On Who Speaks for a School Community

 I recall that at the last Board meeting, there were two issues raised during public testimony about the (now-called) Rising Star Elementary (formerly Van Asselt at AAA building).

One came from school board candidate, Liza Rankin, about the condition of the building on the first day of school.  It was fine to express dismay that this would happen but it seems she decided to make something out it in a north/south way.  (I have a query into the district about why this happened but I can also say that the district is fairly careful to make sure buildings are ready to be used at the start of the school year.)

The other comment came from former SCPTSA president, SebRena Burr.  She said "the community" was not brought in on this name change.

Interestingly, an actual parent from the Rising Star community also testified and said the confusion over having a "old Van Asselt" building and a "new Van Asselt building" made for trying times.  It sounded very much like the current community at Van Asselt was in favor of this change.

Then there is this message from the Rising Star PTA Board via Facebook.

PTA Board Statement Regarding Rising Star's Roof Renovation:
Many people across Seattle have expressed concern about our roof renovation. PTA has done its best to listen to the concerns of staff, parents, and community members and have presented questions and concerns to our principal, vice principal, and principal intern. We feel that the staff and administration have worked out good solutions to our current space constraints and we are confident that our students are safe and well cared for.

We know that working in a construction zone is frustrating. Our parking lot is drastically reduced and many teachers are having to double-up in classrooms. If staff members or parents have concerns or questions about the remodel, we encourage them to reach out to Principal Lam or to email us (vanasseltptaboard@gmail.com). We will preserve commenters’ anonymity if requested.

We thank our broader community for its support. It’s understandable that people want to take immediate action at perceived injustice, however, we are only a week into the school year and want to take time to listen before determining if or what action is needed. We are confident in our ability to advocate for our students and community, and in our ability to determine what our community needs.
If you would like to offer support to our PTA, we welcome volunteers for various school events as well as donations.
 As a former PTSA co-president, I find this quite well-written.  It makes clear that the PTA Board supports what the school has decided to do to get thru this time, that they want to listen and see what might be needed and "their ability to determine what our community needs."

This doesn't mean that PTA is the only voice at any given school but it is a major voice.  I think this very good advice. 


Anonymous said…
You’ve basically nailed the question of the times. There is no “one” voice of any community, but individuals with experiences and agendas who may or not be able to advocate for themselves. Ours isn’t to shame, belittle or dismiss any voice that speaks up, but to listen and sort through and identify themes and shared interests - we fail to do that. Let’s hope construction at this school wraps up soon and we can use the attention this issue has gotten as a catalyst for support.

Fed Up
Construction Contracts said…
Thank you for posting the PTA's letter.

I wish students did not have to go to schools under construction.

I was quite dismayed when school board candidate Rankin decided to make this construction project a north/south issue. She called attention to building projects that were completed in the north end. This type of rhetoric only serves to further inflame and divide communities. Students in a north end elementary school will be going to school in a construction zone. I prefer board members that are willing to unite- not further divide communities.

Construction projects and contracts are complicated. Contractual issues would be interesting to explore.

Bring Snacks said…
This is similar to some of the advocacy issues around Licton Springs as well. Well meaning people rush in with bull horns to play the savior and rescue the victims, but without asking what the community wants. (And without any power to make SPS change what it's going to do.)

Often, ironically, one of the main things a community wants is to be allowed to speak for itself.
Anonymous said…
Petty post intended to elicit criticism toward Rankin.

Schools belong to the taxpayers, not just to those at the building.

Do you criticize Chris Jackins, who is also a watch dog?

He is not a parent or staff member at the schools he advocates for, either.

Enough, how is it petty? I'm reporting without judgement except to ask "Who speaks for a community?"

Chris Jackins doesn't advocate like anyone else and is his own entity. He's a treasure.
Anonymous said…
I agree with Enough. Your post elicits criticism towards Rankin, whose opponent is your pal Blumhagen. Why not support Eric by highlighting what he has done instead of throwing this out there and see how many jump in and call Liza names?
Anonymous said…
I don't know. Rising Star themselves seem to be over Liza Rankin's crusade. Why doesn't she address inequity in the district she is running in?

Community Member said…
If you read Rankin's posts in Facebook she was asked to speak for the community by community members. She seems to have done so effectively so it's not surprising that staff and parents asked her to.

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