Friday, November 10, 2006

Corralling the "OK's"

Wednesday night I attended the Parent Advisory Meeting at Grand Junction High School, most of which dealt with school safety.

The bulk of this presentation was very interesting and informative, dealing with the school's new PBS (Positive Behavior Support) program, as well as the PRIDE initiative, which consists of, according to the GJHS Student Handbook:

Personal Responsibility-Taking ownership of your actions and their outcomes.
Respect-Demonstrate positive behavior towards yourself and others.
Integrity-Always doing the right thing, even when no one is looking.
Determination-Honest commitment to improve yourself, your school and relationships with others.
Empathy-Seeing and accepting others' situations, feelings, motives and showing compassion for others.

These are noble and appropriate goals for a student population, even if the acronym is somewhat unfortunate. I passed along to the group the wisecrack my son relayed to me about Pride being one of the seven deadly sins. I think I now know how John Kerry felt last week.

There was also a discussion about lockdown and other plans established to deal with extraordinary emergencies on campus. One of the Assistant Principals stated a big challenge for administrators was assuring that new staff were properly oriented as to their responsibilities in lockdown and other emergency situations. I inquired about what the GJHS staff is instructed to do when urgent or emergency situations occur day-to-day. I prefaced my question with the assertion that if staff isn't responding in a consistent manner to situations that occur on a daily basis, it's likely that the response will be even more inconsistent when a critical incident occurs.

I admit that I was trying to pin the Principal down to something consistent, but he wasn't having any of it. He wanted to say that it was dependent on the nature of the emergency, and that he would call 9-1-1 "slash" the School Resource Officer that the school was fortunate enough to have.

I stated that I thought the Principal's answer was too ambiguous and that only with clear direction as to how to respond to emergencies would a consistent, reliable approach be achieved. It was then that an Assistant Principal pointedly stated that he didn't understand my question.
I then went back to his earlier statement about difficulty orienting new people in critical procedures, and that if there wasn't consistency in everyday procedures how could one expect consistency in really nasty situations? I then went right to the point I was trying to get to in a logical manner (without much success): that there is too much effort in school safety planning placed on managing the message instead of just managing the incident.

At that point this Assistant Principal became somewhat indignant, stating that this statement was incorrect as far as he was concerned, and that he took offense to my statement, and that he and several other administrators also had kids at GJHS

My response to this? "OK", followed by "Thank you for your candor".

I now understand how Johnnie Walker might have felt after I calmly passed along my concerns about the minor league pro wrestling card at GJHS Saturday night. I got an "OK" from him, too.

The Assistant Principal was successful in deflecting the discussion away from the topic at hand by becoming defensive, and taking the route of personal indignation over reasonable discourse. "Shields Up, Captain." I could have tried to press on, but I realized that meaningful progress wasn't going to happen there. I made my point. I'm sticking to it. I'm not going away.

Eventually we will all have to put away our "OK's", work out our differences, and find out what are reasonable expectations for staff, students, and parents alike. Unfortunately, I feel that there is little room for ambiguity when it comes to school personnel responding to unusual occurrences that have, or may escalate to, an imminent threat to life, limb, or property.
More discussion will be needed, hopefully soon.

As far as PBS and PRIDE go, I'm hopeful for their success, so long as the expectations and interventions associated with the desired behaviors do not interfere with a student's First Amendment rights, as affirmed by the Supreme Court during another unpopular war.

Have a great weekend.

1 comment:

sally said...

Wow, John!
You need to lighten up! While I sincerely appreciate your passion on the topics that you have written about, how is it that you have not had a stroke or heart attack yet? Our children grow up and do well in spite of us, bad things are going to happen in this world no matter how good our foreplanning is. Don't lose sight of the fact that our Father has things FIRMLY under control in HIS infinite wisdom, not ours. Appreciate the things He gave us to enjoy, like your weekend at the cabin, the mountains you have in your backyard, the Pgh Penguins (lol)and the truly simple things like the beauty in an insect. Breathe, relax and thank God everyday. It's OK to have an opinion on things. It's not OK to have a heart attack over them.