Viewlands - Current problems at Greenwood that will be exacerbated by having Viewlands community arrive like "uninvited house guests." Concern over the welfare of Aspergers and Autism students located in the same building with EBD (emotionally/behaviorally disabled) program. Success of Viewlands in serving children who are from families that qualify for free-/reduced-price lunch. 90% of staff at Viewlands more than 10 years. High parent involvement.
The other school communities with multiple speakers were Rainier View and Orca.
Rainier View - Anger at being put on the closure list at "11th hour." One speaker wants Rainier View program to "take over" Emerson building, letting Emerson staff stay only if they want to "buy into" Rainier View program. Spoke of academic success at Rainier View and failure at Emerson.
Orca - Three speakers support move to Whitworth building and expansion to K-8. Spoke of promises made and action delayed in the past. One speaker wants Orca to expand to K-8, but not at expense of Whitworth program.
The rest of the speakers represented other affected schools (Pathfinder, MLK, Thurgood Marshall) and/or addressed the closure plan in general, advocating for keeping all schools open. Interesting phrases from these speakers included:
- Closing schools is an "unimaginative solution." Appears that district has "given up" on idea of recruiting more students and "given up" on idea of lower student-teacher ratio.
- "Fear of doing nothing has been played up so high" that Board feels compelled to close schools when that might not be the best solution.
- Need to "roll out potential closings as part of a comprehensive plan."
- Phase II of closure process and future difficult district discussions on issues like school choice and assignment plans need to be "transparent."
- Potential enormous future costs of buying back school property or buying new property.
- Equity issues. Low-income and African-American community members have "lost faith" in School Board and district.
- Need to focus on "how did we get here" or else will face the same situation again in the future.
- Suggestion of moving First AME Head Start to MLK building and keeping Montessori program there.
- Several speakers mentioned their support for the recent Mary Bass plan. (see "Mary Bass Proposal for School Closure")
I spoke near the end, even though I really planned not to speak tonight. While some people interpreted my request as one for politeness, I was really asking for respectful communication. That can be angry, that can be loud, and it should be the unvarnished, emotional truth. But I can't imagine we, the community members, are really making any progress at working for change when we call the Board members racist or insinuate they are stupid or in any other way demonize them.
The School Board is not the enemy. They may not be the solution either, but School Board members are potential change agents. And when we take time to engage them in conversation (after meetings, before meetings, during breaks), we can learn from them, getting facts and opinions to fuel our advocacy work.