*Warning: The following content is a rant on my experience and the opinions contained therein are solely my own. Read at your own risk!!*
Last year I had procured funding at my kids’ school to create a mosaic mural with the students (K-6). It was going to be funded by the P&C Committee who, at the end of 2009, had put out a call for artists and anyone interested in acquiring art for the school to contact them. I did, although never heard back from them. A friend used to be VP of the committee and around September last year I asked him what ever happened to that call. He invited me to the next meeting. Now I should stop here and mention that a good friend of mine warned me that I shouldn’t go near the P&C. That it takes a special breed of parent… I thought to myself, surely it can’t be that bad and the stereotypes were just that. Stereotypes. Well… havn’t I had to eat my words! Words of warning that I too from now on will echo.
So the story went like this:
I went along to a meeting where I made it known that I was interested in assisting with the acquisition of art. I was asked if I had a background in art and if I had any ideas, which I made it known that yes indeed, I had lots of ideas! Lots of discussion took place and I was invited to submit a proposal. In my proposal, I left it very open to suggestion and made it clear that these were just some ideas, none of which were concrete. Basically, it went with a small, medium, large mural and my desires to foster a healthy community spirit by including the children and any parents who were interested. There was lots of support and enthusiasm and what was voted on in November of last year was the large mural. The principal at the time approved it and I met with the president of the P&C in December to discuss where to next… I was never at any time until very recently made aware that there were reservations of funding and really this is just more politicking as there is plenty of money to spend on this and still meet the other financial obligations. Besides, what does it say about a committee who expends money without forward thinking and management?! So all through January, I was working towards getting this project somewhat organised in order to get a good start on it when school returned in February of this year, which included me saying I wasn’t available till at least mid year to two commissions that came my way.
I met with the new principal in the first week of school returning, where I got a bit of an inkling that he was not supportive, but he never said so in any certain terms right down to putting it in writing in his report to the P&C that the school was supportive. In any case, I just saw it as a bunch of hoops that they were making me jump through, as opposed to a bunch of hoops they were making me jump through so that I’d get scared off by them and tell them it’s all getting too difficult. I was happy to jump through hoops! I sought and paid for legal advice that satisfied the requirements that were asked of me. I went to the Department of Education and had a really good meeting with a Risk Assessment Analyst who let me know that ACT schools were usually very supportive of having artwork in their schools. The only reason why it wouldn’t happen is if the principal didn’t allow it. He pointed me in the direction to create a risk assessment plan for the project, which would also tell us how risky the project was and what kind of insurance I would need. Done and dusted. I was even asked by the P&C to provide receipts of the cost of my materials (no shit!). I can tell you they have never asked this from any other business. I said I would, for the sake of compete transparency and to prove to them all that I wasn’t going to be making any money on this project and that that wasn’t what this project was about to me. It was about fostering and engendering a strong community spirit within a school that really had none!!!
All during this time, I had a feeling that there was one parent on the committee who was spreading rumours about me and my work, but I couldn’t be 100% sure. The next P&C meeting was near the end of March. At that time this woman spoke about how she was never supportive, it was too much money bla bla… At least she spoke at me and pointed all five fingers at me while she did it! Wow. She did indeed confirm my suspicions of spreading misinformation, as I chose to call it. Other terms were banging around inside my head.
I requested a meeting with the president after that meeting. We convened on the 27th March. I was told at that meeting that money was now an issue and that I could push for the large mural but he didn’t think that he could make this woman “come around” to that and I would need to “back down” from pushing it. What?!!! I wasn’t pushing for anything. That was what was voted on!! I didn’t care what we did. The school is in dire need of artwork because there is none, save for some dodgy artwork from the 80s that looks like Indigenous artwork, but I’m not sure it was made by an Indigenous artist! Certainly none that the kids had participated in creating. Next I was told that I could “stick around and earn my stripes” and re-table the proposal next year. I could also meet with this woman “one on one” and he would be happy to mediate the meeting at his place, on neutral grounds (!!). When I asked why this one person had so much influence over the decision he kept skirting around it and finally made the comment that she had been on the committee for many years, also having been the Secretary at a point in time and that she had earned her stripes. So much for a democracy! Indeed, my friend was right. Full of unnecessary politics where the only way to get a project through was by pandering to some woman who clearly has no power in her life that she feels she can wield it in “her” P&C committee. How sad. It was agreed that I would run an Information Night on the project.
A couple days later, I sought to formalise exactly where I stood on the matter and submitted a document to the principal and to the president.
Well! Didn’t that ruffle a few feathers. I was then told that perhaps an Info Night would not work at the time that had been requested of me (we’re just about to go to Autumn break). I said that was fine and we could discuss putting something together for the new term. I also then made the mistake of trying to get involved in the committee by asking if the minutes and agenda of each meeting be made available to everyone in the community (who by default are a part of the committee) by uploading to the school’s website or by creating our own site, as opposed to the way it is now where it is only emailed to the select few. It took me 5 months to finally get onto that email circuit. I also asked after a project that was approved last year. It was for the committee to give a fixed amount of money to the school for teaching resources, specifically building equipment such as Lego etc… That too came from a “new” parent. Nothing had been heard of since that meeting in Nov on this particular exercise. Let’s face it, the school is in dire need of resources!! My daughter came home with a reader about McDonald’s the other day. Can you believe that?!! And apparently that was after the P&C spent $15k on new readers. Where the f%!ck are they?! Long story short, I was schooled on what a Democracy is (ha!!, how ironic considering factual events that have taken place!), how meetings are run in general business and academia (!) & I was told that the new parent was contacted on several occasions as was her husband (well that’s a lie! She was never contacted) and how condescending is all that anyway?! Did I need to be schooled on this because I am “just an Artist”? Of course I wouldn’t know how to run a professional meeting, much less be inclusive at said meetings! In the meetings I have attended there have been several remarks made about involving new parents and statements such as “if parents don’t like it, they should come along to a meeting”. By Gawd! Warning to all parents not currently involved:
- It takes a special breed of parent to get involved.
- You can put forward a project and have it voted on, but it won’t be actioned.
- There is an unspoken hierarchy that involves the need to earn your stripes.
- The C in P&C stands for circus.
- Nothing is fair or equitable nor is it consistent.
- The money does not in fact belong to the community. It will be spent how those who have earned their stripes see fit.
The democracy that they work on seems more to me to be the democracy current in the Cote d’Ivoire where voting can occur but the true leader will reign by military force, in this case by other bitchy women who can’t think for themselves. You wouldn’t believe the amount of filthy looks and general snubbing I have received at school pick up times. Right down to one of my kids’ friends who has been told not to play with my child. I even have a good friend of mine who was approached by one of the mothers to bitch about me. Sickening really… Are they all still in high school themselves?! Get a life!
The principal did get back to me via the president of the P&C with a 2 page document about all of his concerns. This was one of the many:
- The mural would require a secure edging around the entire perimeter to ensure tiles could not be chipped away or removed. These issues are more pronounced as the mural is situated on a wall which is not currently fenced away from the general public.
Wha’?! To me this not only shows their ignorance of art, but especially public art. No public art in Canberra is cordoned off let alone encased. Who the hell would spend hours at a suburban primary school chipping away at tiles?! I could tell you who…
Here’s another interesting tidbit from that doc:
- I am aware that I have the power to veto this completely but that is not my intention.
Hmmm… let’s once again establish hierarchy. He doesn’t want to come off as being heavy handed because it would be, in his own words, professional suicide if a large amount of parents were for artwork in the school, but he is making it very known that at the end of the day he holds the Power! So this is my question, because clearly after all of this bullshit the Power is really, to me, central to all of this. WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE?!
I have not, nor intend on giving them the satisfaction of even responding to their pitiful remarks. They have completely lost sight about why a P&C is created in the first place, let alone a school. I would think that is to create and enrich the learning opportunities of the children, our children! But no, I’ve since come to realise that it is about Power, or the lack thereof, and to spend tens of thousands of dollars on capital expenditure – things like metal seating. What the hell learning benefit does any child get from that!? We just spent near $12000 on a few lengths of metal seating. At least the committee only got one quote for it. I can bet you that the Principal didn’t chase up the Department for permissions necessary as it is “capital works” and that no one sighted the contractor’s permits or insurance. What about the encasement of all these things as they are not fenced off and are available to the public. What about vandalism?! I understand too that the principal in his usual request to the P&C for money is to support things like chairs and tables… This is something that the Department of Education is supposed to allocate, not the P&C!
I fear for my kids’ education and have considered other schools but there are issues with that too. Mind you, this school is supposed to have a good reputation, one of the best in this area. Though they’re riding on the coat tails of the Principal who was there in 2005. When we first started at the school, we had a really remarkable principal. She was moved, we got the next one. She was OK, didn’t offer too much leadership but people got on with their job. Though under her leadership, I must say that there grew a really bad culture amongst some staff members with the way in which they talked to and treated the kids. I don’t have time for any adult who think they can treat kids like crap because people will believe an adult over a child. One of my kids’ teachers said to another student the other day after getting her in trouble that if “she didn’t wipe the smile off her face she’d do it for her”. I believe that’s a threat of physical abuse and I can tell you that if my child was spoken to like that, I would be taking that very seriously. Now we have a new, relatively young and very ambitious first time principal who is an excellent bureaucrat. My hopes were that he would bring his staff into line and allow for some creative self expression. Oh I couldn’t be more wrong. Self expression is an alien term in ACT public schools it seems. Creative self expression? Forget about it! Already, my daughter has been publicly humiliated for wearing pink socks or leggings and ribbons to school “those are not school colours nor are they uniform”, right down to having her pink ribbon in her hair yanked out of her hair on the first day of school. This is a public school where they have a dress policy, but it can’t be enforced. Here is a pic of what my daughter was wearing the last time she was told off in front of her whole class. I since spoke to the principal…
The school has already vetoed Christmas craft. I wouldn’t be so concerned (I’m not Christian), but rather than seeing this as a great opportunity to teach the kids about tolerance and what different cultures and religions celebrate at that time of year, it’s just a blanket No Christmas Crafts! *Sigh* Political correctness gone too far. Unfortunately, our schools don’t teach our kids to think and they don’t provide a caring environment in which to learn (like they say they do). They create an environment that allows for one type of learning. If you fall outside of that, they will identify it but not provide support in which to flourish. And absolutely no self expression allowed. It’s all about toeing the line. Now as a parent, if you try and temper any of this, make a complaint about someone’s behaviour etc, you are just being atrociously difficult.
This is a poster at the school that I personally find very disturbing:
“So when we’re grown ups we don’t mess things up”? Are you kidding me? Adults are constantly making mistakes. I’ve taught my kids that making mistakes is a part of life and that it is really important to consider anything from all perspectives before making a decision on what you’re going to do and then if you have made a mistake, learn from it! What separates a good person from a not so good person is recognising when you’ve made a mistake, fixing it, apologising for it and then not repeating it!!!
Sheesh! Sometimes I think my kids would be better off if I homeschooled them.