In several crowded meeting rooms (including one room filled with about 75 Burmese speakers), hundreds of participants divided up into a dozen groups to answer three primary questions: What do we want for our children and families? What are our most critical challenges and how should we prioritize them? And what are the solutions?
Their top five suggestions weren’t terribly surprising: Making schools more accountable; providing more support for families to make kids ready to learn; creating more affordable housing; closing the academic achievement gap and reducing the high-school dropout rate; and giving kids more opportunities to get engaged. But the overwhelming community response to the forum—hundreds of people, many of them with young kids in tow, showing up for a two-hour community forum on a Monday night?—was.
There are four more forums. I was told by someone in the know that the Mayor's staff really wanted people to only attend one. I guess they don't want any one person/group dominating the conversation.
McGinn’s challenge, after the five forums and a final “Kids and Family Congress” at Seattle Center are over, will be to turn all the good ideas into action—easier said than done, given that most of the goals listed tonight are the responsibility of the Seattle school district, not city government. However, this week’s forums could provide the political backing McGinn needs to implement changes to the upcoming Families and Education Levy—implementing a so-called “cradle to college” approach, which Burgess alluded to at the council meeting yesterday, and sending more money to struggling South End schools.
The Mayor has a blog for this initiative. There is also a "Get Involved" page with specific things you can do. After these meetings, there will then be 100 (!) community caucuses. Each caucus will elect a delegate for the Kids and Families Congress in June. Then Planning Groups will be formed to work on action plans.
Here's the list of the rest of the meetings:
March 1 (general public) – Northgate Elementary School 7-8:30 p.m.
March 8 (general public) – Van Asselt Elementary School 7-8:30 p.m.
March 15 (general public) – Denny Middle School 7-8:30 p.m.
March 22 (general public) – Garfield Community Center 7-8:30 p.m.
April 8 (youth workshop) – Bertha Knight Landes Room in City Hall, 4:00 – 6:00 p.m.
From the Mayor's webpage: