Johnny Calcagno here, parent of a third grader at TOPS, and since Raj’s Reshaping Plan in 2005, a junkie of School District politics, unfortunately. Thanks to Beth for sharing her Blogger toy.
Over the last year and half I have been struck by how seemingly easy it is for many otherwise well-intentioned people to attempt to alter, close, consolidate, and otherwise mess with the schools of other people’s children. The reasons given are varied: “We need to close the budget gap” or “Their test scores are too low” or “We haven’t closed schools in a long time, so unfortunately, we have to do so now” or “That school can move to that other building, they’ll be fine.”
Not surprisingly, the parents of children affected by proposed changes are not very happy. Parents are angry and protective lions, as well they should be. Who wouldn’t stick up for their kids, in the face of disruption and forced change? Does anyone really think that parents want to hear (or have their children hear) that their chosen school is a failure, or that their school must be sacrificed for the greater good?
I’m a little surprised by the lack of solidarity and empathy among the families of non-affected schools, but even more stunned by the lack of leadership among public officials.
I’m forgiving of the non-affected families for not speaking out and organizing. Few of us have time for that. I do wish that I saw more empathy for the tremendous disruption that this process causes in the affected communities, from time spent making signs and writing speeches, to finding time for meetings, to navigating the difficult choices about which new school to attend, to the painful goodbyes and transitions that the parents and kids must endure.
I’m even forgiving of the School Board, who are, as has been pointed out on this blog, ill-paid volunteers that can’t be expected to take a truly professional and analytical approach. Sure, they did ask for the job, but what a truly difficult and ugly job it is right now.
But where-oh-where is the city, state and national political leadership right now? Can we really be seriously talking about tens of billions of dollars in transportation infrastructure, hundreds of billions in war and military costs, and historically low upper income tax rates, while at the same time asking families to sacrifice their time and emotional energy trying to save their school? For crying out loud, we don’t need to close schools right now, we need to pour resources in as if our lives depended on it.
Yes, the Seattle School District could be more efficient. But the same can be said about almost any private and public enterprise. With schools, though, we are talking about our children, our future, our families. There should not be a higher priority, and if we have to err on one side or the other, let’s let a little inefficiency slide, while at the same time doing everything possible to help struggling schools and families get better. I’m sorry, you don’t help families by playing musical schools.
To those of you who say we must close or consolidate some schools right now (despite the fact we don’t actually have a declining enrollment), I ask you to describe a fair, intelligent, and truly empathetic process to make that happen.
I don’t believe in forced closures, but if I had a gun to my head, I would start with the targeted families and the schools and ask *them* how they would want to proceed, and ask *them* what they need – financially, academically, and emotionally – to best make that transition. I’m not talking lip service, but a specific process that would give affected families something in exchange for the disruption. It’s only fair, and something we would all want for our own families.