Ask Region 12 superintendent to 'listen to the community'
Published 3:59 pm, Wednesday, November 14, 2012
(The following is an open letter to residents of the Region 12 school district towns of Bridgewater, Roxbury and Washington from the Shepaug Valley High School Parent Council.)
As concerned members of the Shepaug Valley High School Parent Council, we want to express our opposition to the proposed elimination of block scheduling in Region 12.
We also wish to raise our objection to the refusal of our new superintendent of schools, Dr. Pat Cosentino, to enter into a thoughtful community dialogue to address our considerable -- and growing -- concerns about the direction of her recent academic and administrative decisions.
While we respect Dr. Cosentino's determination to make our schools better, we are worried she may be doing so without regard to the special qualities that make our schools outstanding.
Let us be very clear. We do not oppose change.
As a community, we are open to substantive regionwide discussion on how change will benefit our schools and heartily welcome intelligent, thoughtful, well-conceived conversations.
We also appreciate that declining enrollment has created new financial challenges for the school.
Nevertheless, we do insist on a respectful dialogue between our superintendent and the constituencies she serves. That includes us, the parents, students and taxpayers who make our schools what they are today.
So far, rather than a constructive dialogue with a community committed to quality education, Dr. Cosentino has offered an authoritarian approach.
When the community and students have sought substantive dialogue they have -- so far at least -- received condescending and impatient responses.
The new superintendent has assumed the position of one who feels empowered to do whatever she likes as long as the community is kept informed.
As a school community we are not ready for that degree of empowerment.
What we have asked for, and been denied, are community conversations to be held over an extended period of time so we might better understand Dr. Cosentino's vision and plans, and for time to listen to our experience of block scheduling and how it has provided our children with a depth of learning that successfully prepared them for college and life.
The school has also provided a safe, open and nurturing environment for learning to take place.
Dr. Cosentino has never experienced block scheduling, either as a teacher or an administrator.
She would benefit from surveying graduates of SVHS; talking respectfully to our children; meeting with teachers who have an intimate understanding of what happens in their classrooms (magic happens in many of these!); engage with parents who have been working hard for years within this system, who have had students graduate and know firsthand the benefits of block scheduling and other exceptional aspects of SVHS.
Since Dr. Cosentino told us at the Board of Education meeting that she will not read or answer our emails, we are writing here.
It is a questionable beginning when a new superintendent, observing a school barely in session for three months, tells concerned parents she "knows what is best for us."
In fact, Dr. Cosentino barely knows us.
Leadership is built upon a set of skills including respect for others, empathy, a willingness to listen and flexibility. Dr. Cosentino's many years of experience are as an educator and school principal, where authority is assumed and rarely challenged by students.
She needs to be aware that, as superintendent, she must take on an additional role -- that of conciliator and consensus builder.
The new leader for Region 12 should see the need to get to know the heart and soul of our community and schools before making changes that might significantly alter what makes our schools a truly wonderful place to learn and to grow.
We respectfully request that she respond to that need by listening to the community she serves and hearing the voices raised in a chorus of protest to the plans she proposes to move ahead with such haste.