EDITORAL: District doesn’t live in a bubble

School districts have a habit of living in a bubble and that just doesn’t work once decisions are questioned and the public starts looking for answers.
The Ely school district has discovered this by getting a failing grade in public relations in multiple areas.
The first problem was a communications disaster when the district dropped a bombshell decision on the Friday before the new school year began. With an open house the night before and people seemingly happy with wearing masks if they so chose to, suddenly that was no longer acceptable. A must wear a mask policy was instituted without discussion, debate or school board participation.
The reaction was swift and severe. A petition was started to protest the required mask decision and quickly grew to over 300 names. This was PR SNAFU number one.
During the first week of school with a number of parents removing their children from the classroom, student council president Micah Larson, was putting together an event to commemorate the 20th anniversary of 9/11.
Being a patriotic community, there was support for placing close to 3,000 American flags in the outfield at Veterans Memorial Field with a program scheduled for Friday morning so students could attend.
The event was cancelled by the district with various reasons listed, including ties to a conservative political organization and concerns over Covid.
But back to Larson upsetting the district bubble by pushing forward with a petition. This was followed by the district cancelling Larson’s 9/11 event on sketchy grounds.
No matter what the reason, school officials should have known better, that this decision would appear to raise the specter of retribution in a time when the community, county, state, country and world was mourning lives lost in a terroristic attack on U.S. soil.
Next up was a school board meeting that the administration was planning to hold in the board room, while scores of people were entering the building to attend. The meeting was finally moved to the gymnasium with over 250 in attendance.
A dozen speakers skewered the district administration for their actions and spoke volumes about the distrust and anger in the community. The school district is failing miserably at connecting with its constituents.
This whole situation is more than masks, it’s a test to determine whether lessons are learned and behaviors are changed. If the result is a failing grade, it will be up to the school board to do more than listen.
The alternative is a further loss of students and a further disconnect with its constituents.
That’s simply not acceptable.