Commentary by Luci Snyder
Our nation is facing many serious situations that result in conversations among people with differing opinions. Although this has happened periodically in our nation’s history, it has become far more personalized with the advent of social media.
Unfortunately, arguing virtually has devolved into nasty exchanges and name calling that would rarely have happened in a face-to-face discussion. However, now it has.
If we are going to solve anything, we need to bring back the idea of respectful discussion.
Parents are suddenly worried about our schools, what their children are being taught and who makes those decisions. These are legitimate concerns. The No. 1 concern when a family moves to a new community is the quality of the schools. Carmel has had excellent schools, and because of that, perhaps we have taken our eyes off the ball to worry about more immediate concerns. However, now education is our immediate concern, and rightly so.
Instead of shouting, which resulted in Carmel Clay Schools’ shameful retreat into a lack of public comment and an inconvenient meeting time, it should be apparent to the superintendent, Dr. Michael Beresford, and to the board itself, that another way to discuss legitimate parental concerns must be met.
Schools are not autonomous. Schools are an integral part of the fabric of our community. When Carmel began to grow and change, it was because of schools. People moved across the county line to establish better schools, and we were willing to pay to do so.
Look at your tax bill. The largest portion is for schools. The majority of us supported the growth, the new buildings and additional teachers and classes. Residents without children in the system also agreed to “pay forward” for the education of our future voting citizens. We sacrificed to create this school system and expect it to be a working part of the community.
At the moment, it and we are not working together.
A recent example was when the schools decided not to allow voting precincts in the buildings. The reason cited was that it was too dangerous. I’m sorry, those school buildings belong to us, the citizens of Carmel who paid for them, and they should be used to benefit the community when required.
Instead of cutting out citizens doing their most important job, which is to vote, the schools might have considered turning this to the advantage of all. Allow the voting and cancel classes on Election Day, but give the student at each learning level basic lessons in citizenship: Who is allowed to vote? Which offices are up for election? What does a person in that office do? Who is running for that office and what are their qualifications or goals? Older students could get credit for working at the polls. In short: It’s about making this a learning experience about what it means to be a citizen and engaging in the business of the community.
Dr. Beresford, as our superintendent, the ball is in your court. Do you work to create a dialogue between parties and solve the problem, or do you continue to lock out the very people who pay for your employment existence and the citizens who have supported you?
Luci Snyder, a Carmel resident, is a former Carmel City Council member.