Figuring out which way the ship is headed with the schools

At the August 10 meeting of the Greenfield School Committee, committee member Kathryn Martini asked Superintendent DeBarge a broad question about the general direction that the district is headed:

DeBarge’s full response is worth a listen, but the question itself speaks to a general concern I have with this district.

I want to be clear up front that I think most folks in the district—including the School Committee and the administration—are doing the best they can with limited resources and an ongoing series of tough situations.

However, I have been watching the district and the School Committee work pretty closely (or at least, as much as is possible as an outside observer) for 5-6 years now. Over that time, there has been a consistent pattern of questions and concerns raised by the community generating a response from the district leadership along the lines of “We’re working on that.” In most cases, I tend to think these responses are genuine—that someone is, in fact, working on it—but the frequency of that answer suggests a gap between what the district is doing and what the larger community thinks the district is doing.

DeBarge’s answer above is good as far as it goes, but if the pattern holds, we won’t hear about this broader vision for the district until the next time someone happens to ask. The problem is that, absent an easy-to-find plan and regular updates on progress, the assumption in the community is that nothing is happening.

This issue is by no means unique to the schools; the pattern recurs across the city government. There is great work going on, but unless you sit through a bunch of meetings and know when, where, and how to ask questions, there is almost no way of keeping track of what is going on.