Parents, teachers and community members filled the auditorium at Stubbs Elementary School last night, and they were not happy. That tends to happen when you don’t include a community in the plans you made about their schools. Why elected officials, school districts and the Dept. of Education continue to put together major plans without community input never ceases to amaze me. The crowd walked into that meeting upset, and, given the lack of answers to their questions, they left the meeting upset.
One point that Gov. Carney and Superintendent Gregg stressed (several times) was that the News Journal got it wrong. I’ve read the leaked document, and what was put forth last night seemed pretty much in line with the “confidential plan” leaked to the News Journal. In fact, I wouldn’t change a thing from the post I wrote yesterday.
Gov. Carney reassured parents that this was a work in progress, that the MOU was only a draft, and that last night’s meeting (and future meetings) was about community input. I’m really not sure how much community input can be had when a draft MOU (confidential plan) exists and votes on it are already scheduled.
Very few details were provided last night. Parents, teachers and community members asked questions (really good questions) that went unanswered, or were answered vaguely.
Last night’s audience knew exactly what issues needed to be addressed in their schools and what was needed to help solve them. They repeatedly asked about adding more teachers/paras to the classrooms and keeping class sizes small. Those questions weren’t addressed, so I guess adding more teachers/paras and reducing class size isn’t on the table. (It’s a good guess since every plan of this sort – the Priority Schools plan comes to mind – never seems to include smaller class sizes and more teachers.) They asked about handling kids dealing with trauma, about how to involve parents – and they pointed out how difficult it was to help their child with homework when their kids didn’t have textbooks a parent could reference, just a worksheet. They were 100% on point.
One parent brought up concerns over K-8 schools. He was told that K-8 hasn’t been decided on yet. That’s not an answer. It’s also, I suspect, not the truth. If the plan is to consolidate 5 schools into two (and that point wasn’t up for debate), and one of those schools is a middle school that’s under capacity, then how would you utilize the “extra” space? You’d add K-5 students.
There was a lot of “nothing’s been decided” answers last night, so it was hard to pin down exactly what the Governor’s plan consisted of.
There were also a ton of promises to involve the community/parents in future meetings about this plan. Again, I’m not sure how that works given the scheduled December votes, and February 28th deadline. But that promise was made. Repeatedly. Future community meetings was the answer given every single time a parent/community member questioned a part of the leaked MOU. It was given every time they asked why they were only finding out about this plan now.
Anyone would be forgiven in thinking that last night’s meeting was the beginning of the discussion. Gov. Carney and Superintendent Gregg need to get into those schools and meet with this community before taking another step. If they had done this before drafting a MOU and scheduling votes on… I’m note even sure what to call it anymore, last night’s meeting would have gone a lot smoother. Right now, they do not have community support, and they have no one to blame but themselves.
A question was asked last night about the last Christina School District MOU, and what was going on with those plans. Excellent question. The answer from Gov. Carney: I wasn’t Governor at the time. *wince* Superintendent Gregg did the same thing with another question, stating that he arrived in April, and was not responsible for anything before that time, only after. I’m not sure who was in charge of prepping the Governor and Superintendent for last night’s meeting, but they dropped the ball. People wanted answers. They didn’t get them. Now… if the MOU is scrapped and the community is involved in forming a new plan… then count me in. I didn’t leave the meeting feeling like that was an option, tho. Especially since…
The MOU is scheduled to be posted online before next Tuesday’s school board meeting. Looks like we’re moving forward with this.
But let me point out that a MOU shouldn’t even exist until community meetings were held and feedback was given.
Yesterday, I wrote that these plans were going to cost a lot of money. That’s still the case. What I fear will happen is that the MOU will be approved, but the General Assembly will not approve all the financing necessary to implement it – Which will result in consolidation of schools, but no resource centers. What I think we’ll end up with is two K-8 schools and three closed schools. I hope I’m wrong, but I don’t think I am.
Christina School Board should add a condition to the MOU that makes it null and void if the financing doesn’t appear for the entire plan, because what was presented last night was a plan that needed all parts to work.