BY GABE LICHT
When I learned about a special Delano School Board meeting set for Feb. 18, I had two choices: I could cancel previously-made plans, or I could skip the meeting.
The agenda included a robotics trip to North Dakota, a memorandum of understanding with part-time custodians, the updated 2018-19 school calendar, and the 2019-20 school calendar.
Primarily, the two calendars jumped out to me as potential items to cover.
However, I had essentially covered the main aspect of the 2018-19 school calendar in a separate article about snow days.
Then, I figured the 2019-20 calendar would be similar to other calendars and discussed more in depth at Monday’s work session or regular meeting.
As my old friend Nate used to say, “That’s what you get for figurin’.”
The calendar did not come up during the work session, but during a discussion about listening session topics, there were references to the literacy program and related late starts that will affect the calendar.
Before the board approved the calendar, Superintendent Matt Schoen said, “The biggest challenge is the built-in late start for the literacy initiative. We will be communicating with parents in the near future.”
There was no other discussion.
As much as I’d like to see more discussion at regular board meetings, or at least a summary of previous discussions for the benefit of those watching at home, that is perhaps a topic for another day.
What I would like to address is the fact that the only way the community could have known about the change before Monday’s meeting would have been by me reporting on it a week ago, following the special work session.
While I believe I am a sort of watchdog, and I take that role seriously, I believe there are times when our public bodies could do more to communicate future plans with the community.
Take the Delano Intermediate School’s zero hour Wednesdays as an example. Before this policy was implemented, before construction of the school was even completed, Principal Barry Voight hosted forums where topics such as zero hour were presented and discussed.
I would have liked to see the district take this approach with the two-hour late start policy.
I would have even helped publicize such a meeting.
This approach would have been beneficial to both the parents and district leadership.
Parents would know about the policy before it was approved and be able to provide feedback.
That feedback would have been valuable to the district’s decision makers.
Perhaps parents would have pointed out aspects of the change that administration and the school board had yet to consider. I understand the board discussed the proposal at length and threw around a lot of ideas and scenarios, but that doesn’t mean they thought of everything.
Schoen and School Board Chair Mark Larson both told me they don’t want the calendar change to create a hardship for anyone, and if it does, they will address it on a case-by-case basis.
I believe that, and I also believe this initiative will be beneficial for both students and staff.
However, wouldn’t it have been better to be able to gauge just how many hardships this might create for families before approving it and making that commitment?
With about 2,500 students in the district, if there are conflicts for even 5 percent of the student population, that would be 125 students to accommodate. Is the district equipped to handle those kinds of numbers?
Of course, this is only a hypothetical situation, and there’s no way for anyone to know what the actual number will be until the change actually happens. However, district leadership could have had a better idea of how many people will be affected had the proposal been communicated earlier.
That is the main reason for my position on this issue.
For the record, I understand the district cannot communicate everything to everyone before making decisions. It would be a logistical nightmare.
Plus, those who really want their input to be heard could run for school board, attend meetings, or at least contact school administration.
But, there are certain things that should be communicated upfront to as many parents as possible, and I believe this topic falls into that category.
The Delano School District has a plethora of resources available to execute such communication.
I, as a representative of the Delano Herald Journal and the communication options we offer, am one of those resources.
I look forward to working with the district to making sure everyone is informed, or at least as informed as they want to be.
That starts with me showing up, or at least being aware of what’s going on, so I can make an educated decision about the best way to pass on pertinent information.