You may have heard that the members of the Federated Home & School Association (made up of the presidents of each school’s HSA, plus an executive board and member-at-large) will be meeting with representatives of Valley Hospital on Wednesday 9/22. It seems there are some community members who have misinterpreted this meeting, and are up in arms.
As one of the Board of Ed liaisons to Federated (and a former Secretary/Treasurer of the group and former member as Somerville HSA president), I hope I can shed some light on the facts of the situation, and help tone down some of the anxiety.
Wednesday’s meeting was conceived and scheduled by Federated following a brainstorming session in June. They decided to hold a "special" Federated meeting in September, to address the Valley Hospital Renewal project. Federated invited representatives from Valley Hospital, along with reps of the Village Council and the Board of Ed, to address questions and concerns regarding the health, safety and well being of our students should a hospital expansion project go forward. The purpose is simply to learn, listen and gather facts as they exist at this point in time, just as Federated has done in the past at their meetings on all important issues facing our educational community.
Federated’s President, Elizabeth Resnick, has stated that she sees Wednesday’s meeting is a beginning for these HSA presidents (don’t forget, they only started in their positions in June) to “get a grasp of the current status so they can be ready to decide how to best involve their parent communities moving forward.” The only motivation for Federated is to try and keep communication open and work together as a school community.
Some residents refer to Wednesday’s meeting as “the closed Valley meeting,” implying that there is something to hide or something untoward going on. The only reason it was scheduled as a special meeting was so that there would be enough time – those Federated meetings are long! And it’s not “open” or “closed.” It’s just a Federated HSA meeting. A meeting of the members of the Federated HSA. I guess in that sense it’s closed.
Others have questioned why Valley is being presented with questions in advance. Mrs. Resnick is trying to plan for an efficient meeting. Remember, the purpose is to get information, that’s it.
Some have asserted that “the other side,” the Concerned Ridgewood Residents, should have their opportunity to present “their side” to Federated. This isn’t about “sides.” It’s not about whether the master plan should be amended. It’s not about the decision that the Planning Board made, and it’s not about the decision that the Village Council will be making. It is about this: IF the project, in its current form, goes forward, these HSA presidents (and their constituent parents) have questions about how it will work and how their kids will be protected from harm.
Some residents have expressed their belief that Valley will simply present “slick powerpoints” or that they will lie or bamboozle the Federated members. That’s fairly insulting to these Home & School volunteers. They may not represent every single parent in town, but in attempting to do the right thing for their communities, why can’t they be trusted to ask the questions they feel are important and, likewise, to judge the answers they are given?
I find it particularly sad that our Village has degenerated to such a state of mistrust. How in the world are we going to face the challenges that we need to face, if no one trusts each other?
Any resident of this town has the right to pick up the phone or send an email to Valley and ask whatever questions they want. This group of residents, members of Federated HSA, has that same right. And by limiting their focus to health and safety around the proposed project, they are also exercising their responsibility to not get caught up in the politics.
Did I mention that the minutes of Wednesday’s meeting (taken by a professional court reporter, so no worries about accuracy) will be posted on the Federated HSA website? They will be.
Welcome to Laurie Goodman's blog. I use this space to share news and opinions about education and schools in Ridgewood, the state of New Jersey and the nation, in addition to other issues I'm personally interested in. I invite you to share your thoughts, feelings, questions or opinions, too, by posting comments on any blog entry. Please observe basic courtesy -- keep your comments focused on issues, no personal attacks or bullying, please. Contact me directly at: firstname.lastname@example.org