The Golden Rule
October 5, 2018

“Nothing is so contagious as example; and we never do any great good or evil which does not produce its like.” - Francois de La Rochefoucauld

The start of every school year is mainly a hopeful and happy time that marks the beginning of a new chapter in one of life’s most important journeys - the pursuit of a K-12 education.

But like any journey there are inherent challenges along the way. Some of those challenges are made necessary by the legislation, policies, rules and regulations required to govern the way in which human and physical resources are deployed in support of the over 65,000 students we are mandated to educate. Decisions are made by various levels of leadership at the District and school level, with a ‘student first’ philosophy firmly at the forefront - while being mindful of the effect our decisions have on the entire student body, school community, or District.

Parents and caregivers have every right to question and challenge those decisions as they pertain to their child, be they programming decisions or those related to school discipline or student transportation. District staff and school administrators must be prepared to articulate the rationale for their decisions. When there is constructive criticism and dialogue, we can often work together to arrive at a place where a student’s placement, bus stop, supports or other aspect of their education can be adjusted - without providing an inequitable service to others. In some cases, there is simply a better understanding of the situation by all involved and the status quo is confirmed. In other cases, decisions are challenged through our own internal appeals, or complaints are made to external oversight organizations. Although we wish to avoid processes that divert resources from the provision of services to students, we understand that this is necessary for a functioning democracy and can sometimes result in eventual systemic improvements.

Unfortunately, there are also times when parents/caregivers depart from civil discourse to express their displeasure with a school-based, or District-based (or government-based) decision. People resort to personal attacks levied at the District or a school-based staff member. Sometimes it is done through face-to-face confrontation or direct intimidation and threats. Increasingly, it is done through social media platforms that draw in the entire community. The commentary is often abusive, vile and would not normally be tolerated in a regular social setting. Even as we make every effort to educate children and youth as to the appropriate use of social media, they are seeing it used in highly inappropriate ways within their own homes and communities. Even as we implement anti-bullying protocols and codes of conduct within our schools and workplaces, our students are witness to disrespectful behaviour directed towards their teachers, principals, District staff - and even to other parents or students in their communities. None of this actually helps the student or students involved.

Our employees, whether they are school-based, at regional offices, or in the headquarters should not have to endure such behaviour or commentary. Nor should other parents or students. Nobody should. It can affect an individual’s well-being and impact their families as well. District employees work long and hard to provide our students with the best possible opportunities for success in school, and in life - with every resource at our disposal and within whatever flexibility we can find in legislation and policy. But we can’t do it alone. As they say, it takes a village. . .

It is always better to simply follow the Golden Rule and treat others with the same care and respect that you would like to be treated.

That is what we have been trying to teach our students. You can disagree with others, but you must do so in a respectful manner and care enough to consider differing perspectives that are presented appropriately.

Our students, and your children, are watching us.

Sincerely,

Tony


Tony Stack
CEO/Director of Education

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95 Elizabeth Avenue
St. John's, NL · A1B 1R6
Tel: (709) 758-2372 · Fax: (709) 758-2706
95 Elizabeth Avenue
St. John's, NL · Canada · A1B 1R6
Tel: (709) 758-2372 · Fax: (709) 758-2706

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