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Lifting the Shroud of Secrecy

Ideally, public education should work as a partnership between students, parents and school staff.

Parents should be able to send their children to school in the morning knowing that they’re going to be learning from dedicated educational professionals.

But it seems that things have changed over the years. Students sometimes come home disturbed by what they’re being told in class. They’re not sure if they should tell their parents, for fear that their grades may suffer, or they’ll be alienated in front of their peers. Some of those students stay silent, and that causes problems. Parents then find out afterwards and become outraged that nobody from the school district has informed them of what’s truly being taught. How did this happen?

The closure of schools during the COVID pandemic forced the broad use of online instruction. Many parents were working from home at the time and were often in the same room as their children. This enabled them to hear directly what was being taught and caused many to become concerned. But when they started attending school board meetings for answers, many were treated like it was none of their business.

We’ve seen the consequences of this here in Eugene School District 4J. A teacher at Churchill High School gave students an assignment in which they were asked to write about sexual fantasies. How is that in any way appropriate? Well, it’s not. Fortunately, some of those students were brave enough to speak out and let other people know that this was happening. Now it’s become the biggest public scandal the district has seen in years, and possibly ever. Parents are understandably upset, including myself. It’s one of the biggest reasons I’m running for Position 1 on the school board.

Bad things can happen when parents become deliberately shut out of the educational process. The recent incident at Churchill High is one example.

Over the past few years, there have been many cases of educational professionals engaging in questionable conduct with underage students, both in person and online. It’s a slippery slope from “don’t tell your parents” about certain assignments to this kind of behavior. And it all needs to stop.

I’m running for school board on a platform of transparency, and it all starts at the top. The school district needs to be transparent about what it does. But that same approach needs to be instilled in every school and every classroom. Parents who want to be engaged in their childrens’ education should have every opportunity to participate. It should be encouraged, not discouraged.

Clear, consistent and constant communication between parents, students and school officials at all levels is the best way to ensure that our educational system functions the way it is intended. We need school board members who will create the kind of culture in the district that will facilitate that level of involvement. I intend to be just that kind of school board member and am asking for your vote for Position 1 on the Eugene 4J School Board so we can make it happen together.