From this person's notes:
Overall it was largely what you’d expect. There was a phalanx of SPS employees, plus a row of the school’s partners from KC Mental Health and Chem Dependency dept. Kaaren gave a fine (though slightly rambling) presentation about the school, and the floor was opened to questions/comments. I would say there were more there in support of the placement, but it’s hard to say for sure.
The District’s communications director controlled the mike. (Editor's note; probably interim Communications director Peter Daniels but I'll check.) Initially he insisted on holding the mike, instead of letting folks hold it themselves. But more annoyingly, at the beginning he tried to simply go from speaker to speaker, without allowing any sort of response. This was both awkward and, for those who had questions, enraging. Eventually he began to allow responses. Time was loosely kept, but folks were largely tolerant of longer-than-a-minute speeches.
Some of the questions were along the lines of “how can you double/triple/ensure that no harm will ever come to anyone because of this program placement” and by the way I’m not going to listen to your answer.
- Some people asked specifically how students were selected, Kaaren explained that they have to want to be there, then there’s a week of testing/analysis to make sure the placement is appropriate, etc.
- How would people be dropped from the program: That would be done on a case by case basis dependent on the specific circumstances, but a relapse alone wouldn’t result in a reassignment.
- How will you prevent felons from accessing the program: We have an obligation to educate every child, a conviction, even for a violent offense, won’t preclude placement here or at any other school.
Someone raised a very specific safety issue, that the recovery school is scheduled to get out at 2:30, but that the 1st grades have recess then. Kaaren responded that she would expect to work with the principal of John Hay to identify and address specific issues like that. Schedules were not set in stone.
Twice people asked the District to promise, or somehow reassure them, that this particular Interagency school won’t be converted into an Interagency school for students in detention. Twice Kaaren explained that they sited their programs largely based on where their partners were, and the Queen Anne facility wasn’t located near any other partner, and she just didn’t feel it would be appropriate for any other Interagency program.
Christine Economou and many of the other anti-placement group tried hard to repeat their overall support for a recovery school, that it was only the placement they objected to. Their attempt to thread this needle was undercut by some statements from folks who appeared to be quoting internet research that chemically dependent students had all sorts of mental health and criminal issues. And by people who seemed to be challenging the very idea of recovery, claiming, for example, that a person isn’t in recovery until they had not used for 5 years.
There were lots of heartfelt testimonials from a student who had been saved by a recovery school in Bellevue, by that same school’s Exec. Director, buy parents who had lost children to overdose or whose path to recovery would have been easier with a high school like this. There were plenty of examples of recovery high schools situated in the same building as preschools, and how communities had been built between the populations.
One speaker asked the audience to raise their hands if they were unaffected by dependency in their life. Not a single hand went up.
In response to “how can we help this program” Kaaren responded that they were genuinely touched by the outpouring of support from the community. She said that folks should check back in 7 months about other ideas, in the meantime she would work with the principals both to address specific questions and to address other communications needs.
The best QA came when someone asked “is there any chance that this placement will be changed?” Answer, “No.”