This is my 3rd closure process as a parent (at least one of my children's schools have been on the list each time). I don't need to tell all of you how exhausting it is -- physically and emotionally. The one silver lining: each time, we see more parents and others step into an activist role to advocate for better Seattle public schools. Imagine if we could tap into that all that energy and talent (analysis, strategy, communication, etc.) to work proactively in partnership with the district rather than in opposition.
That was what a bunch of us were thinking 4 years ago after our unified resistance against Raj Manhas' initial closure plan. We vowed to stay involved regardless of the fate of our schools, and that led to the formation of CPPS (Community & Parents for Public Schools of Seattle). We've had our ups and downs, but we have been working non-stop since then.
Of course, we're not the only ones. Beth, Charlie, Melissa, and many of the folks at this blog will likely remain active as before (as least, we all hope so!) And there are other great groups working tirelessly for public education for all, like the League of Education Voters. All need your support... especially in hard times like these.
In the 4 short years I've been involved in district-wide issues, we already have a new superintendent, much of the senior staff has changed, and most of the School Board are new. It is up to us -- parents and community -- to remain a consistent, active participant to ensure a great system for all. Big, important changes are not going to happen without a groundswell of support, and that takes work to build.
So, before we lose momentum, I'd like to proposition all of you who were energized by this closure process (like I was 4 years ago): Please stay involved. Don't give up and turn away. The long-term health of our city depends on a solid education for all.
CPPS is one way to stay involved, and we need help. Almost all of us in CPPS are active in our individual school PTAs and other groups specific to our interests, but CPPS provides us a platform to advocate for all schools and all kids. We all benefit when the whole district thrives; conversely (as we've seen), we all pay the price when the district struggles.
I attended a bunch of closure meetings and kept up with this blog, and have frequently heard comments like:
"Why doesn't the district do marketing to fill the empty seats?"
"So many of the problems are because of the confusing or flawed enrollment process."
"How is that they don't understand our needs? Are they (district and Board) even listening to us?"
"How can we get schools to work together rather than compete against each other?"
"How do we mobilize parents BEFORE a crisis?"
These are precisely the areas we've been working on in CPPS, and will continue to work on post-Jan 29. We're a member of a national organization (www.parents4publicschools.org) and our chapters across the country have worked on these areas with success. Here are examples of what we've done this year in Seattle:
- Advocated for improved parent & community involvement in "capacity management" even before the specific changes were named, both privately and publicly (e.g. http://tinyurl.com/7uwjvh). We have voiced parent concerns directly to all School Board members. The cluster meetings we set up (attended by Board members) took a bigger view than saving individual schools.
- We've worked on a number of "What Parents Want" issues -- including setting up open forums (e.g. enrollment, middle school rigor), assembling parent "study groups", and advocating with staff and the board.
- We've brought clusters together with cluster meetings -- not just about capacity management but initiatives like joint marketing (e.g. the central cluster has been planning a single enrollment information brochure).
- With our network of school liaisons and programs like "hidden gems", we've worked to help communities correct misperceptions about their schools with the goal of increased enrollment.
- We are mobilizing parents (in partnership with the League of Education Voters) to lend their voices and concerns to this legislative session in Olympia to preserve education funding and improve it through the re-visioning of Basic Ed task force.
- We've built up a communications infrastructure for connecting school communities with each other and with the district. We have contacts with district staff, the School Board, and parents. Our email newsletter goes out to more than 900 people (and growing). Our goal is ensuring that parents' voices are heard.
If this sub-optimal closure process has opened your eyes to the need to fix Seattle Public Schools, please join us... whether signing up for our email newsletter, volunteering to work on one of these areas, or making a financial donation to support our work. For more information on CPPS, see www.cppsofseattle.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org. There's so much more we can do with your help.