Dennehy: ‘Where were you?’

Yvette Dennehy
Concerned Parent & Citizen
Incoming School Board Member

On Wednesday night, June 17th, 2015, the Milford School District held a community workshop to talk about the need for a referendum and the possibility of other tax measures. This was the first attempt to engage the community in a forum for discussion concerning a possible referendum in the fall, and while there was some constructive conversation, it was populated by emotional outbursts, accusations, and finger-pointing at the district and the board. I understand some of the sentiment and the frustration that people have, but what needs to be pointed out is that many of those frustrations and problems that people have with the District and the board happened months, years, or decades ago, and so my question is – Where were you when these things were occurring?

What did you do when you felt like decision making was poor or that different measures should have been taken? Did you attend board meetings? Did you contact the District or board members for clarification of facts or did you rely on second-hand information circulating around Milford? Did you attempt to learn about how school funding works? Did you offer solutions or alternatives? Did you vote in school board elections or think about volunteering? Did you attempt to hold the board accountable at the time?

Sadly, I think the answer in most cases is no. It’s only now, when the District is asking for money to fund operations and to build a much needed new school that we have a sudden interest in the performance of the District and the school board. It’s now, when we have been asked to open our wallets that the past mistakes or the questionable decisions are on our radar. None of the great things the board has done over the years are ever mentioned. The fact that these people volunteer their time for the greater good of our schools is lost in the fray. The many positive things that go on in our District are overshadowed by a few negative ones and that is what people are focusing on.

While I do agree that there have been some questionable choices made in the past and that the board could do a better job of communicating with the community, let’s remember, communication is a two-way street, and we as citizens have a responsibility to be informed and engaged. If we don’t agree with something the District or the board is doing, we can’t wait until years down the track and cry “lack of accountability,” we have to engage at the time, we have to communicate, do all in our power to understand how things work, let our voices be heard, and offer suggestions.

We, as citizens of this school district have been negligent, and because of our indifference, we really have no one to blame but ourselves. It is time to step up and learn from the mistakes of the past in order to form a vision for the future. We can’t change the fact that the Middle School is in a state of disrepair beyond measure. We can’t change the fact that the school buildings were not built in a way that they can be added on to. We can’t change the fact that some poor decisions were made by previous administrations and board members, but we can change the future.

It’s time to come together. It’s time to take responsibility for the actions of our elected board. Their job is to make decisions. Our job is to be involved in and influence that decision making, and sitting on the sidelines and offering criticism is not an effective measure for change. Most importantly, it is time to remember the reasons behind the decision making. There are 4,200 of them, and they are the children of this school district. They need us. They need this community to rally around them and support a vital, flourishing district that will afford them the education that every child deserves. We cannot do that without funding. We cannot do that in an overcrowded and unsafe environment. We cannot do that when we are losing excellent teachers to other districts because they have lost faith in ours. We cannot do that when our community is polarized, and we cannot do that if we choose to dwell in the past instead of planning for the present and the future.

So I implore you, please be a part of the solution. Please be proactive. Please step up to the plate and become involved in the decision making of the school board. Contact your State Legislators and demand that they change the way that schools are funded in Delaware. Hold local and state officials accountable and offer suggestions for moving forward because the decisions made today will impact our children and our community for decades to come. So now I ask you not where you were in the past, but instead I ask – “Where will you be in the future?”

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