Region One: Start Building Relationships

Update: Here is a story on the forum by Kathryn Boughton of the LCT.

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Here is the Region One Forum that took place Friday night, Sept. 28, at Cornwall Consolidated School. I will have to find the time to watch it.

Meanwhile, here is a link to the Republican American’s coverage. Unfortunately, all but the first three paragraphs are behind the newspaper’s paywall, so if you don’t have an online account, you’re out of luck. There is no other online media coverage, as far as I can tell.

In his infinite wisdom, Marshall Miles has disabled embedding for the CATV6 YouTube page, so click on the image at top and a new window will open with the video.

There is obviously a great deal of frustration among some segments of the public over the Region 1 Board of Education. There’s a perception that the board simply doesn’t listen to dissenting views from the public. Since I haven’t been a working journalist covering the board for almost four years now, I simply don’t know if that’s true.

But I do suspect there’s some truth to the notion, put forth by Chairman Phil Hart, that “The fact [that] we don’t agree doesn’t mean we don’t listen.” My own children often tell me I’m not listening when they ask permission to do something and I tell them no. It’s a common reaction among the powerless that those who are in power aren’t listening if they don’t acquiesce to our demands.

I have also heard this complaint among faculty, staff and parents at the many schools I have worked at during my career in education and development: the administration isn’t doing what we want, so they’re not listening to us.

On the other hand, I have tremendous respect for Ed Epstein, the longtime former principal at Kent Center School (and my former middle school math teacher), who told the board, “You say what you say and somebody says thank you. I never hear another word.” And even Assistant Superintendent Diane Goncalves said that this is the “most dysfunctional” board she has ever seen in her 35 years in education.

However, in the same breath, she opined that, in the words of the Rep-Am, “the administration has the support of the teachers, noting there was only one teacher in attendance.”

“My main concern is the students in the district, their achievement and our main dedication is to the faculty,” said Goncalves.

I have two children at Housatonic and have a pretty good idea of what goes on in the building. What Goncalves said rings true to me. It looks like the audience at the forum was heavy with public officials and light with students and faculty.

With a new leadership team in its second year, there is a feeling of renewed energy and enthusiasm at Housy. Even the board’s critics would concede that. And who hired that team? The very same board that the critics are firing rockets at. Go figure.

That said, it looks like the board has, at the very least, a public relations problem. Might I suggest more timely follow-up to taxpayer comments and requests for information? If a taxpayer have a serious concern, call her up or – better yet – meet him in person. Indulge your constituents and show them you won’t hesitate for a minute to give them your ear on a matter of importance. This is the first thing they teach you at a sales seminar. A little attentiveness can go a long way in assuaging grievances and building relationships.

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