crcook (crcook) wrote,

What is the best solution for our children?

A month ago our school superintendent proposed several major boundary changes and school closures for the 2011-2012 school year. The reasoning was that streamlined operations and reduced facility costs would save significant money. We will overspend by huge amounts if we keep the status quo.

My son's school is among those proposed to close, with our entire student body transfering to another, newer facility. To make room for us, the plan proposes to transfer 100 students in the other school to a third school, and by doing so make use of the natural boundary of a major, busy roadway. This affected neighborhood happens to the more affluent in our area.

When I first read the report detailing the changes, I thought the planning committee had tried to make significant improvements in a short time while minimizing the impact on the majority of the district’s students. It would be great to have more time to fully exhaust every option, but would it give us different, better solutions? Can the district afford to wait? I don’t know. It seems to me it would be little more than a delay. I’d rather we make our changes and get on the road to financial stability.

Our board held several community meetings to hear from parents. At our school our families wanted reassurance that the planning committee had considered other options before proposing to close. Our teachers wanted the board to know about the many families who benefit from Title 1 services and asked how they might be affected by the change. My concerns were for our staff, the future of the building and site, and how the district might reinvest in our schools once it’s in the black.

Then I read comments from other meetings. If only you could have seen all the resentment and senses of entitlement. I discovered more parents than I expected don’t welcome us at the new school. Comments made at their meeting alluded to assumptions that our parents won’t participate in our children’s education or interact with the school's community, that we will drain their PTA funds and extra-curricular services without contributing in turn, and that our Title 1 families will strain the learning environment.

I wonder how the thousands of silent parents in our district feel. Do they, like me, believe this is as fair and reasonable as we can hope for given our financial problems? Do they resent those of us who will disrupt their good thing? Do those parents unaffected by the changes feel their opinions don’t count? I understand the gut reaction, “Why should our school suffer?” I hoped rationality would win out and most parents would see the changes, while difficult, eventually benefit all. But emotions ran hot for those who spoke up.

During our community meeting, one of our teachers made an impassioned plea that the board consider the emotional strain on those students for whom our school is the only stability in their lives. Every school has families whose personal issues carry over into the learning environment, but it didn’t hit me until that moment the huge responsibility we ask of our teachers and staff. Each day a river of smiling children flows past me as I wait for my son after school. Whose lives, if we knew the truth, would fully illuminate our own pettiness so blatant in too many of these community meetings? We should be better than this. 

I want to believe the families at the other school will roll with the changes should they occur. I do believe our students will adapt and thrive. Still, I worry about the ripple effect from those parents who assume our school's “lower socio-economic” families will cheapen their school. I want them to know that on October 14 our staff and students received the Standard of Excellence rating.

I support the proposed changes. At the same time I dread the coming school year if the proposals are approved. I write this with a sick feeling that the best we humans can be with each other might not happen, that there is too much resentment and not enough kinship.
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