“Your Voice Matters”

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By Adam Koplik, Editor-in-Chief

On October 23, 2020, Editor-in-Chief of The Maroon, Adam Koplik, submitted the following statement to the New Paltz Central School District board of education and district administrators in response to the scheduling conflict.

Dear Members of the School Board and District Administrators:

“Your voice matters”. This saying is nailed into our brains throughout our childhood. We are told that we can make changes in society; that our opinion as concerned citizens will be heard and valued by those in power. At some point, however, it seems that everyone learns the cold, hard truth–that our opinion doesn’t matter. Once people are in power, they stop caring about the opinions of those facing the consequences of their decisions. The school board consulting neither students nor teachers when deciding the new school schedule is a sad example of this fact.

This is a tough time for everybody.  Keeping students and teachers safe is at the forefront of everybody’s mind, and we need to recognize that struggle. But the way to figure out the best way forward is not to ignore the groups of people that are actually being affected by these changes.

The worst part of the new schedule is not that it got rid of asynchronous days that kids use to catch up on work. It’s not that we’re now losing an extra 40 minutes of sleep despite numerous studies showing teenagers need sleep. It’s not that the schedule was upended–a schedule that both parties were finally getting used to. The worst part of all of this is that no one asked our teachers or students for their opinion. 

Clearly, our administration doesn’t value student input. Here at The Maroon, we did what the administration should’ve done–asked the students. Within a few hours, we received nearly 200 responses from New Paltz High School students. Polling found that 82.5% of NPHS kids approved of the current schedule that we had been working under for the first six weeks of the school year. One anonymous student said, “what we have, although not perfect, works!! we’ve adapted and molded our lives around it, as well as our families. please keep the current schedule, at least until second quarter or semester, when teachers and students can be properly consulted.” 

On the question of if they approved of the proposed schedule, 92.8% of students said “no”. If district administration took the time to actually ask the students before announcing this new schedule, they would know this. Over 90% of students DISAPPROVE of the proposed, with one saying, “It’s absolutely ridiculous that no students or teachers were asked about this change, and they decided to announce it right as students are starting to get the hang of the current schedule. The school says they don’t want us to be on a screen so often, so they added another day of video calls. That makes no sense and is extremely unfair to kids with jobs, mental health issues, family responsibilities, and so much more. And, of course, the school is going to claim they care about the students and did everything they could to make this work, but, like always, they don’t even take us into consideration. The current schedule still isn’t great, as teachers assign absurd amounts of work on asynchronous days, but it’s still much better than this new plan.”

The final question asked students if they believed they were being consulted enough on decisions. A whopping 89.2% of students voted NO, with one saying, “The announcement of the new schedule is disrespectful to teachers and students. It essentially tells us that our opinions and feelings don’t matter when we are the ones experiencing this. We were given two months to plan our entire lives around the existing schedule, just to have it changed with less than a week’s notice. People have altered their work schedules, clubs, and even choir has worked around the existing synchronous days for graded presence in separate google meets. It is completely unacceptable, and it would be wise for the administration to at least delay the change of the schedule until the teachers and students are consulted about how it would affect not only their other responsibilities but also their mental and physical health.”

We were only able to print some of the many heartfelt responses to the survey. If the school board would like access to it to read the opinions of our students, The Maroon would be more than happy to provide this information.

Collaboration seems to be dead. Look at any level of the world and you’ll notice this cold, hard fact. From the Democrats and Republicans refusing to work together on a stimulus bill that would help millions of Americans, to a school district in upstate New York ignoring the opinion of students and teachers–this lack of collaboration has become a stain on society. I personally dislike the schedule. However, if it was discussed by groups of both students and teachers whose input was valued, and this is the compromise they came to, I would understand it and deal with it. But that’s not what happened. District Administration made a unilateral decision without collaborating with those that this scheduling change actually affects. I understand it’s hard to please everyone, but it’s a lot harder to do that without listening to basically anyone.

It’s hard to do anything during a pandemic. Something as little as going to the grocery store has become a chess match. I understand how tough creating a schedule must be. That’s why I’m asking the school board to let us help. Collaboration is a lost art, and it’s even harder to do without listening to others. It is our education, and we should have the loudest voice in how it’s built. Let our voice matter.

Thank you for listening.

Adam Koplik – Editor-in-Chief, The Maroon