When I volunteered to help cover Local School Council (LSC) meetings for the Blueprint, I was warned it would be a big commitment. Meetings, which have been virtual since the beginning of the pandemic, often last four to five hours. These meetings typically include bickering and controversy over seemingly uncontroversial issues. LSCs are an important part of any school community, providing an administrative voice for parents, teachers, students, and neighborhood residents. A well-run LSC helps school administrators make important decisions about budget allocation and school policies and culture. However, the Jones LSC has made it clear that they are unwilling to compromise for the good of the students. Their combative nature has done little but create more division within the Jones community.
I am one of the only students I know that regularly attends the LSC meetings. Some might attribute this to a lack of dedication or interest on the part of the students, but I honestly don’t blame my peers for not showing up. LSC meetings take place on Tuesdays at 6 P.M., usually running until 10 or 11 P.M. Most students can’t afford to stay up late and miss out on work time, especially when only a few of the agenda items are actually of interest to them. The same goes for parents and community members, who may not want to sit in on another four hour Zoom meeting after a long day of work, errands, and childcare.
The sheer length of the meetings isn’t the only reason they can sometimes be difficult to sit through. Eight out of the 15 members of the LSC are parents or community members, meaning they don’t regularly spend time in the school building. Obviously, these groups do have a vested interest in the success of the school and deserve a say in school policy. However, it’s often frustrating to see the voices of students or teachers be drowned out by people who won’t be personally affected by the policies they’re considering enacting. The current Jones LSC Chair, Cassie Creswell, is a parent representative, and her obvious passion for the school is sometimes underscored by her lack of understanding for how it is run on a day-to-day basis. For example, she, along with several other LSC members, favored a proposition to replace textbooks for AP U.S. History (APUSH) classes. The discussion about this issue in the latest LSC meeting lacked in-meeting input from APUSH teachers and current students, since teachers expressed discomfort discussing the issue with the LSC. It’s problematic that parent representatives haven’t fostered an environment where teachers and students feel comfortable sharing, since their experiences are vital to informing the opinions of LSC members who don’t regularly spend time at Jones.
The inefficiency of the LSC could potentially be excusable if I were certain that they were acting in the best interests of Jones students. Unfortunately, the conduct I’ve witnessed in meetings this year has made it difficult to say that. To be clear, the complaints the LSC have brought against the Jones administration, specifically Dr. Powers, are incredibly serious. Systemic inequality and prejudice do not cease to exist at the school doors, and I’m inclined to agree that we need a change in leadership at Jones. I’m also aware that my feelings on the LSC are not universal, and my position of relative privilege in this community is affecting my point of view. However, the way this LSC has gone about addressing these issues has not centered the experiences of students. Instead, it has created a whirlwind of controversy that has made the LSC itself a bigger topic of conversation than the credible and extremely troubling accusations against Jones administration.
Running a school, especially one as large and complex as Jones, is a difficult task. I have no doubt that every member of the LSC is trying to do what they think is best for the school. Still, the inefficiency and conflict that have characterized the LSC over the past school year have made it impossible for them to fulfill their administrative duties. Hours of arguments over simple proposals have left students and teachers waiting for funding and resources that may never come. This behavior is unacceptable and unprofessional, especially from a group of adults that should be setting a better example for students. The upcoming LSC elections in April give us an opportunity to put the Jones community back on track by electing new representatives who will work with administrators and prioritize student and teacher perspectives.