Christine R. Larson
261 Broadway, Apt.6E,
To the honorable members of District 2 Community School Board,
In a letter dated
My first objection is to the implication that any member of the original planning committee did not work to achieve the goals of Parents’ Council. As I recall, the members of Parents’ Council expressed the following objectives for Math Night: that it should involve a balanced discussion of the District mandated Math Curricula; that it should be different from, more substantive than, the typical school Math Night; that it should include the opportunity for parents to express their views and put questions to the panel. In addition, we decided that any one could join the planning committee, that we would distribute a survey soliciting parents’ views to all of the schools, and that we would start by providing a list of focussing questions to the District Math Office, a copy of which list is appended here.
As became evident in the course of planning the event, we were unable to realize most of those goals. We could not make the panel balanced or ensure that Lucy West’s presentation was substantively different from her usual school presentations. We could not force the District Math Office to answer our questions much less the questions put forth by parents in the surveys.
But even though we were unable to achieve the goals as I understand them, I strongly object to the allegation that any member of the original planning committee acted in opposition to Parents’ Council’s objectives – however such objectives are construed. All of us not only worked hard for a successful Math Night, we even complied with Cathrine Kellison-McLaughlin’s “directives.” For example, when she prohibited most of the members of the planning committee, two of whom are also members of Parents’ Council Executive Board, from attending the April 4th planning meeting at the District Math Office, we did not act in opposition to this stricture. In fact, our extreme conscientiousness held sway even when it became clear that the panel was not going to be balanced, but rather would itself be biased, representing only one viewpoint, that of the District Math Office. We proceeded with the mundane, and clearly thankless tasks related to promoting the Math Night: we drafted the final leaflet, verified the names and institutional affiliations of the panel participants, secured translation, transportation and parking information, and, after the leaflet was finished and approved, distributed the final product. There was no point at which we shirked our responsibilities or opposed Parents’ Council. And, as was obvious to all in attendance that night, our work (and that of School Board President Karen Feuer who, besides helping with other tasks, undertook the massive initial mailing of the survey), resulted in the best-attended districtwide event for parents in the last several years.
The next matter with which I here take issue is the
implication that the predominant parent reaction to the Math Night was that of
delight. While I don’t question the
veracity of the Co-Presidents’ statements, I do question whether the reactions
they’ve heard represent that of the majority of parents in attendance that
night since my own experience is so at odds with theirs. From statements made immediately after Math
Night, through lengthier discussions I’ve had in the ensuing weeks, to a public
discussion of the Math Night at PS 234’s most recent PTA meeting, I have heard
only that the Math Night was an extreme disappointment, particularly given
parents’ expectations of both an open discussion of the math curricula and
considered responses to the surveys. In
fact, and as I’ve pointed out before, pursuing an Open Forum would not be worth
the frustration unless I thought such a forum would be responsive to the
concerns of the majority of parents in this district.
The one area in which my experience appears similar to that of the Co-Presidents’ is the disgust we’ve heard expressed by many parents at certain boorish behavior evidenced that night. But before discussing that, I would like to dispel a rumor. As every parent I’ve talked to knows, the lights were accidentally switched off by someone wholly unconnected to Parents’ Council or the planning committee (“an innocent bystander,” as it were). I find it peculiar that the Co-Presidents not only are contributing to the spread of a false rumor but also memorialized the falsehood in their letter.
Now to the matter of the disgust expressed by parents. Again, it is interesting that the parents I’ve heard from were most repelled by the rudeness of certain District Office and Parents’ Council representatives towards parents. The actions they cite are those of persons in the front of the auditorium, such as Cathrine Kellison-McLaughlin, who, allegedly, was among those impatiently shouting such things as, “What’s your question? Get to your question,” during the open question portion of the evening. Thus, in yet another instance, our respective experiences of Math Night and parent reaction to it, while superficially similar, in fact diverge.
My final point (to your relief I’m sure) relates to how each of us parents on the planning committee for the School Board sponsored Math Forum represented ourselves after Math Night. To my knowledge, we did not state, or, I believe, even imply, that we were representing Parents’ Council in our request for the Board to sponsor an Open Forum. I am bemused at the implication made by the Council Co-Presidents that we were guilty of such. I trust that, if their letter has accomplished nothing else, at least their misapprehension on this matter has been dispelled.
I thank you for your attention throughout this lengthy letter. I hope it has added to your understanding of certain of the events associated with Math Night.
Christine R. Larson
c.: PARENTS’ COUNCIL EXECUTIVE BOARD:
Cathrine Kellison-McLaughlin, Co-President (by e-mail)
Thom Fogarty, Co-President (by e-mail)
Veronica Borrer, Vice-President
Cass Collins, Recording Secretary (by e-mail)
Elizabeth Carson, Corresponding Secretary (by e-mail)
Betsy Waters, Treasurer (by e-mail)