Social media cannot replace good old-fashioned conversation.
Beloit has always been a town of caring people - people who work through differences and solve problems. Over the past several years, education has become a challenge. The school board and district administrator, held accountable, expect to hear from parents, teachers, and constituents. But lately, although we still receive calls and emails, many people choose to take to social media, criticize, present half-truths, or worse yet, non-truths, and make personal attacks on the very people who are trying to help. No good comes of this. The lines are only drawn deeper, and people become angrier - no healthier for Beloit than it is for our nation.
I would like to clear up one such issue recently addressed in the BDN and on social media.
Last month, the Beloit School Board adopted "board norms" - a list of expectations of board members. One norm addressing the communication of board issued positions with the media states, "The board president shall be the official spokesperson for the school board; the superintendent or designee shall be the spokesperson for the school district."
A designated spokesperson is common practice for school districts and cities. Our board agreed that this is the best way to disseminate accurate, clear information and keep the public informed. But, while consensus is ideal, not every vote is unanimous. There are times when a reporter will reach out to a board member looking for an explanation of his or her vote on an issue. That board member may choose to explain - and no one wants to take away that opportunity. But we hope that this is always clear: while we may disagree at the board table, in the end, we each support the decision of the majority of the board. That can be difficult, but it is part of serving on a board.
We have seven deeply caring school board members and we are happy to talk with our constituents. A phone call can clear up misinformation or help explain the reasoning behind board actions. And each month, there is an opportunity to address the entire board during public comment time at the business meeting. I do not recall any board member ever suggesting that we eliminate this public comment time. Three minutes are allowed for citizen comments, and those requiring an interpreter are now allowed three additional minutes.
Beloit can do better than what we see happening across our nation. We can be respectful to each other and work together for the good of our students. Conversation is much more effective than social media rants, which seldom present both sides of an issue and rarely solve a problem. Board members want to hear from constituents. We appreciate the opportunity to clear up misconceptions or to better explain issues that may not have been clearly presented during a meeting.
Last week, a pastor of a local church called me with a concern. We had a nice conversation, and at the end, he extended a sincere offer to help our school district in any way possible, to do whatever he can to help our kids succeed. We need more of this - more conversations, more offers to help. As we begin a new school year, I invite you to reach out and become part of the solution. If you have a concern or a question, please call a board member. We are here to serve. With the help of each caring person in our school district, and those living and working in this wonderful community, we will see our students succeed.
Beloit School Board