In November 1947, Winston Churchill was quoted as saying to the House of Commons, "Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others."
Democracy, in its purest form, is hard work. Democracy requires working with other people. It takes building coalitions based on sound principles and reasons, and it takes leadership to inspire others to embrace shared objectives.
Hilliard City Schools' elected leaders have been selected by our community through a democratic election process. School board members act as representatives of the community in hiring executives to lead the district, enacting policies to ensure the effective and efficient operation of the district and listening to the community's voice in setting the district's direction.
On the surface, the task appears simple enough. In practice, it is difficult and messy work.
Let's just get some basic thoughts out in the open. Most people in our community desire – even demand – high-quality public schools. As a point of fact, most people moving into our community are doing so for our schools – just ask a local real-estate agent.
Although the passion for high-quality schools clearly is a driving factor for many, the reality that our residential tax burden is among the highest in central Ohio is a point of contention.
This is the focus of many discussions. Where is the balance in the quality of educational opportunities provided with the cost on the local taxpayers to maintain the programs and staff in the district? Where is the balance between residential taxes and commercial incentives to attract businesses to Hilliard? Does expanding our district make us stronger?
None of these conversations are easy; many people are passionate about their schools and their tax bill. Democracy isn't easy; it takes dedication, listening, and commitment. We must set an example for the young people we serve by engaging in civil, respectful and sometimes uncomfortable conversations.
Beginning with the 2017-18 school year, the district will have implemented its three-year One 2 One initiative. Every student from preschool through high school has access to an iPad at school.
Middle school and high school students are able to bring their devices home; the iPads serve in some cases as a textbook, a learning tool and an instructional tool, all in one. Students in elementary school have a device on a cart in their classrooms for personal use, when appropriate, during the school day.
Yes, we share the concerns about screen time. We are not now, or ever, advocating for any student to be on a device all day. We value the development of interpersonal skills and the necessity of building relationships.
This is a shift in instructional practices, and we we must share our thinking, engage in discussions and listen to concerns. Education is shifting, and schools must provide a different type of instruction to this generation. It isn't easy. Parents are passionate about the instruction provided to their children, so we must engage in civil, respectful and sometimes uncomfortable conversations.
We changed the start-time for elementary schools and middle schools for the 2017-18 school year. This change was a direct response to concerns from parents. We engaged parents, formed an inclusive task force and researched options.
The change isn't fully welcomed by all, and, again, it isn't easy. We engage in the conversation, we respectfully listen to concerns and we move forward with a plan. Our time schedules are evolving, we will see what works and what doesn't and we will improve based on what we learn.
Each year, the Hilliard City Schools conducts a scientific customer-satisfaction survey. We study the longitudinal data from year to year. We are proud to be a progressive, innovative school district.
We are, and will continue, trying to seek opportunities to improve the instruction we provide students. We live our mission statement to ensure that every student is truly ready for tomorrow. Preparing students for tomorrow means constantly adjusting and adapting what we do today.
In each of the past five years, our community's overall satisfaction with the quality of education being provided by the district steadily has been above 85 percent. It isn't easy. We hold community meetings and coffees, engage in difficult conversations and strive to explain each evolution in our practices. We listen, we share and we embrace productive discomfort.
One of our district's core values is our passion for growth. This mindset that we will be better tomorrow than we are today permeates our culture. We are a democratically governed institute funded, in large part, by your tax dollars. We embrace, empower and inspire our students, parents and community in the education process.
We won't always agree, but we can be committed to respectful conversations and meaningful engagement. Our work is too important to be negative. We must, with an optimistic and positive attitude, strive for collaboration and cooperation.
The Hilliard way – what sets us apart from everyone else – is our commitment to people and our passion for educating each child to have the brightest tomorrow.
Hilliard City Schools Superintendent John Marschhausen writes the Hilliard Schools Connection guest column for ThisWeek Hilliard Northwest News.