Editorial: Friends or Foes of Tam District?

By Tam News Staff

The New Tech Network is once again on the radar at Tam, and the atmosphere at our school has shifted for the worse. Much like last spring, a negative school environment has been created, with hushed conversations between staff members in the hallways and inappropriate teacher outbursts during class. This mood has permeated our school culture and makes it difficult for students to learn. The reasons for this toxic learning environment are numerous but, most notably, include the distribution of false information, the behavior of parents like some of those in the Friends of Tam group, and the inability for non-parents to feel heard by the school board or site and district administrations.
In the case of New Tech, the spreading of rumors and misinformation came from three distinct sources: Former science and special ed teacher Lara Corkrey, the Marin IJ, and the Friends of Tam group. A letter written by Corkrey and sent to parents, students, and teachers, on October 16 elaborated on Corkrey’s reason for quitting her job—namely that she felt that teachers who were not interested in collaborating with New Tech were being treated poorly by the administration. Corkrey’s letter was riddled with factual inaccuracies and presented a version of the truth that is far from what many at Tam have experienced.
The Marin IJ then published an article on October 19 that went against basic news writing values, which are taught in our beginning journalism class and should be a standard for any news organizations. The article is heavy with quotes from Corkrey and angry parents, and light on quotes from the the administration and other teachers. We observed similar bad reporting from the IJ last year when New Tech was first proposed, and as journalism students, are deeply troubled by the way poor press coverage affects people, often without their knowledge. From what we have observed, the misconseptions this has caused are the single largest contributing factor to the whirlwind of continual misinformation that plagues our school.
The Friends of Tam, a group of Tam parents and community members that claim to be concerned about transperency in our district, have a similar impact. Their website and their Facebook page are full of false statements. For example, on their website they define New Tech as “an ‘instructional method’ that was rapidly adopted within the Tam Union High School District.” New Tech is a company that provides professional development for teachers who want to pursue project-based learning. New Tech was not hired to work with teachers at Tam. The Friends of Tam group sends out email blasts and riles up a devoted mob to run off and help students at our school. Meanwhile, their actions continue to have the opposite effect. While parents are protesting, the voices of the students are drowned out.
Parent complaints influencing Tam’s learning environment form a troubling pattern, which is actually a symptom of a much larger problem: it is very hard for students and teachers to feel heard by the site and district administration and by the school board. Throughout our time as reporters, we have noticed a startling contrast between how the school board behaves when parents are speaking and when students are speaking. The board tends be more responsive to parents, which creates a precedent where parents feel the need to get involved when they don’t like what they see. The board and district administrators should take full responsibility for creating this environment.
Instead, we as students would like to hear our voices, and the voices of our teachers, heard above those of parents and community members. Although our parents have obvious stakes in our education, we are the ones that actually attend school every day and have to live with the effects of the disruptive school environment that occurs when the facts take a back seat and parents go overboard. On behalf of our fellow students, the Tam News would like to advocate a shift in our distict culture that allows student and teacher voices to hold the most weight and that creates a community that values facts and listens to reason.