All students must be treated and respected as human beings with recognized, universal human rights and responsibilities. This means students must have an active say in the choices regarding their learning, including how their schools are run, how and when they learn, and all other areas of everyday life. This is inclusion in a real sense.
We need leaders who listen, who are more present in our schools, transparent in how they operate, and who honor the work, effort, and skills it takes to be an effective educator. This goes far beyond just saying ‘thanks’ or placing an apple on the desk. Our teachers deserve fair and open contract negotiations, and they deserve to be treated with dignity and as the professionals they are.
Bloomington taxpayers are frustrated if they have to vote YES on referenda after referenda to make ends meet for the schools. This is not something that we should be pushed into at the last minute. We need to bring more active financial oversight to the school board. We cannot afford to have a board that acts passively regarding district finances anymore.
Every child needs to develop to their highest potential into the kind of person he or she wants to be in order to accomplish what s/he wants to do throughout life. We need to focus on the development of individuals who leverage their specialized knowledge to dream, create, make, explore, learn and promote entrepreneurial, cultural, or social endeavors, taking risks and enjoying the process as much as the final outcome, without fearing the potential failures or mistakes that the journey includes. We need to work to ensure our learners develop the skills and strategies needed to explore, identify problems, solve problems, think critically, be creative, communicate, and collaborate with others.
Our schools can be more involved our community so we have a greater stake in the opportunities that education provide us, and we need to believe that schools, likewise, have stakes in our community. Engaging and involving parents, letting them take an active role in our schools, brings families into the planning and direction of learning, connecting and moving beyond school walls. Parental involvement needs to start earlier (pre-K) and incorporate families from all backgrounds.
The communities we engage with should be representative of the diverse communities we serve – becoming part of an engaged public. By better embracing our diverse community, we can connect with underrepresented peoples better, appreciate the excellent work ethic that has arrived with every wave of immigrants to Minnesota, and recognize that the level of diversity in our district is changing at a rapid pace.
We can engage businesses through a new paradigm where we are working with them. When businesses struggle to find workers, they connect with schools. They can help students in their career development, and start education programs to create jobs. We need to sit down with local businesses and chambers of commerce as real partners.
To improve school ‘buy-in’ from our communities, we need to improve communications. We often work hard on development and planning, but fail to communicate our efforts to the public. In addition, we need to understand that communication is not a one-sided promotion tool, but is a two-way conversation. This requires us to think differently to engage and invite in conversation. We can use social media technologies to improve connections and create goals for parents, businesses, and other community members. We need to stop thinking we have all the answers and listen more.