Thursday, October 19, 2006

Let's Be Clear About What Happened Last Night

Having watched the video now and listened to much conversation on this topic today, I think it's important that we make clear that the discussion about the "raucous" and "violent" and "heated" meeting does not give a clear picture about what happened last night.

One very disturbed man acted completely inappropriately and was removed from the room twice by security guards. However, that action had very little to do with schools and school closure, and seemed to be instead a case of mental instability and racial hatred.

A lot of other testimony was angry and emotionally --- in my opinion, appropriately so. And some people tried to interrupt the meeting with civil disobedience, which was peaceful.

Below is a comment from the United Cooper Advocacy Group on this issue.

The United Cooper Advocacy Group would like to make a statement regarding the School Board meeting on October 18, 2006:

The United Cooper Advocacy Group (UCAG) is pleased with the School Board decision to indefinitely table the Phase II school closure proposal. We feel that Cooper (and Pathfinder) parents passionately and respectfully (over the past 6 weeks) presented meaningful testimony to the Seattle School Board. We have continually stated that the phase II recommendations were ill conceived, morally questionable and lacked community support.

We strongly recommend that if/when future school closure discussions occur that it becomes a comprehensive process that involves parents, community members, teachers and administrators. We are very supportive to help remedy any budget issue as long as we can work together as a community to solve these problems.

As to the unfortunate incident that occurred at the meeting, we want to be very clear that this was the act of one “troubled” individual that had absolutely no affiliation with Cooper Elementary or Pathfinder. We were disappointed to see this incident detract from an otherwise impassioned and peaceful public testimony.

United Cooper Advocacy Group


Anonymous said...

In response to a few different threads here, I'll offer what continues to mystify *me* about what we as a city seem to think:

1) that because people have requested or demanded something and the district has not complied, the district is "not listening."

2) that if we bring people together in a room, they will agree on which schools to close, and all of the other people who have a stake in that decision will feel appropriately included in that decision and also agree.

3) that there is any process by which people will peacefully and contentedly agree to close their children's school

4) that if the board public engagement process were changed to one in which the board responded in real-time, it would somehow change the tenor or content of the public reaction we now see, which is shockingly disrespectful. I'm not sure how many times I've read or heard recently that "people yell because they have not been heard" - would anyone accept that in a workplace or in a family? Or if the district staff or board members were yelling back? What do we think that 2-way dialogue would look like, as people demand district compliance and don't get what they want?

5) that so many people believe we can make ends meet without closing schools. I would love to be the brilliant marketing person who could come up with the public service piece like the one with the man whose face is bruised and blackened, and the caption "If hep C were doing to your face what it's doing to your liver, you'd do something about it". I would show it to the state legislature and to the very many in the city who believe they are entitled to the school they want, no matter how small or what resources it requires from the system as a whole, because "my child is flourishing there". Meanwhile, we slowly starve public education in Seattle and atrophy a generation of opportunity.

When people say, "If you would only come to me and discuss with me first before you close my school, I'll work with you on solutions and we'll solve this crisis" - that sounds like bargaining, which while a very natural and poignant response in the denial-anger-bargaining-depression-acceptance sequence, is one we need to see for what it is and move past.

Anonymous said...


You are correct, but you miss the point that the issue is that you have a school district that seems to just not get it. Why did Raj push this process forward knowing that it was counter to the board's guidelines? Why, when he had the chance to not make this a public spectacle did he decide to make it one?

Anonymous said...

Actually, I think there are plenty of people who "don't get it", including the district staff at least some of the time; the school board at least some of the time; and the press a good part of the time (or maybe the press does and its objective is to sell papers rather than inform the discussion.)

They/we all contribute to the morass.

After having a front row seat to the staff and board during the CACIEE work and the CAC work, I found some of the district staff a lot more inclined to think "I know what I need to know, thanks" than I would have thought (or hoped, TBH). Particularly the ones running the strategic initiatives like school closures.

But I also walked a couple of blocks in their shoes and saw that it's often impossible to convey what they DO know to a public that generally thinks IT not only knows everything but is entitled to run the show. Each generally refuses to acknowledge that the other might have a piece of the puzzle, or has knowledge of value.

The board? The majority basically said, "that wasn't the process we designed and that's why we're pulling the plug" - but I don't think the process they designed (#2 above) could ever have worked - particularly in the middle of the summer. So you could say they sort of set Raj up - and yup, he probably could have said, "no" - but maybe he feels so strongly about spending dollars in classrooms rather than on them that it was worth the risk if he had even notional board support.

And if you thought more buildings should be closed (as I'd guess he does) and you accept that reference areas and clusters must be redrawn to accommodate the Phase I closed buildings, it made a lot more sense to press on with Phase 2 than to postpone - redrawing for 2007-8 and again for 2008-9.

I guess even if the district did always "get it", anonymous, I respectfully submit there is no process by which people will willingly allow their children's schools to be closed - at least not one the district could afford (with marketing, PSAs, new programs, incentives, etc etc).

Anonymous said...

Mary, a great respsonse to this contentious issue. I think your statements more to the point than some want to believe. i think the board set up Raj for a downfall because the majority didnt want him as the super from the beginning. i cant imagine them going through a new process. hope the district can afford a couple hundred K for a new one.