Transparency on campus

“Do we have tutorial this week?” I have both asked this question and been asked this question too many times. It’s a clear indication that students aren’t well-informed on what’s happening on campus. So the question to ask is why? Who’s accountable? Students? The administration? The question of accountability needs to be answered if we want to establish a transparent environment and strong communication between students and the administration.

The decision-making process on campus involves a variety of individuals and is known as “shared leadership.” Meetings are led by the leadership team, which includes the principal, vice principal and instructional deans. There is also a student and parent think tank that goes to meetings and gives input on things such as schedules. They let the leadership team know what can be improved. The administration is also looking into adding another layer into the shared leadership team and including a teacher representative from each department.

The administration has established a system that makes sure that everyone, students, teachers and parents, is represented in leadership. However, a large majority of students feel like their voices aren’t being heard. Why? A large part of it has to do with transparency and communication.
The two main things that brought the question of transparency and communication to my attention were mandatory pep rallies and the weeks with regular schedule everyday. At the beginning of the year, I remember finding out pep rallies were mandatory from someone asking me if they were. I remember scrambling at the beginning of the week to find out whether there was tutorial. There was no clear, single voice that made sure we were all on the same page.

It’s not as if the administration is deliberately withholding things from us. Students have access to information on our school website, and the school sends emails to our parents with the week’s schedule and announcements. But should students need to actively seek out this kind of information? Are they the ones held accountable for not knowing what’s going on? If not, who is? Are teachers supposed to be the ones that tell students what’s happening? Are our parents responsible since they’re the ones that get the emails? Or is it the administration for not making a single clear statement that reaches all students? The question of accountability is one that has no simple answer because of all the different factors that play into it, but answering it could be the key toward creating more direct and transparent communication that keeps students and faculty informed.

Now, I don’t expect the administration to release every single piece of information on every single decision it makes. On the reasonable basis of practicality and discretion, we, as students, cannot know all the details behind each and every decision. But what I think is an extremely important thing for students and teachers to know in order to promote transparency is why. Knowing the reasons behind why every decision is made is vital toward creating a clear understanding between the administration and students.

When we heard that pep rallies were becoming mandatory, when we heard that we had another week of regular schedule every day, we were upset. We were upset because we didn’t want these changes at all. We felt that our concerns and opinions weren’t being considered at all. We felt like there was absolutely no reason for these decisions to be made. But there are reasons. We simply did not know them.
Why did we have regular schedule all week? Because there are state laws mandating how many instructional hours each teacher gets each week. Why are pep rallies mandatory now? To ensure that everyone can go to the pep rally and prevent students from getting trampled by crowds that are desperate to get in. Knowing these reasons now, I completely understand why these decisions were made. I am willing to make sacrifices because these reasons make sense. We cannot expect everything to go the way we want them to, but we need to be able to understand why. We need to know our voices are being heard and that the administration is listening. How can we feel that way if we don’t even understand why the administration is making these changes in the first place?
There is no easy way to resolve this issue, and there is no way we can establish perfect, completely transparent communication. But we can certainly improve. I commend our administration for continuously working to improve communication and actively promoting transparency on campus. At the end of the day, we are all on the same team. Students, teachers and the administration all want the same thing: to make our Walnut High school experience the best it can be. If we want to accomplish our goal together, we need to understand each other better.

By Natalie Jiang, Opinion editor
Photo by Samuel Compolongo