School Committee, School Community

Does the School Committee go in the school buildings?

A recent post commented: “Our school committee does not come in the building very often nor spend time with us and see what it is that we do. (even pre pandemic)” where “we/us” in that sentence is teachers.

I wondered – how true is that? I assume it’s true for the original author but reflected on how much that statement generalizes. It seems inline with a broader sentiment during the teacher contract negotiations that tries to paint the School Committee as unreasonable, disinterested, and removed from the day-to-day work in the schools. I refreshed my own understanding of who and what type of people serve on School Committee. In doing so, I was surprised by what I (re)discovered so I thought I’d share here. I do not intend to call attention to any particular person on the School Committee, but rather intend to give my sense of who these volunteers are.

I’ve been at enough school committee meetings, subcommittee meetings, school building meetings, override study committee meetings, workshops, etc to get a glimpse of the work involved in being on School Committee. It’s an unpaid position, yet can easily take 20+ hours per week. These people volunteer to do this. Yet they are responsible for approving a $130 million dollar annual budget employing more than 1000 people and educating the ~7500 kids in this school system. Not a small amount of responsibility.

School Committee Survey

Who is the School Committee and are they disconnected from the schools? I’ve pulled snippets from their bios to paint a picture.

6 of 9 currently have kids in Brookline schools

  • “have three children at Driscoll and Brookline High School”
  • “have two daughters attending Lawrence School”
  • “Her daughter attends the Lawrence School and her son attends the Lincoln School.”
  • “have a son who is a third-grader at Pierce School and a graduate of BEEP”
  • “daughter attends the Lawrence School and her son attends the Lincoln School”
  • “have three children at Brookline High School, Pierce School, and in preschool.“

2 of the other 3 had kids in the Brookline schools in the past

  • “three children who graduated from the Runkle School and Brookline High School”
  • “two children attended Pierce School and Brookline High School”

Currently work or volunteer in Schools or Town:

  • “currently teaches fourth grade in the Newton Public Schools”
  • “treasurer of the Pierce PTO from 2014-2019 … and is in first term as co-president of the Brookline High School Alumni Association”
  • “has been an educator for more than thirty years in Connecticut and Massachusetts.  Most recently served as a special education teacher, a literacy coach, and then as an elementary school principal for the Boston Public Schools.”
  • “Brookline Town Meeting, where continues to serve. also volunteers time to several Brookline neighborhood associations.”
  • “served as a PTO Co-Chair for Driscoll School, was a member of Brookline SEPAC (Special Education Parent Advisory Council), and served on the School Principal Search Committee and Driscoll School Building Committee”

2 attended Brookline public schools themselves

  • “attended BEEP at Lynch Center, Lawrence School, and Brookline High School.”
  • “attended the Pierce School for pre-school, the Lincoln School for grades K-1, the Devotion School for grades 2-8, and Brookline High School for grades 9-12”

It Takes a Village

Such close connections to our town’s schools are why I’m glad they, as our elected officials, are involved in these negotiations. And why I largely trust & expect them to do so in good faith while balancing the needs of all parties.

The School Committee may not “come on the first day of school” in high school because 6 of 9 of them are walking their children into classrooms that day. Plus parents aren’t generally as active in the day-to-day lives of our high schoolers, whose experience is split across 5+ different teachers. I expect my teens to advocate for themselves vs me helicopter parenting them through the BHS hallways.

As a parent who has been a pretty active volunteer in our schools during my 3 kids journey, I get the partnership it takes between parents and teachers & school admins & staff to make it all work. Better relationships make for better experiences for everyone – kids, teachers, parents, staff. Science fairs don’t start & run themselves, PTOs don’t fund raise alone, overrides don’t get passed without support. My one gripe during my time volunteering at schools has been how a small number of parents seem to end up doing such a large share of the volunteering. But to somehow cast the School Committee as not involved in schools seems uninformed at best and intentionally questioning their commitment to the schools in the face of a contract negotiation at worst.

I do also appreciate the work teachers do. I’ve not found anything more important in the quality of my kids education than the curiosity, passion, creativity, and dedication of the teacher in the classroom. I wonder how much less contentious these discussions would be if we had a meaningful social safety net i.e. with affordable universal health care, reasonable retirement benefits, accessible child care, more affordable housings, and better access to good public transportation.

[Disclaimer: This is a personal post, I have no connection with the SC, no one was consulted by me in writing this, no one asked me to do it, no one knew I was doing it.]

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