GUEST OPINION: What is the plan for local schools?
Published: Monday, January 7, 2013 at 5:26 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, January 7, 2013 at 5:26 p.m.
Public schools around the county are reopening this week, and the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy will weigh heavily on the minds of parents as they drop their children off at the schoolhouse door.
Our opinion about what constitutes a safe school has forever been changed.
I was standing in line at the airport getting ready to board a plane when I first learned of the Newtown, Conn. tragedy. No one in that line could pull their attention away from what was being played out on the airport monitors. Nor, could any of us fully process what was really happening in those classrooms or know where the public debate was about to head.
Among my fellow passengers there was the unanswered “why” question.
The same question which has been debated these last few weeks at our places of work, our holiday gatherings, our churches and on the pages of our local paper.
It is also a discussion that school board members will need to have with the public that they serve. This will be an important conversation about safety, resources and meeting the expectations of our community.
School board members, more than anyone else, must step forward and answer the question, “What is the plan?”
We, as board members, can anticipate that some bold expectations may be too large to enact and others may be outside the scope of what a board of education can accomplish. But, taking the pulse of the public and creating a plan of action is what good governance is all about.
Later that day, arriving at my conference, I met with school board officers from eight states. Our scheduled topics shifted to the shocking event unfolding at Sandy Hook and the implications of how it would forever change the operations of our schools.
Over the next two days, discussions were spirited and passionate about gun control and constitutional rights. I learned that what could work in Arizona would not see the light of day in Oregon. We all came to know that democracy and fairly representing our constituents is both a difficult and complex balancing act.
My comments during these discussions were that we should not become polarized by provocative statements. In the final analysis, we don't have jurisdiction on constitutional issues, but we do have a responsibility as school board members to keep our schools safe.
I am eager to begin this conversation with my local board. Here are six points that I will be suggesting for their consideration.
In conclusion, I believe that the Santa Rosa City Schools Board of Education has the absolute responsibility to assure the public that we will do all we can to protect our children.
Frank Pugh is a member of the Santa Rosa school board and a past president of the California School Boards Association.
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