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Nov. 9, 2006

Better discussion needed throughout the community

by Merlyn Deng, Online Editor-in-Chief and Lois Bangiolo, Online Managing Editor
Although much of the fervor surrounding it has dissipated, the ID policy and other administrative decisions remain a mystery to the school's students and parents. While the media-dubbed "student uproar" has subsided, this lack of understanding raises a legitimate concern about the overall communication in all school matters between the administration and the Blair community.

When freshman Eli Barnett walked into Blair and was handed an ID, he thought, "What's the big deal?" For the next few weeks, Barnett joined many other students on SCO to voice his concerns along with the rest of the student body on Silver Chips Online's forums. Despite the deluge of comments on SCO about the IDs, many students and parents remained confused about the many new, and difficult to track, changes that had just taken place in their school.

What Q&A session?

On Tuesday, Oct. 17, Principal Phillip Gainous and SGA President Eric Hysen held a discussion forum during both lunches to address any student concerns regarding the ID policy. Even though SCO had received over several hundred comments since the ID policy's implementation, the poor attendance at the meeting seemed to reflect a startling disparity; were our students just content to complain about the administration? However, the small number of students at the meeting shows the problem: miscommunication. Many students had found out about the meeting just hours before it was held.

One of the students who did attend, Barnett, said that the ID Q&A session alleviated some of his concerns about the ID policy. "Before the ID Q&A session, there was no way I could have [fully understood] about the policy that was implemented," he said.

In light of the student outcry, the parents' concerns and even the local media's attention, the ID policy has been bogged in a quagmire of miscommunication. Instead of giving us a document that, according to Barnett, was "vaguely worded," we students should receive a clear-cut document that explains some of the details that were lost in translation when the initial policy was released, including the additional temporary passes. Certainly, the administration has taken strides to communicate the new changes, although these revisions to the policy were addressed only at the Oct. 17 PTSA meeting, which approximately 15 people attended.

The PTSA loop

Every month, the administration holds a PTSA meeting to address any parental concerns, which included the ID policy at last month's meeting. The PTSA has always served as a conduit of news for the rest of the community. Those who regularly stay in contact with the PTSA are well informed about the constant changes made in our school; however, those who don't attend the meetings or are not subscribed to the PTSA listerv, are left out of the vital PTSA-administration loop.

Even those in the loop have recognized the need for improved communication. During Fran Rothstein's three year tenure as co-president of the PTSA, she found that while the PTSA was kept well informed by the administration, the same level of understanding did not extend to the whole school. "Although Mr. Gainous's communications with the PTSA co-presidents usually met that standard, general communication from the school too often missed the mark," she said. For parents wanting to stay informed, the PTSA is an invaluable source of information, and Rothstein stresses the need for every parent and teacher to join.

While such parental and teacher involvement is an unlikely situation, proper communication between the administration and students, parents and teachers is not an impossible goal.

Call for action

Although many of the problems were caused by the late distribution of IDs, printing mistakes and additional changes, the controversy about the ID policy was exacerbated by the miscommunication between the administration and the rest of the school. While the commotion over the ID policy has died down, the general problem of miscommunication has not been solved.

The burden of communication does not solely lie on the administration; parents also need to improve their involvement. "Communication is a two-way street," Rothstein says, noting that besides joining the PTSA, parents should also talk with their children's teachers and coaches and come into the school to volunteer to stay in touch with the Blair community. To help improve communication, Rothstein believes, Blair needs to create a new comprehensive communication plan that includes channels for input from all groups - parents, students, teaching faculty and administration - and better ways to send news about Blair events, policy and special accomplishments.

Both parents and the administration need to work on improving their communication. The administration should send clear and well-explained updates directly to parents, incorporating the PTSA, but not relying solely on it. They have taken admirable strides to bridge the gap, but there must be more parents and students on the other side to receive them. The PTSA works as an intermediary to relay concerns, but for this to truly work, more parental input and attendance at meetings are imperative. PTSA meetings serve as a place where everyone can gather to improve communications to include the school as a whole, not just parents and administration, but students as well.

Students need to remember that their voices can be heard on equal ground with parents and administration. While many students have complained that the administration does little with the students' wishes in mind, that is not the case. Active student involvement already helped relieve the severity of punishments in the ID policy, and that power should not be ignored. Over the past weeks, we have seen that many students are finely tuned to the happenings in our school, and this activism should extend far past the confines of the internet.



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  • Libertarian (View Email) on November 9, 2006 at 8:51 PM
    I'm sorry, but I place the majority of the blame on the administration for this problem. I get almost all of the news about SCHOOL POLICY from SCO and Silver Chips. I mean that's the purpose of a newspaper, but I shouldn't have to find out the actual rules from Silver Chips. ID policy, I'm still not sure on all the details. The pledge? Half the teachers still think they can force kids to stand during the pledge. I have looked for both of these policies and the only place I could find them was Silver Chips. There needs to be somewhere to find all the school policies, be it online or in some publication they hand out (similar the the "Rights and Responsibilities booklet).

    BTW, this seems a better place than ever, but I know I mentioned a petition, and it got a few signatures, but because of the fact that the administration has toned the punishments down and the fact that no one really enforces it anyway, I am not doing it anymore. I am still 100% against the ID policy, and if someone else wants to take charge that's fine (email me at above address), but I think we need to pick our battles, and fighting a little-enforced, better-than-last-year, stupid ID policy is a battle I'll let go.

    But good job Silver Chips. If the administration can't let us know what the rules are at our school it's great that at least you do.
  • Tempest in a Teapot on November 10, 2006 at 8:54 AM
    Enough already! I'm so tired of reading about this policy on SCO. Ever hear of beating a dead horse? Find some other real scandal to cover and leave this alone. Nothing is going to change this year, so put on the stupid ID and lanyard and work to change things for next year! And have the sense to realize that this so-called issue is not serious enough to warrant this level of attention.
  • Eli Barnett on November 10, 2006 at 9:12 AM
    Yes, the administration made the policy a lot more reasonable. Yes, it may be worthless, stupid, and uninforced, but it really isnt inconveniencing anyone right now. They really did a HORRIBLE job of informing the students about the changes they made, however.
  • disgruntled parent on November 10, 2006 at 1:57 PM
    I agree with Libertarian that the main source of news is Chips but a student newspaper shouldn't be the source of school policy! That means Blair admin. isn't doing its job. The PTSA tries, but many parents cannot come to PTSA meetings and again, the admin. should not be relying on PTSA to relay important information, especially as it meets only once a month. Since Chips Online is the only daily, on top of things source of info. I suggest a weekly column/newsletter from the Principals (they can take turns so Mr. Gainous and Mrs. Wanner don't have to do it all) with important news, announcements, policy changes etc. Think how much fuss could have been avoided if the ID policy had been published on the first day of school!
  • yall cicin' it on November 10, 2006 at 5:18 PM
    What can any body possibly be confused about? wear your id everyday. simple.
  • Libertarian (View Email) on November 10, 2006 at 11:26 PM
    "What can any body possibly be confused about? wear your id everyday. simple." - yall cicin' it

    What can anyone be confused about? Until today the only way to get Saturday detention was refusing to put on an ID when asked (insubordination). All of a sudden Gainous (at least I think that's who it was) announces that if we're not wearing our ID's in the halls between periods we'll get Saturday detention? And you don't think the policy is confusing? Is it insubordination to forget to put an ID on after PE? After being outside during lunch?
  • Someone you may know on November 12, 2006 at 3:48 PM
    The Q&A session was poorly announced. I only heard the announcement one day before. One of my teachers claims that the announcement ran for an entire week, but I honestly didn't hear it and I tend to listen to those types of annoucements.

    To Libertarian:
    That is what the announcement said. However, I do believe it was a slip of the tongue. At least, I hope it was.

    To Tempest in a Teapot:
    Actually, SCO and SilverChips have basically stopped discussing ID policy. Before this, the last article about the ID policy came out on October 18, almost a month ago. And that article was not about the policy itself, but the media attention surrounding the policy.

    Also, is not five MCPS school had athletes whose grades were intentionally changed, the election results, the US Secretary of Defense resigning, students leaving campus to buy lunch, and the fire alarm being pulled enough of a scandal for you? [Just a few of things that SCO and SilverChips have written about between this article and the last article regarding the ID policy]

    And in case you didn't notice, "ID Policy Palooza" link is not on the SCO mainpage.

    If you think that the ID policy is all SilverChips reports on, you really must never read SilverChips or SCO.
  • doen't matter on November 15, 2006 at 10:30 AM
    ok. How many articles were written based on the ID's? HOw many people refused to wear them and how many of us gave up because obviously no one cares ablout what the students think in this school. For god's sake an article critizising the ID's was on WASHINgTON POST!!!! did any administrator say "boo" when that happened????NO!!!!! so u know what? don't blame the "poor attendance"at the Q&A session and say students didn't care we do care but OUR VOICES ARE NEVER HEARD.
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