Guest Opinions

Making tough decisions: Engagement, civility help define our community and schools

Capital High School teachers welcome their Boise students back to school with a Happy New Year party in August 2016.
Capital High School teachers welcome their Boise students back to school with a Happy New Year party in August 2016.

In October, the Boise School Board of Trustees unanimously approved the 2018-19 school year calendar. Recently, the board and administration completed a review of the process used to develop the calendar.

The calendar achieves a remarkable balance between the district’s goal to end the first semester prior to the winter break and some community members’ priority of a later start to the school year.

However, the conversation leading up to the calendar was about much more than just a series of dates, semesters and summers in Idaho. At its core, it was a conversation about the process any community-based organization must go through to meet the needs of its primary constituency — in our case students — while listening to and respecting the concerns of the multitude of various groups affected by such a decision.

Was the process perfect? No. While the final outcome was a unanimous board vote in favor of the proposed calendar, there were areas identified by the Board of Trustees, the public and the administration that can be, and will be, improved upon, including inclusion of patrons and other stakeholders in the ongoing work of the district, as well as proactive and multichannel, two-way communication throughout the process.

The work to improve the process is only made possible by the undeniable fact that active participation and civility remain bedrock principles and defining virtues of our community. In a political climate seemingly bent on creating a winners-and-losers society, social media fomenting an us-against-them mentality, and technology augmenting simultaneous connectivity and isolation, Boise is at its best when we all come to the table together and respectfully discuss our goals, concerns, challenges and opportunities.

Thank you to all who participated throughout the process and to those who shared your input at the board meeting. The civility, dignity and support expressed toward all who testified was refreshing and much appreciated. Attendees applauded for those who testified, providing a shining example of how and why Boise schools and our community will continue to succeed and thrive.

Don Coberly is Boise School District superintendent and Nancy Gregory is president of the Boise School Board of Trustees. Contributing authors are trustees Maria Greeley, A.J. Balukoff, Dr. Troy Rohn, Doug Park, Dave Wagers and Beth Oppenheimer.