Saturday, October 07, 2006

Report on AS#1 Site Hearing

Report from Roy Smith on AS#1's site hearing on Thursday:

No newspaper reporters showed up at the AS#1 site hearing, in spite of lobbying on our part to get them to be there. KOMO 4 was there and did present a short piece on the 11 o'clock news Thursday.

The hearing itself went extremely well. We made a conscious effort to model the values that we as a school teach to our children, and to not let the hearing be a mindless display of anger and frustration. In kidmail that was sent out to all families prior to the meeting, the following was written: "THE SPIRIT OF THE MEETING, THE SPIRIT OF AS#1: AS#1 teaches by modeling, and in the meeting we will model respectful interaction. The intention of this meeting is to humanize AS#1 for the Board Members (we are not just square footage and dollars), and to humanize the Board Members to us (they are not unfeeling rubber stampers).

We will show the Board Members what our NORMS are for our students and our parents:
1) Stay Engaged
2) Speak Your Truth
3) Experience Discomfort
4) Expect and Accept Non-Closure
5) Listen for Understanding

The superintendent and all seven board members were present (although one had to leave early for another commitment). Also present were the Chief Academic Officer, Associate Academic Officer, Chief Operating Officer, and the district's Communications Director.

Prior to the hearing, we put a large amount of effort into developing about a 40-45 minute coordinated presentation. We still had to follow the three minute testimony rule, so we broke our presentation down into 3 or 6 minute pieces, and for the 6 minute pieces, signed up two speakers, one of which yielded their time to the other.

AS#1's principal spoke first. He welcomed everybody to the school, and reiterated the idea of maintaining a respectful dialogue that nonetheless spoke our truth. Some of the speakers did speak directly to our frustration with the process that has gotten us to this point. One speaker specifically pointed out that there were aspects of the process that seemed to be legally questionable. Collectively we put a good deal of effort into presenting a coherent, reasoned case that this specific co-location proposal was an idea that would ultimately either have to be undone or would lead to the closure or failure of one or both of the schools involved. Throughout, we maintained a cordial atmosphere. Several speakers did in fact run over their alloted time, but because we had established a non-hostile environment, they were allowed to finish their testimony gracefully (one actually ran significantly over time), rather than being shouted down as has been known to happen at the school board meetings.

Summit speakers only used about half an hour, so a number of additional individuals had the opportunity to speak on behalf of AS#1.

Afterwards, members of our community heard from at least 5 (Sally, Mary, Cheryl, Michael, and Brita) of the 7 board members, and the general things they shared were that: 1) they truly appreciated receiving a kind welcome; 2) they were impressed by the commitment we have to our school; 3) our presentation definitely had an impact. The important thing about this (from my point of view) is that I am not sure our articulate and well-reasoned presentation would have had as much (if any) of an impact if it had been presented in a tone of anger, frustration, and blame.

After the bulk of the AS#1 presentation, an individual (Eric - don't recall last name) who has spoken at a number of school board meetings, including one I attended, spoke. He spoke to how impressed he was by the manner in which the AS#1 community conducted itself, and he talked about how this was the calmest testimony that he has given for quite some time. He acknowledged that he has spoken from a place of frustration and anger on a number of occasions and seemed genuinely impressed that perhaps the way we had chosen to get our point across could possibly be at least as effective.

Did it work? Well, we will know for sure about that point in the course of the next 3 1/2 weeks. But the initial response seems very positive, and I believe that the board, and perhaps even the district staff, are willing to work constructively with us.

No comments: