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Alpena Public Schools ready for a community conversation

On Aug. 3, Alpena Public Schools will host a town hall with members of the community.

APS Assistant Superintendent Meaghan Gauthier and I will co-facilitate the event and hope to engage participants in an interactive, informative, and productive dialogue as a caring community focused on doing what is best for our students.

For those of you who are on the fence as to whether or not to attend, you should know that, at the direction of the superintendent, there will be chocolate and other light refreshments.

Before I go into more detail about what this event will be, I want to take a moment to state what the meeting will not be.

The town hall is not an Alpena Public Schools Board of Education meeting. The Board of Education, when it meets as a board to conduct the business of the board, is required to follow the Open Meetings Act and their board policy. The Board of Education, in its meetings, has a policy of not responding to public comment. That policy has perhaps caused confusion and frustration with members of the public who expected to receive a response to their comments.

Board members have expressed interest in and are welcome to attend the town hall. However, as it is a district event and not a meeting of the Board of Education, Mrs. Gauthier and I have more flexibility to engage with members of the public and can facilitate a dialogue, rather than just a listening session.

There are multiple goals that I hope are accomplished at this event.

First, I want to be able to hear from members of the community. Having started my tenure as superintendent in October, as opposed to the more common start date of July 1, and in a school year clouded by public gathering restrictions because of COVID-19, I did not have the opportunity to meet with the community in either a timely or traditional way. I view Aug. 3 as an opportunity to get to know our community better so that my administrative team and I can make more informed decisions.

Second, we want to provide information that will help any community member, with school children or not, better understand and navigate the complex world of public education. Education is a field that operates at times under the cloak of jargon, acronyms, and so on, all of which has the potential to create barriers to full participation from those who are not educators. The more our stakeholders — excuse me — the more our students, families, caregivers, community members, etc., know, the better we can partner together to help students succeed.

As well, it is our hope that we will be able to provide some clarity on what is and is not occurring in our classrooms related to the topics that have been shared recently during public comment at our Board of Education meetings.

We anticipate a large turnout for the town hall. We know the community is ready for the dialogue. We expect that, at the end of the two hours we have scheduled, many questions and concerns will remain.

Therefore, we are committing to an ongoing series of similar events throughout the coming school year.

Finally, I will close with this: As stated in The Revised School Code Act 451 of 1976, section 380.10, “It is the natural fundamental right of parents and legal guardians to determine and direct the care, teaching, and education of their children. The public schools of this state serve the needs of pupils by cooperating with the pupil’s parents and legal guardians to develop the pupil’s intellectual capabilities and vocational skills in a safe and positive environment.”

I believe in that statement. I believe in that statement because my children attend Alpena Public Schools and my wife and I want what is best for them. I also believe in this statement because your children attend Alpena Public Schools and you want what is best for them.

I hope to see you on Aug. 3 in the Alpena High School Large Commons from 6 to 8 p.m.

Dave Rabbideau is the superintendent of Alpena Public Schools. During his 20-plus-year career in public education, he has served as an elementary teacher, building principal, and central office administrator. Mr. Rabbideau is currently completing his doctorate in Educational Leadership at Oakland University.

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