By Sarah Varney
The November 27 meeting of the Rye Board of Education was given over to an Open Forum in which parents told board members the District’s communications efforts aren’t measuring up. Parents’ concerns ran the gamut from a desire for a centralized spot to warn peers of inappropriate websites to serious allegations about lack of communication from the District to the trio of students suspended for the June hazing incident.
These parents maintain they learned of inaccurate information from employees of the tutoring service currently homeschooling their sons. According to the parents, an employee of Creative Tutoring of Plainview, N.Y. told one of them via speakerphone that the trio had been suspended from school for the rest of the year. (The Sound Shore Review recently ran a story making the same claim.)
“That is inaccurate, they haven’t even had a hearing [before the District] yet,” said Donna Scragg. One father who has been particularly vocal about the unfairness of the suspensions accused the District of giving the tutoring service false information about the length of the suspensions. It has been reported that the Board is refusing to lift the suspensions until the trio reveals the names of the other 26 hazing participants. Asked about the veracity of the newest allegation about the suspensions, Board President Laura Slack declined to comment, citing privacy concerns.
In addition, parents of the trio complained that they’ve received virtually no formal communication from the District regarding the specifics of the homeschooling curriculum and how they planned to align in-school instruction with the home-based materials. “We pay our taxes like everyone else and we’re getting inferior home education,” charged the irate father. “What they’re getting now is nowhere close to what they’d be learning at home,” he said.
But the overall theme of improved communications resonated with other parent groups who brought up less serious concerns. On a macro level, community stalwart Bob Zahm pressed the District to deliver a progress report on the five goals (Student Achievement, Teacher Effectiveness, Fiscal Responsibility, Culture of Caring, and Community Engagement) set out by Schools Superintendent Dr. Frank Alvarez at the first board meeting of the year on September 11. Board members Chris Repetto and Karen Belanger promised to follow up.
Another group asked for better, more efficient communication in emergency situations. Slack assured community members that the district is working on it. “We are in the process of discussing what we need to do to improve communication. We’re taking a complete look at how it [efficacy of the District’s communications] unfolded,” said Slack. The District has set up a website at email@example.com for community members to ask questions or bring up concerns about the school system’s handling of the crisis.
Finally, one table of parents — mostly mothers — asked whether the District would consider putting up a communal space online where parents could spread the word among themselves about fine-grained parenting issues. As an example, one mother reported that the Scarsdale schools had recently put out a warning about an unsavory website newly popular with middle schoolers (askfm.com).
“It’s nothing to worry about. It’s stupid really. It will get old fast,” opined one seventh grader, commenting on the site.
In school calendar news, Dr. Alvarez said that the district’s legal department is looking into the situation but there is no word from higher up. He added that he expects to have news in a few weeks. So let it snow, let it snow, let it snow….