When I grew up, there were no cellphones, no texting, no Internet, no blogs and no way to publicly respond to articles in the paper without writing a letter.
People communicated face to face or over the phone. In today’s fast-paced information superhighway, discourse and dialogue often gets lost in 140 words or less on Twitter or other social media outlets. That prevents opportunities for reflection and two-way discourse.
Receiving community feedback in a regular way that is productive and allows for sharing of information is critical to the successful operation of the school district. This year, the district has been heavily covered by media for incidents from bus accidents to school closures and now budget challenges. In all situations, we’ve worked hard to open the public dialogue to gather feedback on these topics so we can continue to meet the needs of our community and our students. Case in point, the most recent budget coverage, and the online dialogue that ensued, show a very narrow view of what is really happening.
To provide opportunity for dialogue, we are hosting several budget sessions in the next couple of months to engage community members in these conversations, educate them on what is happening in school finance and hear from them about how prioritize our needs.
Sadly, while these meetings have mostly been attended by staff members and a few parents, the conversations have not captured all interested parties, and the purpose of them has been lost in social media translation.
The community has heard “what are we cutting next,” when the true dialogue is “are you satisfied with what we have?” If you are satisfied with what we have and the current budgetary issues facing schools across the state, then you are also saying you are OK with bigger classroom sizes, streamlined programs and no salary raises for staff. With athletic facilities in poor condition, safety concerns exist for our students who are engaged in athletics and activities at the high school. Refraining from further investment can lead only to the possible elimination of such activities in the future.
To some, social media and blogging have become a way to get “involved.” The reality is that positive or productive discourse is lost in the process. Just because information is on a social site or even a media outlet, does not mean it is true or accurate.
Instead, I challenge the community to truly get involved in supporting the needs of all youths in our community by helping shape and mold the educational model we all value for them. We encourage you to get involved in the conversations where your input will have true meaning and impact.
Communicate with us. Set up an appointment with your child’s teacher or your school’s principal. Come meet with me! Address our board at an upcoming meeting.
And please join us at one of our next meetings, scheduled from 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday at Durango High School and from 6 to 8 p.m. Feb. 18 at Escalante Middle School.
Email Durango School District 9-R Superintendent Dan Snowberger at DSnowberger@durango.k12.co.us.