Feedback isn’t always easy to hear — particularly when it suggests things need improvement. But dismissing advice too quickly is a mistake.
A recent Charleston Teacher Alliance survey deserves the attention of Superintendent Nancy McGinley and the Charleston County School Board. No, it doesn’t represent the opinions of all faculty, but 1,000 teacher voices certainly have something to say.
For starters, they say teachers in that survey group believe that the climate in schools, the superintendent and principals are falling short of last year. And that should catch the attention of Charleston County School District officials.
Teachers say the superintendent hasn’t done enough to eliminate non-essential spending and put more manpower in the classrooms. They contend that their input isn’t being given enough attention. And they complain that their time is being wasted at meetings to disseminate information that could be sent via email.
School board member Tom Ducker expressed interest in learning more about the survey and perhaps establishing a board committee to discuss it.
Why not? It might just provide some information that the board could use to shape policy.
Mr. Ducker’s was a better response than the one Dr. McGinley offered: that the survey wasn’t as comprehensive as one the district commissioned. She declined to draw conclusions based on its findings, but said she would redouble her efforts to communicate what the district does and why.
However, communication is better when it occurs before decisions are made, not as an afterthought. And communication goes both ways.
Dr. McGinley has shown that she is interested in teacher input. She meets monthly with teachers and visits schools. If those meetings are productive, perhaps she should use them to reach more teachers on the front end of major decisions.
Meanwhile, Board Chair Cindy Bohn Coats invited teachers to let the board know what they want so it can try to meet their needs.
Both staff and board members will make decisions that are unpopular, not because they are deaf to teacher feelings but because they have broader goals.
But unless they hear from teachers, parents and community members, they might miss out on making a better decision.
Sometimes the quietest and smallest voice speaks the loudest — if the right people listen.