Thursday, April 24, 2014

In the Best Interest of the Kids, Part 2.....The Meeting


I guess I should have put, To Be Continued....... on last nights post. So tonight I continue. Tonight I went to the special Board of Education meeting that was held at the new gym/track to discuss the safety issues and concerns of parents  and the community.

Perhaps I should back up here a moment and say that today was an interesting day on facebook where this issue was concerned. There were those that have true concern, those that have no concern, those with implicit trust with the school district and the BOE, those with no trust at all and then there were those that I don't really think care one way or another but they surely like to stir the pot and call people out. Tensions were high today and because of this, man did facebook take a beating at the meeting tonight. It was mostly by those who are not really of the facebook generation, but you could tell they were not fans.

I almost was not able to go tonight because I had developed the headache from hell this afternoon and David was having some seizure issues. Somehow though, when the time rolled around, my head was better and David seemed to be too. My intention going tonight was not to say a word, but to just sit there and listen and gain information. I really went with an open mind, so you can imagine my surprise as I caught myself signing my name to speak. I really didn't have a clue what I was going to say but my name was down so no backing out now.

As I entered the new gym, I was more impressed than I thought I would be. It is a beautiful facility that any kid would love to play basketball in or just run from end to end. I counted three doors or maybe four on the main level and then up above is a lovely track with an additional door or two. I really didn't know what kind of turnout I would see, but was pleasantly surprised to see the bleachers completely full on one entire side of the gym. I recognized representatives of the rec center as well as the grade school staff was in full force wearing their staff shirts. Watching people walk in, I saw people I went to school with, teachers who taught when I was in school, teachers who taught my kids, people from the community and a great many of the senior citizens of our town who have been fixtures here long before I became a resident. I purposely sat alone to ensure that I would pay attention and gain as much information as I could. I wanted to hear it all from both sides and everything in between.

Sitting there and watching all these people, I couldn't help but be reminded of why I love this town and why I chose to come back here and raise my kids. All these faces were my past, present and my kids future in this town. These were people I had grown up with, people I knew and some were even people that I cared a great deal about. Regardless of how anyone felt about this issue, they were part of my community and I knew we were all there to hopefully come to a compromise and possibly get a few more facts on this issue.

The BOE began on time and instructed that each speaker who had signed up was to keep their comments to 5 minutes. Crap! Speaker #1, a senior citizen, began the comments by praising the BOE, the adminstration and the new gym. I heard someone behind me say, "Seniors 1, Students 0." I hated hearing that as right off the bat it felt like an us against them situation And then....they called my name. I prayed I wouldn't stand up there and draw a blank. I touched on my concern about who might be walking the track and watching our kids. I tried to make it clear that I wasn't pointing fingers or accusing, but I was concerned because of the familiarity kids might gain seeing these faces everyday and the potential for making the kids victims especially when privacy/security was so tight in every other aspect of the district. I said more, in fact shock of all shocks, I talked the entire 5 minutes. Did I impact anyones viewpoint? Doubtful. Once my piece was spoken, I then sat back and prepared myself to listen.

Many of the seniors spoke and two things were abundantly clear. One, I was closer to being a senior citizen than most of the parents there and two, some of these senior citizens really are displeased with how they feel they are being viewed by the concerned parents as well as they are a bit ticked off that they worked for that track and now they feel they are being told they can only have limited use of it. Hmmm......new perspective. As one man said, after all of his years of paying taxes and working and living in the community, by all rights he owned the grade school along with the other schools in town. He had a point, as did the rest of the seniors. Apparently this walking track is a state of the art track. It is cushiony which most of their doctors as well as their feet, legs and hips like. Some of these seniors had anxiously awaited this track since the bond issue was passed and they were the first in line for the open house to view the new facility. What's more, unlike some of us younger whipper snappers, they didn't rely on second hand information when this came up for the vote. They were well versed in ever aspect of what it was for, how it would be used and some had even worked on the bond issue itself. To top it off, some of these seniors have or have had kids and grand kids grow up in the district so they too want only safety for the kids,  only their view of safety and the younger parents view of safety were two different things.

If ever I have seen a generation gap, I saw it tonight and I was in the unusual position of being just young enough and just old enough to clearly see both sides of the issue. All the seniors who spoke loved their new track. They also understood and respected the concern parents had for the safety of their kids, but being old school, most viewed the younger parents version of safety to be a bit extreme. In fact a couple of seniors could barely hide their contempt at the fact that parents would view someone in our home town (especially a senior) as a threat to our kids. Each also pointed out the safety measures that the rec center put in place to protect the kids so that the seniors and the kids would have no more than visual contact with each other. Several also made the point that when they are walking, they are either visiting with each other or concentrating on getting around the track their required number of times. Waving or making eye contact with the kids below is not on their agenda. In the end it was obvious that these seniors felt that they had worked for this track and now they were being chastised because of a bunch of over protective parents. Okay....point taken.

Then there were the younger parents who still had concerns about this shared facility and who were very upset one, because they felt that they had originally been mislead by being told that the seniors would not be using the track during school hours and two, because they knew that even though 99% of the seniors would never harm a hair on their kids heads, there was always that 1% who had the potential to step on to that track and put their kids at risk. It dawned on me as these parents spoke that they were indeed from another generation and yes, there was in fact a huge generation gap. These parents grew up at the tail end of the era when our town had no fences on the playgrounds, open lunches and kids could roam all over the place without fear of abduction, abuse or God forbid....death. Truthfully, some probably didn't even catch the tail end. These parents are a product of the Columbine, Oklahoma City Bombing, 9/11 generation. They don't know anything other than schools being locked to the public, fenced in school yards, privacy policies, school lock downs and on sight police resource officers. They spent a good many of their growing years in an unintentional atmosphere of fear created the first time someone walked into a school and opened fire on the staff and students. Because of this, their fears are not ridiculous, they are not being over protective, they are just carrying on what they have been taught. Danger is everywhere and it is up to them to protect their kids at all costs!

Quite honestly, I blame the schools/district/administration/powers that be.....for some of this fear these parents have. We live in a fear based society right now and our schools inadvertently tell us that we should be afraid by the security policies they have in place. The very fact that everyone is suspect so they are locked out of the schools until buzzed in says we should be afraid. When a lost grandparent walks onto a playground for directions and the school goes into immediate lock down, we as parents are told we should be afraid and the kids are taught to fear. When a child can't have a picture taken or be talked about because of privacy issues because they fear the wrong people will hear, again the school is showing us we should fear. It may be society as a rule (because I am fully aware it is not just our schools, our town or even our state) but parents and kids are force fed fear and then when an issue like this shared facility comes up and people outside the school are able to view our kids as they walk the track, these parents go on high alert because this is contrary to everything they know about safety for their kids. Especially when they know very well that these same seniors who can watch their kids as they are in gym would cause a lock down if they happened onto the playground at recess time. The school is sending a mixed message and these parents can't comprehend the double standard. Can you blame these parents for being concerned, frustrated and down right angry? I certainly can't.

After all who had signed up to speak on the subject spoke, then certain resource speakers spoke. There was the head of the rec center who gave actual numbers of the seniors who walked and the times they walked which suddenly became less alarming to me as most like to walk early of a morning and are out of the gym before the kids even get to school. Then the principal of the grade school spoke, explaining how safety measures were handled while the kids were in the gym and then the director of district safety spoke, explaining the safety and security training the district does on a weekly basis. In the end, I felt that both sides of the issue (and yes I hate that there are sides) were well covered and eloquently presented as well as some facts from the resource speakers that I didn't know about.

As I listened to it all I realized that there is no right or wrong here. No one wants the kids put in danger, but there is a slight discrepancy about what each side views as danger. I kept thinking to myself as I listened, that with all these amazing people in this amazing town, surely we should be able to find a solution or a compromise that would benefit both the kids and the seniors and neither group would lose the facility, feel cheated and the parents minds would be put at ease as to the safety of their kids. I even asked questions after the meeting as to when the kids used the gym. Do they use it all day every day? I wonder if it is possible for the school to make the compromise to consolidate all their gym classes into all afternoons or perhaps just on certain days and for the seniors to compromise using the track on the days the kids weren't using the gym? Is it possible to curtain off the walking area so that the visual between the kids and the seniors is gone? I even thought that if during construction someone had thought to build a solid 6' wall around the track instead of wall.....rail....wall....rail, then this wouldn't even be an issue right now. Hindsight is always 20/20. Sigh!

So walking away from the meeting tonight, I will say that I left with a different perspective on the entire issue. I personally am not nearly as concerned about safety issues as I was going in, but I do know there are those that don't really see a compromise in sight and therefore,  feel as if their concerns are just being dismissed. Sadly, I think that if that happens, we will be losing some students in the district and there are going to be some unhappy community members. Having a different perspective does not mean that I still don't respect and understand the concerns of the parents and I feel as vital members of this community raising our next generation, their voice should be heard and their concerns respected, and a compromise should be actively sought after. Will it happen? I guess will know come Monday.

16 comments:

Anonymous said...

Once again you make some excellent points. Being able to view the situation from both is a mixed blessing, especially if no compromise can be reached. I also walked away feeling better about it all, but I still feel that our kids are unnecessarily being put at risk.

Anonymous said...

I thought this whole meeting tonight was sh!t! Those board members had their minds set before the meeting even started. They were doing nothing more than putting on a show for the media in which they appeased us. They will do nothing about this but they will sure as hell pat themselves on the back and say, "Well at least we let them have their say." I was so disgusted and and I know those resource speakers were doing nothing more than blowing smoke up all our asses. What a waste of a Thursday evening. I could have been cleaning my toilet and had a more productive evening. You wrote a great blog but I am beyond pissed. I don't find Mulvane nearly as amazing as you do right now.

TK said...

You are right. Parents live in an atmosphere of fear because that is what they were taught and that is what they are teaching their kids. I have always thought our schools were being over reactive and ridiculous with the door bells and the crazy privacy junk. Of course everyone is going to be scared. The school makes them believe they should be, unless of course the district is going to make money off old people using the track. Then of course parents fears are nuts and they are just over reacting. It's your ball BOE, lets hope you play it well.

J from OKC said...

Does your school even realize what a ridiculous double standard they have? You have all of this crazy day to day security that apparently is non-negotiable and written in stone EXCEPT for this new gym. Now suddenly security isn't quite so key. How do they even justify this idiocy? You made great points and I agree with you 100% but I think your school district needs a lobotomy.

Anonymous said...

Nonexistent Threats Loom As Fear Runs Wild
Whatever threats the children at the Grade School (including my own child there) face, it is not from the Senior Citizens who might see them from the inaccessable balcony.
If that is truly threat vector, think of the positive terror these parents must feel during Saturday rec league basketball games in the same gym when any member of the general public can view these same children from the front row of the bleachers, sitting close enough to reach out and touch them! Then the eyeballs of these same maligned Seniors would be welcome indeed as extra lookouts and witnesses.
How do some of my fellow parents overcome their runaway fears enough to leave the house each morning and compel their children to cross the threshold into outside world?

Anonymous said...

I think you are amazing and I think both of these blogs about this issue have been articulate, fair and very accurate. Your views in my opinion are spot on and I commend you highly for your care and respect to both sides of this issue. Few in this current climate have that kind of clear and unbiased view and with all that I have seen on this subject, your blogs have been very refreshing. Thanks from a fellow Mulvanian.

Anonymous said...

Nonexistent Threats: What a rude and condescending comment. I would much rather see parents fighting to protect their kids instead of not giving a damn about them. If the worst thing a parent does in this life is care enough about their kids to fight for their safety, then I don't really think there is an issue there. You though have just shown yourself to be a judgmental twit feels entitled to sit and make fun of and basically insult caring parents. What kind of person does that? Oh yeah, I know, the kind that is more interested in being a hateful judgmental jerk than a caring respectful parent. No wonder this school district is full of bullys. They obviously learn from the best.

Anonymous said...

Are our only choices here really "fighting to protect our children" -- meaning throw the Senior Citizens out -- or "not giving a damn"?

Anonymous said...

You apparently weren't around after the meeting in which a good many of those "eloquent" seniors acted like low class assholes, pardon my french. They were acting as if they had really showed us crazy parents and I heard one even say, "I hope this shuts up their bitching now that they got to whine in front of the cameras." I don't even have a kid at MGS and I was insulted for all those parents who took the time to voice their concerns about our kids. You cut those seniors a lot of slack in this blog, but I think if you had actually heard them after the meeting you might not have been so generous.

Anonymous said...

The seniors acted pretty darned entitled tonight if you ask me. They acted as if they were owed this walking track and that they owed no on a compromise. How does that work when this building was built by a "school" bond issue and therefore is the property of the school district not the personal property of the senior citizens, the members of the senior center or the MRC? Some of those seniors were down right condescending as they spoke and most of the rest just acted like they thought concern for the kids was just ridiculous. I was so disgusted over all of this. I lost a lot of respect for some seniors tonight and I can only hope their behavior comes back to bite them in their bunyons!

Anonymous said...

I think that whomever wrote this blog segment is freaking AWESOME for seeing both sides and I commend you for doing so because I know that is not easy. I a parent my self (not with kids in the MGS yet) have felt that the school and the BOE has done a tremendous job at protecting the security and well being of our kids. The issue at hand does affect a lot of people. Not just the kids and the seniors, but think about the MRC staff and the members that have classes during the day. All the parents are wanting the MRC to be open during non school hours, which would be 5:30a-7a and 3:30p-9p, Mon-Fri. People will loose their jobs because of this (if it does happen). I totally understand where the parents are coming from and yes I grew up on the tail end of the era, in the early 80s. But I don't think that closing the rec during school hours is a compromise. I think that curtain idea is a great one, because then it is not a distraction to the kids up above and it is a view blocker for the seniors. But again that is an added cost that I don't know if the BOE, is willing to put forth. I don't know if background checks are the way to go, but some seniors I did talk to last night, let me know that background checks would be a good idea, if it would ease parents minds, which I'm all for that as well. I am open to all security precautions taken as well as ideas to keep our kids more safe, but I don't think closing the rec during school hours is a compromise.

Joe said...

Okee dokee. I have no horse in this race at all. I just want to comment on the blog and blogger. I have read every blog this woman has written over the years and I have to say I love her. I especially love these kind of blogs where she gets down to the nitty gritty of a subject without ever once being rude, hateful or name calling. I think that says a lot about her character and who she is as a person. I can't help but think that those of you who know her personally are very blessed and those of you who get her on your side on any issue are very lucky. These blogs are top notch and seldom do I disagree with her. When I do though, her arguments are usually so good that I have to respect where she is coming from and realize that she just didn't pull her views out of her ass, but she actually carefully considered her position. Cmom, I love this blog and I love you. Not in a stalkery kind of way though. Keep writing and I will keep reading and good luck to all involved in this issue.

Anonymous said...

I absolutely love this blog. I no longer live in Mulvane but if I did then my suggestion would be that everyone using the facility during school hours must have a background screening done by the school. Where I live if you want access to any part of the school as a volunteer you must have the screening done. Should help ease everyone fears.

Anonymous said...

I don't even know where to begin, I do not agree I'll start there. I simply cannot believe that you are willing to tell the senior citizens of Mulvane that they can't use the gym but only for certain hours. What time do your parents, grandparent wake up and do things? Generally they are early risers and to bed early so cutting them out Mon-Fri till after school not a good option for them and the fact that they have paid for it as well.
I am willing to bet the same parents worried about it take their kids to the sports complex, the YMCA, and various other places and drop them off for practices where they are open targets for anyone. Part of this story talks about why the parents have the concerns they have, which are valid due to events such as Sandy Hook and the like. also how many of these school shootings were done by a student of the school or teacher, usually it is someone from within, so they will more than likely have access to the school, you can't stop everyone. What do you want metal detectors, full body scans, bag checks at every entry point, this is where this type of thinking leads us to as a society. I decided to look at history to see what the seniors lived through and found that school shootings are documented to 1760 they happened all through the 1800's, 1900's and I looked at Killers such as Wayne Williams 1979-1981 killed 29 children in Georgia, Dean Corell AKA the candy man killed 27 kids 1970-73 in Texas. John Wayne Gacy body count 33 1972-78, Gerald Stano late 1960's killed 41 young women. Jeffrey Dahmer, Ted Bundy, BTK. Bombings date back to 1800's 1927 school bombing Lansing Michigan 45 dead, 38 were children, 1963 Alabama kills 4 little girls...I could go on and on...point being seniors have lived with fear as well and still manage to coexist with others without fear. I don't know all the details about how this all took place, but it sounds as though security measures are in place. Let your children live a minimal fear free life, quit telling them at every turn someone may snatch them, for the love of God they can't even go to school without looking over their shoulder and questioning every person they encounter. I do not live in Mulvane, I am a mother of a large so yes I have children some grown and gone some still at home and in school. I just can't believe what I'm hearing here.

Cmom said...

Anonymous above. Just a little comment here. First let me hit a couple of points. I never said to kick the seniors out or tell them they couldn't walk. I said EVERYONE needed to make a compromise. I stated what other places were doing and I made possible compromise suggestions. I also pointed out that you can't have one set of rules for all the other buildings in the district and then another set for this one. They are all school buildings and therefore the district has a responsibility to have the same rules in all buildings. I honestly believe there are many opportunities to compromise here that would insure both safety for the kids, peace of mind for the parents and the seniors getting to walk anytime they pleased, but until the parents and seniors are willing to sit down and discuss this face to face and leave hurt feelings and even anger at the door, this will never happen. Yes, there has been danger throughout history, but as I have stated before, we live in a fear based society far more now than in any other time in history, which has been perpetuated by our very own school district. They have helped reinforce the fact that we should be afraid and so should our children and that has been the name of the game until this gym opened. Now they are trying to change the rules and they want the parents okay with it. You can't tell parents that there is great risk for years and then suddenly say, but not now. My blogs are saying LET'S COMPROMISE! Will a screen work? Do we need a district wide security change? We as a community need to come together and figure this out rather than go negative on each other. That is all that I am saying.

Anonymous said...

to above comment my post was not really directed at you but all as a society and what I am seeing. However you do say.." I was in fact told that the rec center would have access to the facility after school hours, weekends and during the summer months but not during school. The exact words said to me were...
"Sharing the gym during school hours would be much too distracting for the kids and much too loud for those from the rec center." and it mentioned again AFTER SCHOOL HOURS, I'm guessing the seniors would like to walk Mon-Fri early and that would not bode well for them in the compromise. I did state I do not know what all went into it but my take, which is what it is as is everyone else is that yes we are a fear driven society and at some point it needs to stop.