I have had the honor of being Chair of the Summit K-12 Parent Group this year. Thank you, Summit, for the 9 years you have been in our lives, and to all the Summit staff, past and present, for giving of your best to my children. As it is the last day, I wish to thank the entire Summit community for pulling together to make this last year a good one for our children, and to take a moment to write some words to the Board, too, about our experience.
My children and their friends - along with all of the Summit K-12 family that consists of teachers, parents, staff, students and alumni - have been grieving in various stages since September of 2008. The first grief was that which comes with knowing a move is pending. This was all too quickly followed by the grief that accompanies a loss - particularly a loss that could easily have been prevented. Unfortunately, insult was recently added to injury, and that has created yet another kind of grief - one accompanied by a great anger.
Had the District been content with closing our school, we could have dealt with that, and we were, regardless of the pain. I am appalled and disgusted, not to mention outraged, at the barbaric treatment we have all received at the hands of the current Superintendent and Board of Directors. Sending contractors and/or officials through the halls with blueprints during school hours is rude and insensitive, although potentially understandable. A "muck board" out front is also potentially understandable, if any attempt to communicate with the school were made. However, it was completely unnecessary, not to mention cruel and unusual, to start working on changing the building before the end of the school year. There was absolutely no need to paint out the name Summit K-12 on our building before the graduation ceremonies of the final weeks of school.
I'm guessing that the acts have simply been thoughtless...and perhaps it says a lot about me and my willingness to forgive injustices directed at me that I can even think that. I know many of the other folks I've spoken with about this feel that this is a deliberate act on the part of the District to attempt to erase our community. Here is one description that I wrote elsewhere:
It's hitting me this week that this is the last week of our school. We're dissolving the Parent Group, supporting our children and the staff as best as we can, and grieving all at the same time as we're trying to plan for the coming year.Our esteemed co-Treasurer of the Parent Group wrote a most excellent piece which has been widely distributed through the Summit community, particularly to each of the children this past week. I am including it here, as it gives a very clear picture of what has happened and the pure strength and resiliency which our community embodies.
The District has already painted over the name on our school...before the moving up ceremonies for our kids. They've also placed a muck board out front and had people with blueprints roaming the halls determining what will change before we're even out of the building. The overwhelming opinion I've heard so far is that the social Neanderthals downtown never did care about our school, and they wish they'd shut the only K-12 public school in Washington down years ago.
Behold the dandelion, that most common of garden weeds. It is scorned and shunned. Its unwelcome arrival in the uniform, green lawn is greeted with poison and pulling. All too often, when the gardener is successful, the result is an inhospitable circle of brown earth. The grass, tenacious in its own right, seems unwilling to occupy the space once held by such a formidable foe. This battle is not fought for safety. Rather, it is about evenness, uniformity and control.
But let us look carefully at this much maligned plant. Physicians of old believed it had healing powers and used it to control fever and clean sores. The leaves are edible, the flowers are used to make wine, and the root, when dried and crushed, is used to make tea. It is exceedingly hardy, growing almost anywhere, even in the cracks in the sidewalk. Once it takes root, there is almost nothing that can kill it.
So here you are, the last students of Summit K-12. You have been treated like dandelions. Your school does not fit the uniform, green lawn of education. You sprout up, bright flowers standing out against a sea of conformity. Those who think they have control have yanked you out of the ground and blown your seeds away on the winds. What I ask of you now, is to be dandelions.
Be tenacious. Sink your roots deep and don’t give up easily. Be a force for healing. Use the knowledge you have gained in hardship to help others. Be useful. Follow your passions and strive to make the world a better place.
Behold the dandelion, that most wondrous of garden weeds.
Summit Parent Group co-Treasurer
Is change needed? Always, else we run the risk of stagnating in our own hubris.
Is change pleasant? Rarely - even good changes are stressful.
Can change be eagerly accepted by those about to experience it? Absolutely. Without question, if the stakeholders are engaged in the decisions, change can not only be accepted, but welcomed with open arms. Also without question, change is rarely eagerly accepted when the stakeholders are railroaded into it. Civil wars have been known to start with tyranny.
If I were a Director on this Board, I would be ashamed of myself and feel the need to either tender my resignation or pull myself up by my bootstraps and do the right thing, which is to be strong for all of the kids and be an advocate for them and truly fight to ensure the best practices in their education, especially in planning ahead rather than reacting to the current situation, whatever that may be at any given moment. I would also be highly skeptical of anything the District administrative staff had to say to me, as they've consistently presented information that shows them in the best light rather than being accurate, as evidenced by their conflicting reports on capacity in the NE cluster in the past 6 months, not to mention the excuse of "It's too hard to get a cost-effective program for a new computer that will work a million times better than the VAX computers we currently have, and that's why we've not upgraded even though we've been talking about it for over 5 years."
One last suggestion for the Board - given the Recession along with the Seattle-wide disgust for the current Superintendent, if you were to cut her salary and slash the administrative staff in favor of rehiring all of the teachers that have been "RIFed," you might regain a slim margin of trust from the people. And that's my own opinion.
"You must be the change you wish to see in the world." - Mahatma Ghandi
My best wishes that all have a good summer break, and that everyone who has been adversely affected by these changes may "be a dandelion" and bring healing to the world.
Chair, Summit K-12 Parent Group