Mystery Education Theater 3000

5 Years of wccusdtalk

As I mentioned in a previous post, as of May 19th (yesterday), wccusdtalk has been going strong for five years. wccusdtalk is a Yahoo Group about the West Contra Costa Unified School District that makes its messages public and that allows its established members a pretty free rein. Like the Internet in general, it needs to be taken with a grain of salt (and maybe a stiff drink occasionally), but it remains an indispensable resource for knowing what’s going on in our district. Within this community, there is room for both critics of the established order and a “truth squad” to uphold the established order.

It all started back in 2003, when the last major budget crisis was shaking things up. Laura Soble and Jane Breyer, two Madera parents, were using emails to a growing group of people to rally support for defending Classroom Size Reduction and high school guidance counselors from the budget axe. As part of this group, I wanted a more efficient method of managing these communications than using emails with giant shifting “To:” lists, so I decided on using Yahoo Groups for this. I set up wccusdtalk and eventually got everyone to move over to this list for communicating. Marsha Williamson was the first member and Helen Bean made the first real posting on the list. I was moderator for the first year or two and then Cathy Travlos stepped up to take over. After the smoke cleared a little, no real organization emerged from this group of people, but wccusdtalk remained and still remains to this day.

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  1. Given people’s often contradictory expectations about education, I think there will always be problems and issues to discuss. Common additional themes in our district revolve around a perception that education officials are not very truthful or respectful to people as citizens and complaints about the administration of our large bond construction program.

    One great advantage of public blog/forums aligned to a particular institution is that it functions as a “freedom of the press” kind of check on the authorities. I often hear school board members put down wccusdtalk or deny ever reading it, but they always seem to be aware of what’s prominent on the list and things from the list have a way of ending up in the regular press.

    But, a lot of this advantage comes from the fact that comments are published. I can also see a role for the private kind of group you’re talking about, but I think the existence of public forums is more important. There is a private yahoo group for district employees in our district. Unfortunately, I can’t tell you anything about it, because it’s private!

  2. Matthew K. Tabor

    May 20, 2008 — 10:58 pm

    You know, I’m starting to think that every community should have something like a Yahoo! Group. I also think that every district should have a forum/blog of some kind… but a private Group where community members/staff/etc. can discuss things openly and honestly seems tremendously helpful.

    Have their been any notable problems that you think would show up in any/every community?

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