Maybe it's the passing of Ted Kennedy, maybe it's the end of summer (well, at least for our kids but when their summer is over, isn't ours?), maybe it's just personal challenges but I am feeling down for the count. (Say what you will about the Kennedys and their flawed lives - as if we are all living lives of perfect virture - they were a family that gave a lot to public service in America and that's no small thing.)
Maybe it's the news from LA - how can one district declare both "it's out of our hands" and "uncle" all at the same time? How can they give up, really give up on so many kids and let the invisible hand of capitalism do a better job? Are competition and choice really the keys to great public education? It all feels like a dizzying experiment but one where the lab tube got dropped and all that is in it is slowly spreading out across the floor (the USA being the floor).
In the end, who will win from this? Will it, first and foremost, be the students? Please let it be them. How can we, as adults, look these students in the eyes in 10+ years and say, "Sorry, we thought it would work. It worked for some."
As we have learned from our own painful school closure experiences, if schools don't work, they can be shut down. It is much harder to shut down a regular public school but with charters, well, depending on the charter it could be much easier. But easier on whom? Not the kids. Most kids seem to like their school so to them it's a mystery why anyone would shut it down. And what about the kids with special needs? Where is their home and their place in the world of public education?
We have a thread going about the pending alternative schools audit. Charlie wrote this post there:
"Dr. Goodloe-Johnson writes that the District will "receive the findings of each review and then collaborate with our stakeholders as we decide which recommendations we will implement and in what timeframe." But that's not what they have done at all. There has been no collaboration with stakeholders."
And that's why I feel melancholy here today. I get parents, all the time saying, "What should we do as parents in situation X?" or "How do I make a difference in this district?" Well, it's just painful to say, "I don't know; I wish I did." Because as Charlie points out, over and over, there is so much lip service to engagement, stakeholders, etc. but no real follow-thru, no real feeling of "we're in this together", no belief that your input makes a difference.
I get a little done and a little more attention from staff because well, I've been around a long time and I'm tenacious. You shouldn't have to do that to be part of this district. I know so many parents with great skills and talents (professional skills) and would be willing to work on projects pro bono to help the district and yet, no one asks. I recently had someone in the district (who will remain nameless) say to me, "I know you offered to help, Melissa, but I just didn't know how to ask." I had no answer to that.
I know the district believes if we, as parents, just got out of their faces, shut up and go back to our PTAs and raise money, that they could get a lot more done and maybe then we would all see how smart? right? they are.
People in this district work very hard but sometimes it seems like endless planning, organizing, figuring out how to deliver information to teachers and principals, then they figure out how to get it to students. It feels like a rat maze that never ends. I know there is no A to B shortcut for great education but why is the Strategic Plan so long?
I also keep going back to candidate Joanna Cullen's words (paraphrasing here), "It shouldn't be about the effort I made but the results I got."
Probably the best thing for me is to go exercise (running stairs is a great way to not allow your mind to think of anything else - way too much oxygen involved in getting up and down), get a good night's sleep and be Scarlett O'Hara because "after all, tomorrow is another day." (You did know that was Margaret Mitchell's first choice instead of Gone with the Wind - Tomorrow is Another Day.)