by Travis Mateer
Last week someone sent me a link to Grace Decker’s op-ed at the Daily Montanan, where the fun begins with the confusing headline PARENTS HAVE ALREADY TAKEN OVER MOST SCHOOL BOARDS. Huh? Maybe some clarity can be found in the content of the op-ed. Let’s begin.
“Parents are taking over school boards” announced a recent headline in a national publication.
I have a lot of thoughts about this.
For starters, like most school board trustees, I am a parent who decided to run for the Missoula County Public School Board of Trustees seven years ago, in 2015, when my son was in 1st grade, because I wanted to make a difference and help improve our schools. I didn’t run on a political agenda. I didn’t run because I was enraged about anything. I didn’t run because I was trying to upend the system– I ran because I wanted to be part of the process and bring my perspective to the conversation.
So, is Grace Decker trying to undermine the notion that parents are getting more involved in school board races because SHE is a parent, therefore the Missoula County School Board is ALREADY controlled by parents? And why are we expected to believe Decker’s assertion that running for the school board in order to “improve our schools” does NOT represent a political agenda?
After this unsubstantiated drivel about how Grace Decker was NOT enraged about anything and was NOT trying to “upend the system”, she goes on to do some damage control about her use of Facebook.
Since then, after almost every single board meeting, I’ve made a Facebook post on describing what we discussed and what we decided. I’ve done that to try to make sure people knew more about what was happening, and knew how they could connect and engage with the decision-making processes. In these posts I don’t share “who voted this way” and “who voted that way” because once the board takes action, ethical board members support our adopted policies as a group, and continue working within our processes if we aren’t happy with the outcome.
Nope, Grace Decker is NOT just commenting on Facebook, she is creating Facebook groups and getting VERY involved in politics. That’s why I wrote a post titled Is School Board Member Grace Decker Violating MCPS Ethics Policy?
In order to convince readers of her fairness and non-political approach to her school board tenure, Decker continues by championing her noble efforts and deep respect for professionals.
During the past six years, I’ve talked with and emailed with countless parents, and pointed them toward the places in the district where I hoped they could resolve their issues. I’ve tried to uphold the clear communication and chain of command by encouraging people to talk to the person most directly connected to their issue– teacher, principal, administrator, then superintendent, before trying to address it at the board level. I’ve tried to be realistic about the role of a trustee … not to micromanage, but to become as well informed as possible so I can make thoughtful votes and contribute meaningfully to discussions. And I strive to respect the expertise of professionals (whether dealing with highly complex issues of finance, construction, law, curriculum, or health), while also seeking out the perspectives of people involved in the district– especially the kids.
Like lots of other parents, I’ve been frustrated when issues remain unresolved, when we fall short of our ideals, when kids or families feel let down or unserved.
Great. So why are my kids still wearing bullshit masks, Grace? Because TRUST THE SCIENCE? Because Saint Fauci is infallible? What is the current justification for ignoring the pleas of parents to STOP THIS MADNESS?
No, we don’t get anything about the current idiocy with masks. Instead we get more meaningless drivel like this:
At times, I’ve been frustrated by not being able to do more for my own kid, or to shape the schools more specifically to my, or my kid’s, preferences –but that is not my job as a board member. My job is to think about the whole– the whole district, all kids, and the whole community –impacted by the district’s work. It turns out that schools are not a consumer transaction, but a civic project, a collective commitment to each other and to the future.
Schools are not a consumer transaction, but a civic project? What exactly is this supposed to mean? And speaking of consumer transactions, I would love to know how much money is being spent on masks for musical instruments. Does our collective civic project REALLY require the purchasing of masks for trumpets and trombones?
Grace Decker doesn’t address any of that because she’s too busy making vague generalities about working hard, adapting to impossible situations, and listening to the parents who tell her things are moving in the right direction.
More often than not, I have seen the tremendous work that happens every day by teachers and staff, and the countless kids who have stability, structure, and chances to shine, by being part of our district. I see educators adapting to impossible circumstances and making it work. I’ve been very glad to be a part of important –and parent-led– conversations about who our district serves well, and who we serve less well. I’ve been glad to be part of making some important changes and I’m proud of some of the ways our parent-majority-board has continued to push our district forward.
And at times, I’ve heard from literally hundreds of parents who believe our district is moving in the right directions and serving our community overall pretty darn well.
Sounds like everything is pretty fantastic. So why write this op-ed? Because terrible parents like me are giving Decker the sads by making the crazy claim that our concerns aren’t being seriously considered.
And so it’s hugely frustrating– and worrying– to be told “the board” doesn’t listen to “parents.” That “parents” need to “take back the schools.” That decisions a parent (or even a group of parents) disagrees with, were therefore made without consideration of parent input. I resent the idea that only certain voices represent “parents.” I reject the idea that parents and educators are “at war for control of the schools.” We’re on the same team, we’re members of the same community, and, I hope, we’re interested in the same better future for all kids, not just our own.
I hope that people considering a run for school board this spring do so out of a commitment to all of what schools are about, and commitment to all of whom schools are for.
No, Grace, we are NOT on the same team, and I will be doing everything I can (legally, of course) to see that you are NO LONGER in a position to influence school board policy.
I can’t wait to start knocking on doors to share what I know about the Missoula cabal of condescending elitists Grace Decker is a part of.
Thanks for reading.