Opinion: A better way to handle the return to school debate
To the Editor,
Although I am a member of the Mattapoisett School Committee, these are my personal views and are not intended to reflect the opinions or feelings of the other four committee members. I share these thoughts openly as a parent and resident of Mattapoisett. I am honored to serve this community on the Mattapoisett School Committee especially in these unprecedented times. I believe my professional background in the financial services private sector, my life experiences as a mother of 4 young children, and my persistence to find common ground will benefit the school community at large. I am concerned for the health and welfare of my neighbors, my parents, and my friends. I am concerned for our community, including our teachers.
I am extremely disheartened by particular comments shared during the December 7th public Mattapoisett School Committee meeting. The notion that there are two opposing groups- teachers and the community they serve- is a false ideology that I refuse to support. It is harmful, offensive, and frankly creates an unnecessary distraction from the real challenges before us. The teachers that are employed in Mattapoisett are part of this community. I believe that the teachers of the Mattapoisett school system are the magic behind the fabulous education that so many of us have factored into choosing to live in this community. And I firmly believe the Mattapoisett teachers and administrators care as deeply about the children in this community as the parents and guardians themselves.
Additionally, the implication that teachers have not ‘paid’ for this pandemic in the same way that many others have, such as layoffs, furloughs, loss wages, etc is a spiteful mentality. The way many of us have been impacted by this pandemic has been extremely challenging- even life altering. Our teachers are no different: some may have spouses, children, and many likely have elderly parents impacted by COVID-19. Some may be dealing with personal medical conditions or have medical concerns in their extended family. Teaching is their job, and although many tend to be quite passionate about their career choice, it remains only a component of who they are. First and foremost, they are human- and our decisions should not lose sight of that most central point.
I do not put my trust blindly into our teachers or this Administration. They have earned my trust and respect over my 5 years in this community; I have witnessed them care for the wellbeing of my children, not just the ABC’s and 123’s, but the entirety of my children’s well-being. And while I will not rest comfortably on those past experiences as I fulfill my duties to ensure the best possible education is available to my own children and to all of your children, I do believe that foundation allows me to enter every single conversation and dialogue with respect and assumption of positive intent. I applaud the advocacy that has been displayed in our community throughout this year, as I believe it improves not only our decision-making process, but our decisions. I truly believe that every seat around this proverbial table - from the Administration, to Committee Members, Teachers, and Families – all have the undeniable shared interest to bring ALL of our students back full time. Yet, I recognize that many may differ on the how and when to effectively return full time; these are ethical dilemmas with no clear right or wrong decisions. As we close out 2020 and head into 2021, I ask that our entire school community demonstrate to our children how to discuss, debate, and even disagree with civility and respect.
These past 10 months have been challenging for everyone. Like many parents and guardians of school age children, I have experienced disappointment and frustration in relation to their education over the course of 2020. I am concerned for my children’s education, as well as their emotional and social well-being. But in this unprecedented year, I’ve come to realize that teaching and modeling for my children what it means to be a member of a community- how we make hard choices, embrace change and ambiguity, rise to meet the moments and challenges before us, and how we may sacrifice our own desires for the wellbeing of another- are the ultimate learning outcomes of the 2020-2021 school year. Our children will learn these lessons not only from their parents, guardians, and teachers, but from the entire Mattapoisett community.
Consistent with the direction laid out in the August, the Joint Labor Management Committee has been meeting regularly, and will continue to meet regularly to monitor the educational situations directly related to COVID-19. To the community at large: Please make decisions that will support the efforts to bring our students back in person safely and equitably.
Carly E. Lavin