Editorial: Poor communication and notice — a familiar story

Riverhead school board

Imagine you’re at home, it’s a little more than two weeks before school starts and you get a letter in the mail that begins as follows: “In accordance with the Elementary and Secondary Education Act’s flexibility waiver, the State Education Department issued a new institutional accountability system that monitors student proficiency and growth based on subgroup analysis.”

The jargony letter — which reads in a way that only parents who happen to be attorneys might understand — goes on to identify those subgroups: students of different races and ethnicities, economically disadvantaged students, students with disabilities and others. If one or more of the nine subgroups underperforms on student proficiency exams at a given school, all students from that school must be given the option of transferring to a school within the district that did meet the standards.

The letter concludes by kindly telling parents they have less than two weeks to make this decision.

If you opened that letter, you’d surely be scratching your head. And that’s exactly what happened to parents of Phillips and Roanoke elementary school students, who were informed last week of the opportunity to send their children to Aquebogue Elementary School.

While the letter did include the phone number of an administrator who is handling questions, it didn’t mention any plans for a community forum or other public meeting to discuss why this is happening or explore the implications of such a policy. Nor was any effort made to invite parents to this week’s Board of Education meeting to express concerns. Parents of Aquebogue Elementary School students didn’t even receive the letter.

But how could any parent not have questions about such a huge potential change?

Unfortunately, this type of low-level communication has become the standard in Riverhead schools, where parents are often poorly informed about important matters that will shape their children’s education. The fact that a community meeting was never scheduled is an embarrassment the public should not stand for — especially when the district had months to organize such an event.

Photo: Parents at Tuesday’s school board meeting at Riverhead High School. (Credit: Nicole Smith)