Packed house, I was almost surprised they had it such a small school but it was cozy.
Attendees - SPS staff, Directors Peaslee and Carr (but oddly, not Martin-Morris as one of the central issues was Eckstein that sits in his district) and FACMAC co-chairs and other members of the Committee. Rep. Gerry Pollet also was in attendance. The room was packed full.
I liked the way this meeting went. There was just a brief presentation, then principal Zoe Jenkins did a roll call of sorts of what schools were there. She listed them on a blackboard, plus a spot for community input. She then handed out a card for each school to anyone who wanted to speak. In that way, we had input from all schools plus a rotation of speakers. There were about 12 schools represented.
What I did hear firmly:
- Pinehurst is to stay in place. No mention of exactly what that would then mean for Jane Addams.
The testimony, while sometimes funny and sometimes moving, but always respectful (to everyone's credit), really didn't move the dial.
What I did hear:
- people understand a short-term plan for next year but they also worry about why they see no long-term plan. (Answer from me: because they are doing triage, not planning. Sorry but that's what it looks like. Also, the uncertainly of BEX may be holding staff back from saying anything out loud.)
- some want every seat filled. So because Jane Addams is moving towards filling their school, since the seats are needed, JA should move. Well, if that is the reasoning then I can think of several not-full schools that should be moving and yet that's not happening.
- Pinehurst and JA parents just worry about stability and long-term enrollment. They're right. It is very hard to attract parents if the district doesn't make a long-term commitment to a program.
- lots of opposition to retaining current 5th graders at Lincoln into 6th grade there. I think the fairness issues made sense to many in attendance. And, as one student said himself, he'd leave APP before he left Hamilton.
- Wild card - John Marshall. It's like spinning a wheel - where will it stop? There are many needs and only one John Marshall.
- Eckstein parents are making a case not just against overcrowding but for safety as well. I think their frustration (and rightly so) is that the district is doing nothing about it for a whole year. On the other hand, there are a lot of unsafe school conditions in SPS that have been routinely ignored for years. I pointed out that when my sons were at Eckstein and I thought it overcrowded at 1150, I was told there were 2,000 students there in the '70s and to quit whining.
-The evening ended on a poignant note. There was a mom who has a Down's Syndrome child in SPS. She said they had to work very hard to find a school for him but now he is in a place where he is loved and accepted. She said she understood spreadsheets and capacity but there is a human element to moving these children around and for some, an incredible hardship.
RTTT - Now What?
Short article from Ed Week about the vast implementation needs of getting RTTT money. I know Mary Jean Ryan who has been working on this project and I'll have to ask her how they think it will work.
The list of amendments is quite long for state Race to the Top winners, which are still struggling to keep up with all of their promises. Many had trouble finding enough qualified staff members to jump-start their plans, and capacity within budget-strapped state departments of education remains an issue.
And the same capacity issue that faces states will face these winning districts, said Bellwether Education Partners' Andy Smarick. Since the list of winners includes many medium- or even small-sized districts, many may need to hire additional staff or consultants to execute their plans.
"I think this is going to be the biggest issue," he said. "It's not only about hiring enough people but the right people."
I'm off to the Work Session on Capacity. Any breaking news I will try to live blog or tweet (@westbrookmel).