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What's best for kids...not a question

“The decision was made, because that is what’s best for kids.”

I have heard that phrase uttered by administration so many times in my career, but never so much as I have heard this year in particular.

What is what is best for kids?

Who knows that answer?

If you were a business owner - who would you ask? As a recent small business owner, I am pretty sure my research into what my customers need and want is found by asking them - maybe not directly, but ask for feedback and reviews.

I know this is simplistic, and we cannot directly compare schools to a business, but I am starting to see many signs that schools are businesses, but are serving the wrong customers.

All public schools depend on property taxes and other forms of taxes to pay for education, especially in New Hampshire. Decisions about spending money are based on the taxpayers, a.k.a. the customers (some towns in NH have a town meeting for taxpayers to vote in person). I am not actually sure they are customers; they pay for the goods and services, but don't use the goods and services. The customers who are impacted by the business, and virtually have no say - are the students.

Someone asked me recently what the purpose of a school board was - so I looked it up, because I wasn’t entirely sure. I was especially curious after sitting through many school board meetings over the years, including a period of time when I felt like the school board was in the dark about some of the things that were happening within the buildings (and they were).

After reading through the linked website, and several other articles, my understanding is correct - it’s like the three bodies of government, except that for schools, it consists of teachers, the school board, and administrators.

Teachers and students don’t often think about the school board’s role, unless things feel like they are getting out of control in any one direction. I would say in my time as a teacher there was only one other time before this year that I had that feeling. When I, as a teacher, with my association, approached the school board it was an amicable interaction, and they listened. The process was slow, but I felt the system worked and the ship was righted. I feel differently this time.

So many things have changed administratively in the last 10 years in my district that I don’t know if the system is working, and I don’t think we are serving the right customers any more. The focus seems to be on serving the taxpayers, and while I understand that, it just seems like they shouldn’t be the ones running the show.

When programs are cut, when changes to schedules are made, the students are impacted. Would that be a good time to ask them what they think?

From my experience, and I have been interviewing students all over about this topic on my podcast Unimagined, we are not. Did you feel like your students had a voice in any of the decisions that were made during the two school years we were impacted by COVID? When I ask students what advice they have, many have offered ideas and suggestions, which could be easily implemented, and often their ideas are not expensive, but they require someone to listen.

Are you listening to your students? Are your administrators listening to the students? Is the school board listening to students, or even asking for that matter?

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