As a parent with two children at the Lopez school, and a professional with 15 years of experience in community development and organizational management, I find it difficult to make sense of the conflict now occurring at our school. The public feeding frenzy that has been perpetrated in traditional and social media is not in service of truth and justice, but rather revenge and destruction. I believe the most important question facing our community is not which side to take, but whether this explosive approach is serving the best interests of our school and our children.
In my experience, organizations that undergo this kind of destructive conflict typically take years to recover. The work environment becomes toxic. Legal battles can go on for years. Huge amounts of funding and employee time are devoted to the process. It becomes difficult to attract and retain staff and leadership because the focus of the workplace is no longer on the mission — in this case, educating students — but on coping with the drama, as individuals strive to protect themselves from personal and professional damage. The process of repairing the organization’s culture, functionality and mission focus is a long and painful one.
The ultimate losers in this scenario are our children. The people and the institution that are meant to serve them are being torn apart.
I invite the parties to this conflict and all those watching, to ask: Is there a more constructive way to move forward? What would you like your children to learn from this?
Conflict is a natural part of human interaction. It can and should be used to find ways of strengthening our relationships and institutions. Alternatives such as professional mediation and restorative justice can facilitate this. Even heartfelt conversations among neighbors can help. Some may dismiss this as unrealistic, but history tells us that meaningful change often looks that way when it is most needed.
We must work together to serve a purpose greater than ourselves: sustaining a school that can educate our children, and knitting a community that is strong enough for conflict AND healing.