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Before there was murchschool.org, the official website sponsored by the Murch HSA, there was the Murch Forum, which is now on io groups. This listserv was started by Murch parents as a place where the school community could post announcements, pose questions, and engage each other in discussions about issues related to their children’s experience at Murch. The Forum is still going strong and the volunteer moderator is the Murch Communications Chair.
The forum was originally started in 1998 by Michael Scherger, who was a Murch parent. In this interview, Michael explains the role of the Forum, how it differs from this website, and why community members find it useful to subscribe to both.
What is the Murch Forum?
The mission of the Murch Forum is to serve the community of Murch Elementary School in Washington, DC, by providing information and a venue for discussion of issues directly related to the school that are of concern or interest to members of the community. Contributors are reminded that what they write may be seen by several hundred people and no confidentiality can be assured.
When did it get started?
The first message was posted in December 1998.
How is it different from the official website run by the Murch HSA, murchschool.org? Are the sites related or do you work in tandem?
The Murch Forum is an independent discussion site for its members. The school site run by the HSA is a public website accessible to everyone. Important to note is that the Forum is not an anonymous environment, but simply unavailable to non-members.
We discussed some type of synergy with the school site, but decided to keep the Forum separate so that a clear divide would be evident between school/HSA and the Forum. The Murch Forum is not officially part of the school or HSA in anyway. However, the webmasters of each talk to each other often as our goals are often the same in terms of getting the word out about events and making sure items are cross posted to both sites so they reach their intended audience.
So, the two sites complement each other?
To a large extent, yes, although they are completely different formats. There’s a place and a need for both. Murchschool.org is a robust website with all kinds of news, information, events, and information about school instruction, clubs, activities, fundraisers, policies, and so on. There’s some overlapping content with the Forum, but the Forum’s content is generated by its users, not the school or HSA. Not everyone subscribes to the Forum, but the HSA’s Murch News Digest, which is basically the Murchschool.org home page, is emailed to every member of the Murch community every week, so if you really want to know what’s going on at Murch, it’s good to receive both.
How often does the Forum go out?
There’s no set schedule, although I try to review submissions and post them in a timely manner. As with any listserv, you can adjust your subscription settings to receive it by email immediately, daily, or weekly.
Who can be a member?
Membership in the Forum is open to parents/guardians of children currently at Murch and to Murch faculty/staff, any and all of whom are welcome to contribute.
I get many requests for membership from parents that are moving to the Murch area or are thinking of it and want to be members. I have to politely refuse until they are actually registered at Murch.
What kinds of topics do you cover?
Any school related topics are covered. Recently we have branched out into classified notes for babysitting, house rental/sales, yard sale type things, or services that might be of interest to parents/students. Some examples are the Children’s Art Studio or a recent furniture sale. [Note: the HSA has discontinued its HSA Classifieds site on Yahoo! now that the Forum is accepting such notices.]
What are the rules about posting?
The only “rules” are that all postings must be signed by the parent/guardian/school official with their affiliation listed. For parents and guardians, this means their child’s name/grade/class; for school officials, their title.
I also will not post anything that is commercial and that I can’t see a link to. For example, a parent that is a real estate agent wanted to post about houses, I would not post it. That’s a bit of a gray area because I have posted someone’s own house for sale.
What kinds of stuff will you not post?
As the moderator I will not post anything offensive. That’s not a rule per se, but all postings must be approved by me before going on the forum. I will also not post anything that would appear too personal to a particular individual. I am sure there are other things that I would not approve but I read everything that comes through and have to take them case by case. Obviously, I want to protect the kids at Murch, but frankly that type of thing has not come up.
I will say that I have not seen offensive activity during my tenure. I have seen a few critical comments that I have discussed with the writer before-hand and in some cases the post was withdrawn, and in other cases I let it go forward.
What is the moderator’s role?
As the moderator I review all posts before approving. My role is to keep the forum accessible with member application approvals. I also want to keep it a place that users feel safe enough to post on. Also, I do not want to censor anything, so there have been some strong opinions, such as the recent lice discussion or the nurse concern in the beginning of the year.
What do you like about being moderator? What has surprised you?
I like reading about what parents and faculty are concerned about in a given time period. Going through the archives you can see what things were issues in the past. I like the interaction that I get occasionally about why I posted something. I don’t take sides on a topic. I simply want to keep it on task.
What have been some hot topics? How many messages or discussions get posted a week?
The lice topic this past fall was big, recently the school calendar for next year has been a concern. In the past, the big puddle on the playground was a hot topic.
Postings per week is hard to gauge. During the holidays it was just a few. I would say normally I see about 15 a week. Usually, I review submissions in the evening after work, dinner, homework time, etc. So postings are usually approved once a day. This is critical to understand; any topic that is time sensitive is tough. I don’t have time during the day (usually) to review posts. And occasionally I am out of town working or working late and don’t get to postings that day.
How would you like to see the Forum evolve or grow?
The Forum can always use new members. I’d also like to be able to cull old addresses and members who are not affiliated with the school anymore but I’m not able to do that. So, if you’re reading this and your kids are now at Deal, or beyond, let me know so I can take you off the list.
The Forum is a place for discussion, but decisions are not made and the school is not looking at the forum for direction. I would like to see more discussion on more topics.