School superintendent Bonny Gifford was disappointed by the very small turnout at a presentation on the “public schools year in review.” It was attended by only a small number of staff and the parents of the student shooting video for FCTV. The superintendent’s disappointment is understandable; she and her staff clearly devoted a good deal of time to the presentation. It would have been nice if there were parents and residents there to benefit from it.
It wasn’t that no one had anything interesting to say. Dr. Gifford outlined her strategic plan. Curriculum director Mark Wilson talked of the importance of hands-on experimental learning projects and the importance to democratic societies of teaching children to speak in public. Those attending also heard from technology and libraries director Wendy
Haskell who spoke to the importance of technology as learning tools.
It was an evening given to the progress and achievements in the schools. And that is the way it was advertised.
It was a well-intentioned idea, but most parents would no doubt agree that it lacked what is referred to in the advertising business as a “value proposition.”
While it is nice to hear about success and progress in the schools, an informational session is of little value to parents and residents. They may appreciate those qualities, but there is little to motivate anyone to spend an hour or two of a Thursday evening in the high school library.
If, on the other hand, the superintendent and her staff made themselves available to answer questions and listen to concerns of the community, it would be a proposition of considerable value. People generally don’t care to hear about what is right and on track, they want to talk about what they believe is wrong and how things could be made better.
The letters columns in this newspaper are ample evidence of this.
Listening to concerns and suggestions of change is not easy, especially when the goal is to focus on the positive. But it would be giving parents and residents the value they are looking for. And the value proposition for the school administration is that people are far more likely to listen if they feel they have been listened to. Provide value and Dr. Gifford and her staff may find they have a willing audience for their positive messages about the schools.