Friday, October 28, 2011

Homecoming and...well...more Homecoming

First, congratulations to all the fall student-athletes for their participation and dedication to their teams.  Although the season is not over yet, I congratulate you all for your individual and team successes.  Some highlights include the girl's undefeated swim team winning their title, the girl's Varsity Soccer team going 12-1-3 and winning the championship, Girl's tennis undefeated and champs,  Boy's Varsity soccer playing in the sectionals, the Boy's Varsity football team raised in excess of $8,000 for charity, the girl's field hockey team having their most successful record in recent memory, the cross country team continuing their runaway success (couldn't help myself) -- Girl's CC league champs, etc, etc.

Homecoming started off with a bang (again couldn't help myself) and the Friday night fireworks presented by the Sports Boosters.  As far as fireworks go, they were terrific.  I heard SAT/ACT words like "Awesome!" "Wow!" "Cool!" and from an older kid about 65, "Groovy!"

In addition to the actual explosions lasting 10 minutes, special thanks to Jim Nottingham, President of the Sports Boosters, for organizing, publicising and paying for the event.  Friday night was a terrific culmination of a busy day of games, team dinners, and furious spectating.  I hope that this year's event becomes the template for all years to follow.  The spirit displayed on Friday night at the football field with the announcement of the teams, the Capell singing of the National Anthem and the great attendance was inspiring.  I was so glad to see the entire community and folks of all ages, from 6 to 60+ watching in awe.

I wish I could say that it carried over to the weekend.  All the teams played with heart, but alas, not all won.  For me, Saturday had me going to Harrison in the early morning to watch the JV football team beat the Huskies at McGillicuddy Field.  The JV football team, known by its avid traveling supporters as the Cardiac Kids, continued their winning ways with a convincing victory.  The team is now 5-2.  Three of their victories have come down to the final play.  Two were great defensive stops and one was a pass play from inside the 10 yard line after the team held the ball the entire 4th quarter and methodically marched down the field to claim victory on the final play.

The afternoon saw me return to the High School to watch my other son play football for the Varsity.  It was not the football team's day.  They lost to Harrison.  Harrison showed up with six buses of players, fans and a marching band.  While our crowd was large, the spirit seemed lacking.  Maybe it started with the inadvertent skipping of the national anthem?  For some reason,  it was not announced and played.  Maybe it was that the team got down 6-0 early, but the crowd seemed to be focusing on other things than football. Perhaps next year we could have some sort of spirit building event on Saturday right before the game.

I did notice as I walked around before the game that almost every team had their parents organize a team tailgate or gathering.  The spirit seemed to be spread out.  I also met several returning alumni at the football tailgate by the shot put area.  A woman from Croton with her two children readying to attend the Class of 1986 reunion that evening and another member of that class remembering about the football team in his day.

The weekend was capped off by the annual Homecoming Dance.  It was a Tale of Two Cities.  It was the best of times and the worst of times.  First, I acknowledge that the ticket sales for the dance was handled poorly.  I wrote this post last year after the dance and would have liked to see it go smoother.  Whatever the details, the district is responsible for the decision to limit the ticket sales to 700 so whatever fallout that came from the limited tickets is our fault.

With respect to ticket sales, having been on the Board for four+ years now, I can say unequivocally that we will never please everyone no matter what we decide.  But that doesn't mean we shouldn't try or that we should be uncaring about those who are unhappy.  As a Board member, parent, and father of a student council senior, I have heard and relate to all three (admin, student and parent) viewpoints.

I love that the administration tried to have the students make the decisions about how best to address the scarcity of tickets, but we cannot and did not blame them for the problem.  They were given one option of trying to hold two dances, but they felt that two dances would create different problems.  It is not as clear cut dividing the school by class year.  Sophomores are friendly with Juniors, Seniors know Freshman etc.  Also, logistically, the option was presented late and to run two events at different locations on the same night seemed like we would be biting off more than we could chew.

As a Board member, I would like to see everyone who wants to participate have that option.  But, I am also cognizant of safety implications and the limitations the chaperones have inside a large dark loud gym.  It may sound like to some that we are trying to cover our ass and avoid lawsuits, but the truth is that we are trying to make sure not one student gets hurt.  Quite frankly, there is no acceptable level of casualties.  It is a dance for goodness sake, no one should get hurt.  And, we expect that students will act within district policies and within the student handbook.

As a Board member, this dance is really not our issue.  How this would relate to the Board would be if we want to establish some sort of policy that says open school wide events such as the Homecoming Dance may only be held if there is access for ALL students.

Should we limit tickets sales to school wide events?   I have to be honest and say I am torn on this issue.  As I said, I would like to see everyone who wants to participate have that option.  That would be in a perfect world.  But, we don't live in SIM City or Theoreticalville.  If it comes down to one of three options, let everyone attend and take safety risk, limit tickets and mitigate that risk or eliminate the dance and eliminate the risk, I am voting for limiting tickets.

Other questions have arisen from the recent experiences with the dance.  Some have questioned the "fairness" of punishing "everyone" over the acts (drunkeness and shoving on the dance floor) of a few.  That is a valid question.  On the one hand, if one of my children broke a household rule, I wouldn't punish them all would I?  On the other hand, when I coached basketball I wanted them to consider themselves as a team, as one unit, not 12 individuals.  If one player screwed around in practice, I likely would have made the entire team run.  Do we want our students to look at themselves as part of a larger community of classmates and school mates or do we want them to just look out for #1?  Again, the answer lies somewhere in between the two.

Going forward, what to do about school wide events, be they dances, night athletic events or arts performances, we as a community need to discuss expectations and work out solutions together.  The administration, the students and concerned parents need to have a dialogue in order to understand each other's concerns, to discuss possible solutions and to establish expectations going forward.

We need to have a civilogue (civil dialogue).  Isn't that exactly what Principal Selesnick was suggesting in his letter to the community?  I want to thank those of you who took the time and made the effort to write to the administration and/or the Board of Ed to express your thoughts.  To be quite frank, many of the letters (emails) did not pull punches and were very clear about where they stood on the events of last week.  I know that the Board and the administration will/has read and considered every letter sent to us.

We especially appreciate the letters that not only tell us how we erred, but that also made suggestions on possible solutions.  It is easy to point out mistakes, it is harder to make suggestions on how to fix whatever mistake you think we make.

Although I do not speak for the entire Board, I think it is safe to say that all five of us will respond to emails and are willing to have a dialogue with residents who want to express their concerns, opinions, criticisms and of course compliments.  For those of you who have read this far and/or have written me emails, you know that I will try to make a thoughtful response to any and every civil email sent to me.  Pretty much the only thing I won't respond to are people who make anonymous comments, folks who make personal attacks without addressing an issue and people who tell me where I can go or suggest I do things that are anatomically impossible.

Oh, my compliments to the students responsible for the dance.  Putting aside the whole ticket issue, I am told that there were no incidents at the dance and that a good time was had by all.

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