Public Comment to the Board of Education
April 19, 2016
By Lois Tan
Hello, my name is Lois Tan, and I am a community representative on the SAC at Ponderosa High School. I am speaking tonight on behalf of the parent and community members of that SAC.
We would like to respond to some comments that were made during the last board meeting and on local talk radio over the past few weeks. The protest at Ponderosa High School on March 9 was conceived, planned and executed by students. We only learned of their plans after the online petition was launched, and applaud the students for expressing their concerns and providing a voice for their school community.
Like the students, we have seen first-hand the drain of quality educators from our schools. We have dealt with our own children’s disappointment as yet another favorite teacher makes the difficult decision to leave Douglas County, often after many years as part of our community. We were disappointed that many current and former members of this board publicly questioned the methods the kids chose to employ in order to have their concerns addressed. We are proud of them for demonstrating their investment in their education and questioning the policies that they believe are negatively effecting their education in Douglas County schools.
Director Reynolds, in your Vice President’s report last month, you questioned why students believed that a protest is a way to get answers to their concerns. That is an excellent question, and one we hope all seven of you will pursue answers to. This is especially true for you and Director Ray, who both represent portions of the Ponderosa community.
In that same report, you also made several references to principals being decision-makers in their buildings, and several board members have commented in a variety of venues upon the fact that “only” about 100 students protested on March 9th. We would like address that. A letter was sent out to all Ponderosa families a day or two before the protest under our Principals’ signature. This letter threatened various punishments for students who attended the protest and was viewed as extremely heavy-handed and threatening by our families. We now know from news interviews with Dr. Fagen and others that that the bulk of the letter was in fact written by the district communications department. We have spoken to many students who did not attend the protest due to fear of the negative consequences threatened in the letter. Many families and students were confused and chose to stay away for that reason, and not because they disagreed with the sentiments being expressed or questions being asked that day. In the future, transparency would be appreciated. If a letter is written by the district’s communications department, please sign it as such.
It is indeed time for real conversations to start in Douglas County, and we believe that student voices, especially those of our high school students, are some of the most important. Please honor the voices of our community, most especially our students, by seeking to understand their perspectives so that their concerns can be addressed.