Groups aim to incorporate community's voice into schools, but insufficient
Eleven recently developed committees intended to improve school policies have yet to gain student participants due to a lack of publicity, according to group leaders.
This year, staff members came together to form committees through which the entire Blair community can work to propose changes, discuss issues and raise concerns. These committees include Advanced Placement and honors support and a committee based on a business model by former Secretary of Commerce Malcolm Baldridge.
Nine of the committees are open to students, staff members and parents. As of the third week of October, no students had been present at the meetings, despite the fact that students can earn Student Service Learning (SSL) hours for their involvement.
Media specialist Lisa Hack noticed little student interest because, according to her, students are unaware that they are allowed to join. "It's going to take a little while to catch on," she said.
Since the meetings started last month, they have received little publicity. No signs were posted in the hallways, and InfoFlow aired one announcement regarding the committees. The sign-up sheets are posted in the back of the main office, on the wall behind the teacher mailboxes. Committee leaders have not given clear reasons why publicity has been slow for the committees.
Bonnie Malkin, the vice-president of student achievement for the PTSA, believes that students need incentives for joining. She approves of the distribution of SSL hours to students but also described a need for better recruiting efforts by teachers. "Teachers could identify students who they think might be interested, or Connections teachers could mention it in all their classes," she said.
Another obstacle to the committees' success is organization. The program has no official coordinators, contributing to a disconnect between the Baldridge ideals and the actual incorporation of Baldridge into everyday instruction.
The development of the committees is part of a recent MCPS effort for schools to adopt the Baldridge business model, which is a method that uses feedback from members of the school community to improve policies. Including the input of students, parents and staff - or the "stakeholders," in Baldridge terms - in the creation of school policy is central to the process, according to staff development teacher Pamela Leith.
Several MCPS elementary schools have successfully created systems based on Baldridge. Many schools are also eliminating the MCPS-required School Improvement Plan in favor of the more flexible options available under the Baldridge process. The result is an improvement plan that can be changed as needed by stakeholders. MCPS officials hope to replace the School Improvement Plan with the Baldridge Plan by September 2006, according to the MCPS web site.
Student and staff collaboration are imperative to the program's success, according to Leith. "We really need kids and students who are willing to get involved, particularly in surveying the other students and stakeholders," she said. "We want to make sure people understand that we need input."
Becca Sausville. Becca is a senior who is keeping the dinosaur dream alive. She loves Silver Chips a lot, possibly more than life itself. More »