Guest opinion: School board president should be replaced in November | ParkRecord.com
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Guest opinion: School board president should be replaced in November

Melissa McKenna
Prospector

I had a firsthand experience in early August as to how Park City teachers’ concerns regarding the opening of schools was being handled by the school board when I wrote a letter as a parent outlining my own concerns and received a response from Andrew Caplan, the school board president, under the false assumption that I was a teacher. This is the response I received:

“The 90 percent number comes from our enrollment. Our community is not divided. It is nearly unanimous. The state has guided us to reopen and we have taken every measure to do so safely. Education is an essential service and you of all people should know this. Withholding education from children is not only a selfish idea but is a shameful suggestion from an educator.

“Where would you suggest we put AND educate the 2500 children whose parents work during the week? Should we leave them unsupervised at home or should I and half of the community make the impossible decision of whether to work and provide for my family or to stay home and educate my children? Please don’t try and politicize an essential service.

“If you choose that returning to work is too dangerous for you due to a health condition then that is a decision that is up to you based on your individual situation. The PCEA which is your union supports returning to in person learning.

“Schools are no less important then any other essential business that must remain open during this pandemic. Threatening us repeatedly and now involving the health department because you aren’t getting your way is an embarrassment not only to yourself but to your peers.”

Andrew’s response was misdirected, but it is also hostile, defensive, accusatory and dismissive. When I responded that I was a parent and not a teacher, Andrew responded by saying he thought I was someone else but never addressed my concerns. Calling a teacher “selfish” and “shameful” for raising safety concerns is not OK. I did not ask for education to be withheld from anyone and I seriously doubt any teachers did either. I raised concerns about class size and distancing not being possible under the full-time in-person model. I thought a hybrid model would allow for better spacing and less contact. I cited examples of restaurants, retail, etc., in town operating at lowered capacity and questioned the safety of schools opening at 100% capacity. I recognized the impossible decision between in-person and remote learning because that was what my family was struggling with. The defensive response I received struck me. Telling a teacher that if they didn’t feel safe, to stay home is not addressing the issue. This letter was written Aug. 9 at a moment of high concern and anxiety, and this is how our school board president responded to who he thought was a concerned teacher. He considers a teacher who raises safety concerns to be “threatening” and “an embarrassment.” These are harsh words. I want to provide to the community a glimpse of what it was like to communicate with the school board president in the midst of a tense time, when the stakes were very high for everyone involved. We need accountability, respect and transparency from the school board, not divisiveness and name-calling. The opening of schools was about how to educate in the safest way possible. As a 30-year Park City resident, a PCHS graduate and a parent in the district for nine years, I say listen to the people in the buildings with our kids all day. If they have a safety concern, then I have a safety concern. Andrew Caplan’s own words show why he should lose his seat on the school board this fall. Write in Thomas Cooke on Nov. 3.


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