Tuesday, June 9

School Board to Vote on Roosevelt's Future Tonight

Despite the amount of time and effort that supporters for keeping Roosevelt School open have put into presenting a counter-argument, the alternative options that have been presented appear much more complicated than cracking open a fresh piece of ground and building a new, state-of-the-art school. From the school board's viewpoint, the benefits are numerous and include:
- less disruption to students at multiple schools;
- they are living up to the board's policy to create educational equity;
- putting new schools where growth is occurring and likely to occur;
- replacing infrastructure that does not meet their model of adequate teaching
- and the promise to repurpose Roosevelt in the future addresses the neighborhood's
chief concerns, despite the unknown, but relatively small costs of maintaining the
school shell.

Said differently, this is the path of least resistance. For a board that is incremental in nature, this would be deemed a victory; that is, making the least amount of people unhappy.

From the Roosevelt supporters point-of-view, the loss could be devastating for a corner of the community anchored by a living school. In discussing what will happen to Roosevelt, supporters are wise to be wary of any "promises" made in the heat of achieving the school board's intended goals. The school board can always declare a mea culpa because of budget concerns and all good faith agreements disappear.

Have the arguments for keeping Roosevelt open really been heard? Listening to the board members as they justify their decision tonight will be the best way of knowing the answer to this. With a school board election around the corner, it wouldn't be surprising for a member or two of the board to vote against the plan. So even the perception that Roosevelt supporters have received a fair hearing will likely be questioned.

In the final assessment, looming in the distance is a really important discussion that has not taken place. How to redistrict the district so that all schools remain relevant rather than closing old ones down to make room for sprawling new schools. The school district is not in a position to build new school after new school without making class sizes increase dramatically. Getting the most mileage out of existing schools has got to be predicated on the boundary lines of the schools flexing over time. For parents to be okay with this, each school will need to perform at similar levels and that is more difficult to govern.

The longer term solution to policy issues will need to come from reforming the board. If board members were elected in a district format like the city council, there would likely be more vigorous debate among board members about budget decisions and the growth within the district. With only two weeks before the deadline to put this on the ballot, it may not happen this election, but, if the fire is still lit by those disenchanted with the board's process, it could happen in the next election cycle.

No comments: