Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Meetings, meetings, all the time and not a... drop to drink?

Meetings, meetings, all the time and not enough time to think. Right now I'm on several committees. In fact, a good number of committees - some on which I just sit and give my input on occasion and some on which I must have a much more active role. Today at 3:30 the Advisory Committee for the program is scheduled to meet. I have serious doubts about the number of members who will be attending since the committee has utterly no power, means very little, and, it seems to me, was more useless in its current instantiation at the inception of the program. Basically, the only people on it are the principals of the schools in which the program resides. The meeting is at 3:30 in the afternoon so they seldom come. Sometimes a school board member would show up (I've been told), and a couple parents are in attendance per their availability, but I'm not really a big fan of this committee.

Generally, a nonprofit has a board of directors who either work directly in the program or have other jobs and bring their expertise to the table, from various fields, in order to better serve the program given that it is, believed to be, benefiting the community in some way. Such a board has powers over certain things, defined in some charter or something, and they meet regularly to vote on things and make sure the program is running as it should. In the case of the Manchester School District's 21st CCLC... there's basically none of that. The group only meets 4 times a year and I have to make name tags for some reason that people don't want to wear (that's my perception) and that you can't even see anyways once people sit down at the board room table. However, I do think there is some hope for this group if it can be revitalized and new members are taken on and the group actually has some sort of tangible purpose.

The other 21st CCLC committees that I'm on are basically ones for which I recruited all the members. There's the Results committee (which has met 3 times I believe now), the Finance committee (which has met once), the Community Engagement committee (first meeting on Valentine's Day), and the Operations and Management Committee (first meeting scheduled for early March). Generally, the "hey, let's create a legitimate sustainability plan for this program that reflects the conditions and causes inherent in the community that we are looking to address in thoughtful and intentional ways" process would happen with the nonprofit's board. But, since Manchester is out of control crazy and nobody really has time to do much, it was decided, by the Advisory Committee I believe, that there would be separate committees to tackle the varied parts of the path to a plan.

Aside from these I enter into the community and sit on the Weed&Seed Steering Committee, weed and seed is a department of justice, block grant that allows for the increased availability of resources for residents in low-income, high-crime areas (service providers and police). There's also the Violence Prevention Committee which, I believe, has just turned its focus over to bullying as a specific issue to approach. The Makin' It Happen Coalition runs the Dropout Prevention Workgroup that attempts to address issues related to the high dropout rate in Manchester. Apparently the most telling factor of whether or not a student will dropout of high school is whether or not the student passes freshman year. Any student forced to repeat 9th grade has a significantly higher chance of not achieving a high school diploma. I've been to the school district's Multicultural/Diversity Committee once, but I don't think the assistant principal who runs it really liked me being there seeing how he never responded to any of my emails, seemed to fear, with a possibility for a good reason, that I would be reporting confidential information to the greater community, and I've never been placed on the email list for the group.

As a VISTA, I feel, there are some battles you just can't win and it might not serve your greater purpose to really stir the pot as much as would be needed. However, credibility has come at a price for me and there are still several people with whom I interact that I feel do not respect me and perhaps, most humiliatingly, attempt to appease me out of pity or something.