Commentary by Paslov: Schools: It takes vision, planning to navigate 21st century challenges
For the Nevada Appeal
School districts and their governing boards are under enormous pressure. There is less money to operate the schools, more demands and greater expectations for teachers, with a corresponding lack of salary incentives commensurate with the skills they bring to the table. Parents, teachers and students desperately need access to 21st century educational ideas and technology to be prepared for success in dealing with new career paradigms in a rapidly changing world. Almost everyone agrees; but how do you get there?
It will take creative interventions for local school boards and the communities, residents, elected officials and business leaders they serve to respond to these pressures. The schools cannot operate the way they have in the past and expect to survive. Schools must change, dramatically, substantively, creatively or they will not flourish.
I sat through a Carson City School Board meeting on July 12. It was fascinating to observe. Trustee Ron Swirczek had been out talking with business leaders, elected officials, parents, teachers and students, many of whom were in the audience. He asked difficult questions about the meaning and the future of our schools. Community members had some answers, but even more questions. It is an iterative process, sometimes even tiresome; but as Socrates discovered, questions can lead to truth. The community must find the truth for an educational system that will work in the 21st century.
Swirczek, who’s newly elected, proposed that the board undertake the development of a “vision statement” and plan that would engage the community more directly in the educational future of our children.
The trustees had obviously been through many planning sessions and some, at least, didn’t want to take more time working on what they thought had already done.
I, along with most in the audience, overheard the trustees, sotto voce, say they were concerned about yet another “vision statement exercise.” But there were elected officials, business people, teachers and parents in the audience, representatives of the community who wanted to help.
Many of us have been through vision statement exercises; although they are difficult, they are also necessary. In education, the organizational, economic and political landscape is changing beneath our feet. Mr. Swirczek, with the help of the community, suggested a procedure for the board to get ahead of the power curve, to eventually come to a visionary 21st century educational system.
The school board scheduled a meeting for 9 a.m. Aug. 13 at the Carson City Middle School cafeteria to talk about a new vision, with community involvement.
Ron Swirczek is worth listening to; this meeting is worth attending.
• Eugene T. Paslov is a board member of the Davidson Academy at the University of Nevada, Reno, and the former Nevada state superintendent of schools.