Guest Viewpoint: by Jim Gibbons

This was taken from the June 14 Oxford School Board Meeting.

By Jim Gibbons, Oxford Education Association President, parent,

as a community member, and Oxford teacher.

I want to talk about concerns I have with recent comments which have been made to the

board during unscheduled audience participation. Specifically, some parents and community


members have made comments regarding several controversial issues and have used blanket

statements referring to teachers during those comments, for example teachers feel this, or

teachers think that, or teachers want this or that. This has been upsetting to some of our staff –

even those who may agree with some of the statements that have been made – and certainly

those who disagree with those same statements. My role as OEA president is to be a

spokesperson for teachers issues and right now, I don’t even feel comfortable or knowledgeable

enough to make blanket statements about our teaching staff and what they think or feel. Why?

Because there are over 300 hundred teachers in the district, and I would hazard a guess that

there are over 300 different places where our staff currently is on the emotional and healing

spectrum. And over 300 opinions of what each staff member needs or wants. And those

feelings just get more pronounced when you look at just the high school staff.

I would not presume to try and speak for everyone at this point, and I certainly think I have more

access to teachers and their feelings and opinions than anyone I have seen address the


I would ask the community to please be mindful of this when they speak and understand it’s hurtful and damaging when you put words into our staff and students mouths.

I also want to say as a community member, I was embarrassed and appalled by some of

the comments made about 2 of our staff members at a board meeting in May. One

staff member was attacked without both sides of the story being heard. The speaker played both

judge and jury, working with information I assume they have seen on TV or read in the

newspaper. The other staff member was accused by the speaker of using the tragedy to further

his own career, which was beyond stomach turning.

Again, using what I assume is information from the news to spin the narrative to fit her story. And mind you, these are 2 people that I understand went INTO the building during an active shooting to help save our students. I share your frustration that the district has been unable to provide information about everything that happened because of the legal proceedings. I look forward to all of us learning about what happened when appropriate, but does anyone think these types of attacks on people that

are doing the absolute best they can for our students and school everyday, will be beneficial to

our healing. Is this the type of example we should be setting for our students? I have known

these 2 individuals for years. They have dedicated their careers to serve and love the students

of Oxford. And while they, like the rest of us, are trying to heal, they are subjected to personal

attacks in a public setting that are completely uncalled for. We as a community need to be better

and remember that we are stronger together and that comments like these only serve to divide

us and impact our ability to heal.

I also want thank the board members. I know several of you

personally and gladly supported your candidacy to be on the board. You ran for, and serve, not

to stroke your own ego, but to do the best you can for our students and community. And I have

spoken with all of you since the tragedy of Nov. 30 and I know that is what continues to motivate

you. None of you could have ever predicted that the worst thing that can happen to a school

would happen while you were on the board, and it would come on the heels of a global

pandemic. My hope is that our community can show grace and understanding as all of us

continue to navigate this tragedy. And that all remember that you are having many opinions and

perspectives thrown at you from multiple sources when trying to make decisions that, in your

worst nightmares, you never thought you would have to make.

Finally, immediately following the shooting I was in contact with staff from both Newtown,

Connecticut and Parkland, Florida. I was warned there would be issues and people

would try to divide our community. It’s my hope we can break the trend of division and work

together to heal. We are hurting, as a school – the students and staff – as a district, and as a

community. I do not fault anyone for wanting information. Be it information on what

happened or information on how to prevent this from happening again here or in other schools.

I feel strongly our community has a right to speak their mind and I respect that right.

But every time the discourse and conversation at these board meetings turns into personal

attacks and accusations, every time it becomes disrespectful, every time it becomes us against

them, the focus changes. It changes away from the victims and our trying to honor them, away

from our healing, and away from trying to move forward. It prevents us from rebuilding. My

hope is we can all remember this as we move forward.

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