I attended the first community meeting on Growth Boundaries at Mercer Middle School. It was jam packed in the Mercer lunchroom. The Hawthorne community turned out in force. School Board Director Betty Patu was there as were school board candidates Stephan Blanford and Suzanne Dale-Estey.
The meeting began with a totally useless presentation by Flip Herndon, Michael Tolley, Tracy Libros, and a man from Facilities. That sucked up half an hour.
Then a half hour was spent with the community members working in groups to identify the three things they liked about the plan and the three things they wanted to change. The groups did not report out. Instead, the group work was written down on large sheets of paper with a sharpie and district folks just collected them. They also collected question cards.
The last half hour, from 7:30 to 8:00, was supposed to be Q & A time, but mostly people had comments rather than questions. The comments were mostly about not messing with Hawthorne or expressions of puzzlement at some of the changes.
For example, why is an area north of Kimball being shifted from Kimball's attendance area to Maple's? This is the part of the Kimball attendance area that is furthest from Maple (there are other parts of the Kimball attendance area that are much closer the Maple) and this is an area that is in the walk zone for both Kimball and Beacon Hill, but not in the walk zone for Maple.
Some of the comments were just about the speaker's narrow self interest and some of them were uninformed, but I did hear the smartest thing I have ever heard anyone say at a community meeting. A man said that in the absence of any rationale provided for any of these decisions created a situation in which all of the decisions appeared arbitrary, the community couldn't understand or accept them, and the community couldn't make a case against them. Brilliant! He put his finger right on the core problem.
While I would like to think that the staff has a rationale for every decision, I certainly don't expect them to provide a footnote for each one. It would, however, be positive for them to provide the rationale for the big decisions. For example, the decision to swap middle school pathways for Hawthorne and Wing Luke. Why would the District move the bigger elementary school, Wing Luke (660), into the more crowded middle school, Mercer, and move the smaller elementary school, Hawthorne (275), into the middle school with space available? Instead of shifting 400 students from Aki to Mercer you would think that they would shift them the other way - or at least do nothing.