I spent yesterday evening at one of MPS’ community meetings on the Northside (see previous post), about re-structuring the numbers and types of schools, as well as the current busing system, in order to close a growing structural deficit in district finances, caused by declining enrollment. District officials there seemed honest and earnest, but I think the best quotes of the night may belong to activist Ralph Crowder:
“Community Engagement is nothing but an obligation the district has to fulfill.”
…and to a Henry High parent whose name I think I forgot to write down:
“It was advertised well to people who’re really involved in the schools, but not to the average, working-class parent.” (there were around 30 people there, I counted 4 members of the District Parent Advisory Council, a voluntary organization of parent leaders)
All of the various options participants were asked to discuss were extremely short on data — what kinds of cost savings would they generate, how the district would ensure all schools were good schools if the district went over to all-neighborhood schools, etc. Moreover, in the process outlined by Deputy Superintendent Bernadiea Johnson, this is one small part– there are a lot of other parts of the bureaucracy that will have input, and the School Board will be presented with one plan by the administration by March 24th.
Kate Towle, a big-time parent activist I spoke with yesterday before the meeting summed up her feelings: “There’s going to be a big push nationally for more autonomous schools, and more direct community involvement. It just remains to be seen what way [the district bureaucracy] is going to fall apart.”
More details to come in tomorrow’s Daily Planet…