Thursday, January 1, 2009

Sometimes they DO get it right

Happy New Year, folks. How about we start the year off with a tale of school success?

Sure, the Sun Prairie Area School District (and school board) always have a new high ticket program or boondoggle up their collective sleeves. And yes, we do think that at times the district and board seem to stand firm with illogical resolve, particularly when their antics are highlighted in nasty webpages that none of them read. But, yes, Virginia, at times they get it right.

SP-EYE has become aware of a situation that recently transpired that you won't read about in the STAR, or hear about at a school board meeting. It's a tale worth telling. No names or identifiers, of course. We may freely out the foibles and faux pas of our elected "leaders" and the $100K club members, but the safety of our kids is not something we trifle with.

This is a story of a young girl of elementary school age in Sun Prairie. New to the area and to her school, of course finding new friends was a priority. Sadly, this innocent girl may have fallen prey to a group of disaffected youths. She started engaging in some self-destructive behaviors to "be" part of her new found "friends". Luckily, she has a loving, involved parent who discovered what was going on. And that's what this story is all about.

The girl's parent went to her child's school to discuss the situation. The school's administration seemed very concerned and motivated to address the situation. Unfortunately, the "friends" somehow became aware that their actions had been discussed, and guess what? This poor girl suddenly became ostracized in her school. We can only surmise how this came to be. We have no facts, but you all know human nature and can make a pretty educated guess as to how the group of "friends" learned that this girl had "narc'd" on them. We also know that kids can be quite cruel.

So...what happens next? The protective parent goes back to the school district and informs that that the situation has deteriorated to the point that something needs to happen. She requests that her child be transferred to another school. DENIED. She cites the "extreme circumstances" portion of the school board's voluntary placement policy. DENIED again.

Now understandably upset, the parent contacts several school board members and appeals to them for help. At least one school board member contacts the school administrator, and following a discussion, reports back to the parent that the administrator "seems to have things under control." Not quite the response she was looking for.

More conversations ensue. Finally--although we don't know how it all happened--- a decision is made to allow the girl to transfer out of her current school.

School board members, Dr. Culver, and administrative staff who had involvement in this: We give you an "A" for outcome. Deservedly so, however, we've got to give you an "F" for the process here. For a group that seems to take great pride in process, your "system" failed a young girl who needed your help, and a parent that trusted that you would use the information she shared with caution.

We applaud your eventual decision, but not the path you took to get there. Perhaps this would be a good situation on which to perform a "post-mortem" analysis and learn from your mistakes. Of course, that will require you to be big enough to agree that you erred and then own it. Food for thought: you've done some good outreach efforts about "gangs". But you need to understand that not all "gangs" deal in drugs or engage in fights. Don't under-estimate the power of "gangs" that aren't likely to be on the police radar screens: groups of disaffected kids that are frequently labelled as "goth" or "emo". They can be equally dangerous.

We're just grateful that the young girl can can a better start and the parent can breathe a sigh of relief. A huge round of applause also goes to the group of parents who support this mother and daughter. Basically they pulled a Michael Jordan and "just did" what was necessary. Something our school district and school board likes to claim that they do.