times, the message is “tighten the belt,” and that especially includes the bloated salaries of Rockwood’s top administrators.
We have TOO many administrators, especially in our middle and high schools. Here’s a solution: phase out their jobs, and as older teachers retire, plug them back in the classroom where they can REALLY make a difference.
One key element of The Board Plan is to “develop a facilitating team of Rockwood citizens to lead the charge.” Rockwood has used this tactic many times in the past, always with ulterior motives.
A few years ago, the Board was on the same fundraising bandwagon as today’s board. They recruited community members to be on “focus groups” with the purpose of discussing the future of the district. My neighbor was one of those people who was called. He and the other volunteers felt honored to be chosen to be in such a prestigious group, and they were eager to help shape the future of the district.
These district committees are an ideal climate to schmooze with and indoctrinate people. As it turns out, these same community members were then urged to get out and work for the upcoming bond election. Our district’s administration is constantly focused on the bond proposals. When one is passed, work immediately begins to plan for the next proposal. If the Board devoted only half as much energy in figuring out how to get by with less, we could live within our budget.
In this new initiative document, the Board says that they want to have the Rockwood school community participate in an inclusive process of community engagement. Hmmm. Isn’t that what the school board meetings are for? People go to the meetings, they voice their views, the Board listens, theoretically, that is, and then they make up their minds based on the input from the taxpayers. That’s the way it is supposed to work, theoretically.
But often times in Rockwood, as in other bureaucracies, decisions are already made before they are even announced to the public. Committees are often formed to make decisions on whom to hire, when in fact the person has already been selected for that job, for example.
Decisions are made in closed sessions and in back rooms, and the public is invited to give their opinion when the sole purpose of the survey is to make the taxpayer, employee, parent or student feel as though they have participated. It is only an ILLUSION of participation. True participation would mean that the Board would actually have to listen and make changes based on the input.
The Board document states that they want to “define the challenges” facing the district. Hey, isn’t that what we did within the last two years, when taxpayers, employees and parents were given a chance to give their frank opinions on the website? It looked like a “defining problems” process to me. Without fear of recrimination, hundreds of employees, parents and taxpayers, myself included, made their opinions known in clear terms.
On the district website, I recall reading dozens of pages of comments, that represented hundreds, perhaps thousands of comments. Those comments “defined the problems.” Did the Board not READ those comments?
At the time, I recall thinking: “Great. Now that the board knows how everyone feels about these problems, we can start to make changes to fix them and create a better district.” But guess what? Nothing changed after that, unless you count the usual, periodic reshuffling of the employees at the district offices. Names of offices got changed and shuffled around, new furniture and stationery got ordered, new business cards were printed, and some employees got chucked out. That allowed the administration to hire some other people that they liked better.
The self-important administrators at the two district offices are not doing the real work of our school district. The real work is teaching students and that is being done by teachers, not administrators. How is this survey going to help students?
This community engagement plan is simply another stall tactic to distract taxpayers, employees and parents from the real work that the Board should be doing.
This is just another example of “The Rockwood Way.” Just keep everything humming along the way it has always been, and please keep that tax money rolling in. The Rockwood Board is just like that old Paul Simon song. “They hear what they want to hear, and disregard the rest.
An astute and FOCUSED Rockwood taxpayer and parent