Friday, March 15, 2013

Reply to Tim Bloom Letter to the Administration

(Note: I initially left off my usual disclaimer.  The absence of it does not change the fact that I am speaking only for myself, I do not speak for the district or the Board here.  All other disclaimers are valid here too. YMMV.)

I have told you this privately, but I think it important to reiterate it publicly. I very much admire your forthrightness and willingness to take personal risk by writing this letter.  Quite frankly, I wish I were not saying that there is personal risk in writing, but anytime you go against the establishment, in my days, "the man", you risk backlash.

As a School Board Member, I know that the district sometimes makes mistakes. I know that the reasoning for some decisions are not always readily obvious. I know that like any large institution that caters to all the students in the district we sometimes have to make compromises.  I know that there are times we are not even legally allowed to say why we do what we do.  It is all frustrating.  I add one more caution: Do not take the Board's silence in any circumstance as not caring or not aware or as tacit approval either.

One area in which I think we should never compromise is in our 'lofty ideals'. I have no knowledge of any of the facts of this particular letter. I am not writing now to comment on the particulars of this letter; this is something that Tim and his peers have to work out with the building administration. I am writing to thank Tim for starting the dialogue.

I would like to say that, in general, a successful district educates the entire student and the entire student body. If, in one of the Board's strategic questions, we as a district strive to educate critical thinkers, we must accept that that means allowing students to take risk, to make mistakes, and to learn lessons not only in the classroom, but also outside the classroom. Rather than stifle that urge, we should support it.

We need to support our students in extra-curricular activities including student council and self governance, in clubs, in sports, and in the performing arts. Education is not just learning the ABCs in the classroom.  It is not just your gpa or what classes you take. It is inclusive of after school activities.  We need to encourage our students to reach for their next level. We must let them challenge themselves. Sometimes that means taking risks ourselves.

Finally, at the risk of embarrassing you Tim, knowing what a terrific student you are, knowing of your dedication and fortitude on the football field, knowing you are a committed volunteer firefighter in Town, knowing you are student council President, and knowing that you are a good friend to so many, I sleep well at night comforted that future generations and future leaders like you will soon takeover.


Tim Bloom, Student Council President, Letter to HGHS Administration:

To the Horace Greeley High School Administration,
I was very disappointed to hear yesterday that the Greeley Games event that I proposed is not going to happen. Quite frankly, I'm not at all surprised, as this seems to be par for the course these days. It has gotten to the point where every single member of the Student Council is disenchanted with the way the administration is trying to dismantle the very things that had made Greeley great for so long. We have lost our motivation to try to engage the students, generate enthusiasm and a sense of community and make being a Greeley student more than capitulating to the arbitrary decisions of the administration. Why bother working on proposals and trying to innovate when we know the administration is going to say no? 
It’s funny that we are all so frustrated with our elected officials in Washington, yet the same thing is happening right here. Each time a new idea comes to the floor, we're getting filibustered, then left to take the blame for not taking action. It's really sad to see how significantly Greeley has declined over the past four years, from the exercise in political correctness gone mad re: the funball team name debacle to the arbitrary and ridiculous hoops that need to be jumped through to bring in a speaker, to the fact that a group was told they can’t sell hot chocolate in the morning for charity because it’s “too dangerous.” I don't feel as if I'm doing even half the job I ran for as President and the reason for that is the administration. Know that for us high school is more than just getting into college. It’s supposed to be an experience that matures us not just intellectually, but also in other ways. How can we do that when the only thing we are assured of is the academic aspects and those aren't so great anymore either? This school has become so resistant to positive new ideas that students actually care about and so concerned with the possibility of political incorrectness that nothing even has a chance. For example, how do we know that the event I proposed would have an attendance problem if it’s never happened before?
When I sat down with Mr. Rhodes and Mr. Corsilia in the beginning of the school year, I saw the potential to reignite at least some of the fire that I know Greeley used to have. I now know how wrong I was in thinking that. I know that interest in participating in Student Council is in rapid decline and I wouldn't be surprised if next year's group has trouble filling all of the positions, another sign that the administration is failing to provide a meaningful high school experience. People simply don’t want to deal with working hard and formulating new ideas only to be shot down. You are denying leadership opportunities to the next generation of leaders by rendering those who do want to lead utterly ineffective. It has become simply not worth my time either to think of fun creative ways to bring the school community together when I know that there is no chance of any of our ideas actually coming to fruition. I'm tired of being asked, "When are we going to have a school wide event?" or "When is something fun going to happen?" and not having an answer. From this day forward, I am going to tell anyone who asks that the administration won't let it happen. I don't want the students who elected me to think I don't care and haven't been trying mightily to bring this school back to its former greatness.
  I am deeply disappointed in the administration for not recognizing that the Greeley we all love is slipping away because they are afraid of innovation and trying something new. The other members of the Student Council feel the same way and share my disappointment in your decisions. I've spoken to many former Greeley students recently, some who graduated last year, some who graduated ten years ago, and some who were Student Council members themselves, and they are amazed that the Greeley they knew and loved bears no resemblance to the one I am graduating from in just a few months. This school has gone from a place of which I was proud to be President to a place that I can't wait to leave.  If it is your long-term plan to oversee a community of grade-obsessed, one dimensional, disinterested students then continue to do what you are doing. If you want a vibrant, engaged community of students who participate in their education more fully, then you need to reexamine how you interact with us. Less police state and PC paranoia and more positivity would help. Just today, I heard of two new issues that are all of the sudden problems in the eyes of the administration. I’ve been told that the beloved Greeley A Capella groups have to meet with you because the fact that they rehearse off the school campus is a problem. Why? Why do they have to change how they operate if they are successful as they are now? Isn’t this discouraging the independence that you encourage us to develop throughout high school? And now you want to change the traditional trip to Jones Beach for seniors? You have already dismantled quite a few senior traditions. Can you leave just one alone?
I feel compelled to write this as the elected representative of the student body, a position that I will continue to take very seriously until my term is up. I will continue to plan the events that are already on the calendar and I will continue to fulfill my responsibility of addressing the school at the coming assemblies and ultimately graduation, but I promise nothing more. The next time you need someone to represent Greeley, whether it be to a group of students from another country or one new student who will be joining this so-called community next year, find someone else. I don’t feel as if I can lend my time to your causes, if mine are not taken seriously. To summarize, we’ve all had enough of the arbitrary decisions. The Theatre Company just put on a play about sex (and a very good one might I add) without being questioned, and yet a song for the a capella concert was questioned because it included the word bullet and referenced guns. Can you explain that inconsistency? I can't. I wish you an uneventful rest of the school year.

Tim Bloom

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