The 2005/06 Unionville-Chadds Ford School District student handbook covers a variety of topics from a list of school addresses and administrators to the dress code to the parking policy -- but not how to approach the school board with problems and concerns.

Maybe it should.

What it does not address, are the policies regarding inquiries to the board and how to get answers.

At a recent board meeting, a parent asked that same question -- specifically, how the board decided what to address and also why certain questions go unanswered when posed in a public forum.

Board member Kathleen Brown said the main reason that people didn't get answers from the board in these instances is that the individual members all have different opinions and different approaches to things.

"There is no one position," Brown said.

OK. We want different views and opinions. They get things going and they keep everyone on their toes.

But just because there isn't one unifying answer doesn't mean that genuine concerns shouldn't be met with some legitimate degree of consideration, rather than the customary nod and a polite "thank you for your time."

Resident Nick O'Neill came to the board last week with a PowerPoint presentation about grades. He used his allotted three minutes to address the district's grading policies and asked that the board consider making a change.

Although his presentation got the point across, the use of a slideshow was an extreme approach and did little to resolve the issue. It also had about the same impact as simply standing up and posing a question would and received the same reaction -- acknowledgement with very little discussion.

If parents have a problem, they are expected to address that problem with a corresponding board member, leaving the "public comment" section to voice opinions regarding decisions that have either already been made or will be made in the course of the meeting.

And let's not forget that most times, the discussion concerning a particular issue usually takes place at the board's work sessions, where public attendance is encouraged but public comment is not.

While this policy may shorten the meeting's length, it also leaves frustrated parents who walk out feeling as if they were ignored.

A recent district-wide climate evaluation -- performed at the board's request -- came back with the conclusion that many parents viewed the board as "cold" and "calculated."

If the board wishes to change that public perception, it would behoove the members to make a concerted effort to address a parent's concerns, even if it is at a later date? Wouldn't they expect the same if the roles were reversed?

Parents should not expect the board to make pat resolutions based on public opinions and comments rather than on an informed discussion. On the other hand, the board should be more forthcoming with direct answers when dealing with public concerns.

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