Editorial: We demand to stay informed … again

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TPH Editorial Board

A good relationship requires good communication: this is a concept we’ve all heard. Communication prevents misunderstandings, minimizes disputes, and increases trust. But this doesn’t apply just to romantic relationships or friendships. It also applies to the relationship between school administrators and students.

For years, many students have felt disconnected from our school administration because of its lack of communication. Often, emails containing important information about our education are sent only to parents, and we remain uninformed. Most recently, we were excluded from an email in which we had to decide between online learning through Edgenuity or hybrid learning during the upcoming semester. Students were left confused as we tried to differentiate between rumor and fact. Although the administration retracted this plan due to parental objection, this situation is not new and could easily have been avoided.

We, the TPH Editorial Board, believe that the school administration must improve on keeping students informed as well as listening to our voices. In 2014, 2017, and 2018, TPH published editorials calling for the administration to improve its communication with students. And now, in 2020, we demand it more than ever as we navigate a completely new learning environment.

Sending emails about our education only to our parents causes uncertainty and a spread of misinformation. Yes, parents can inform their children about school emails. However, if parents don’t check their emails or pass on the news, certain students become unaware of what is going on. It also relays the message that we are incapable of handling certain situations even though we are the most impacted by the administration’s decisions. If we do not have the information, we do not know how to form an opinion and talk about the latest updates at board meetings or committees.

Additionally, it is crucial that students get a proper say in decisions that affect us. The administration has provided this opportunity in the past; students can attend school board meetings and speak, and some have been selected to be members of decision-making committees. For instance, a handful of students were selected this past summer to participate in a “Reopening Piedmont School Taskforce”. We have also received Google forms in which we can express our thoughts. This is a good start, but even so, very few student perspectives can be considered this way. Even though we can show up to virtual meetings to speak, we are only given two minutes. Also, this prevents constructive conversation between administration and students. After a student speaks, they are told “thank you” and then the next person is called on. We are told to reach out if we have suggestions, yet the emails we receive are from no-replies@piedmont.k12.ca.us. And the taskforce that started in the summer has not been called back in months.

The administration can improve its communication with the student body in a number of ways.

First of all, adding students to more emails is critical. We must know how our learning and wellbeing is going to be affected. Or, if this is not yet possible, administration can send the emails to TPH so that we can compile the information for students.

Secondly, we would like more opportunities to converse with administrators in settings that feel encouraging. Small, constructive group discussions between administrators and students could focus on “What can we improve?” and “How can we improve?” We must be part of the decision-making process more often.

Even so, some students would rather voice their views on an online platform. Although we receive intermittent Google forms requesting our thoughts, Piedmont schools could set up a digital space in which students could directly send our concerns to administrators. Few of us know how to get in contact with the administration, creating a disconnect. The administration’s number one job is to improve the educational experience of its students, and when there is a detachment between us, this job becomes nearly impossible to do successfully.

It is completely understandable that this year, the administration is struggling as COVID cases fluctuate, causing nearly every plan to be shut down. It is impossible to please everyone or to take everyone’s input. But the lack of communication between administration and students is not new, and we are feeling the consequences now more than ever. By providing us with more information and involving us in plans more frequently, the student body can even be a helping force. Thorough communication will be the difference between a successful school year and a continuation of confusion and frustration.