By: Srinidhi Ananth, Michael Miller, and Isha Patlola
Last October, WW-P superintendent David Aderhold issued a letter to parents to address the high stress levels in the district. This letter stirred up controversy in the community, and ever since then, the school district has been progressively working on addressing the concerns of students, teachers, and parents.
According to the WW-P webpage, the school district hopes to create a Strategic Plan that creates a refocused mission statement and specific district goals, through the efforts of a Strategic Planning Committee. In an effort to incorporate the ideas of parents and students in the district, an open forum was held on the morning of October 29, at the district’s central office. The meeting had a successful turnout of parents from varied ethnicities, each advocating for specific changes in the district.
The committee, led by Aderhold, includes a diverse group of representatives, from members of the Board of Education to students and parents. The open forum was conducted to listen to the opinions from parents and students and assist the committee in its creation of a plan that will address the overarching concerns of the parents and students in WW-P.
Ideas for an open forum were born after an online survey was distributed to the district. The survey was comprised of questions regarding students’ well-being and opinions about specific departments.
The forum was led by facilitator Judith Wilson, former superintendent of the Princeton Regional School District and current member of the Strategic Planning Committee. Though Wilson does not work directly for the district, she helped fuel the planning process and set its goals. “The goals were to provide an opportunity…for the public to express ideas that might not have been included in their electronic surveys or in other forums, and…to look for trends and patterns of ideas that really will rise to the top in this planning process,” Wilson said.
The meeting was formatted so that everyone had an opportunity to speak, prompted by a packet handed out with discussion topics. Prompts ranged from equality and diversity to communication and technology. With each prompt, there was an open forum in which parents could chip in.
One of the biggest themes shaping the discussion was transparency. Many parents stated that the district needed to be more open to the public about their ideas and actions.
Another consistent motif was stress and competitiveness, issues that were put in the spotlight by Dr. Aderhold’s letter . Worried parents discussed the gap in high school between the “easy-going” College Prep courses versus the difficult honors courses with hefty workloads.
After two hours of intense discussion, the meeting closed with an “I would like to see…” session, in which parents could mention any concerns that had not already been addressed. Parents stressed the need for increased communication between the teachers and students, teachers and parents, and guidance counselors and students.
But despite this significant step in the right direction, there will always be room for improvement, a concept that the district recognizes. The Board of Education will be holding a meeting in December that will continue to strive for a more inclusive school environment that takes into account opinions of everyone in the district.