The raging debate over school rezoning is very complex and emotional for all involved. My thanks to the committee that has spent countless hours trying to balance our school demographic percentages.
I happen to completely disagree that this is the correct priority when making these decisions. The only reasons I have seen for why a homogenized student population across all schools is important is because of the possibility of lower parental involvement in schools with a higher percentage of socio-economically disadvantaged families and staff burnout.
Parental involvement farce:
The school district is effectively reducing parental involvement by "scooping" students and busing them away from the neighborhood schools. The board's premise -- "What makes a school special? Parent volunteers and leadership families who have the resources and time to do the little things that make all students feel proud of their school" -- relies on the ability of those very parents to have the time and necessary transportation to get to these schools that are farther away. The district contradicts this philosophy by busing children miles away from their homes and local schools, making it even more difficult for those parents who need to be involved to be able to get there. I submit that parental leadership and stewardship of a school are higher for true neighborhood schools, not a school across town.
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Finally, for those parents with multiple children in multiple schools, the district has created a nightmare for our children's after-school activities as well as PTO involvement, if these are even possible at all. The district is damaging the very parental support network it needs to "spread" us out to other schools.
I agree that it must be easier to teach in a school with a higher percentage of parental volunteers and involvement at home. The school board says the issue is that teachers burn out faster and it is harder to fill positions in these schools. The board's answer is to inconvenience thousands of parents, run our dilapidated buses into the ground, use more fuel and add to our air pollution to make things easier on the district staffing concerns. I would suggest three things:
1. Take some of the money we are blowing out the bus exhaust pipes and create financial bonuses for teachers who volunteer to work in lesser-performing schools. I know you can not throw money at a problem and make it go away, but I think this is a reasonable start.
2. Be more judicious when choosing new school sites. If there is a population overflow in a certain area, build another school close to this area.
3. Expand our current schools. I know the shared facilities such as cafeterias and administrative offices can limit the number of students that can be served, but why can't schools in highly congested areas be renovated, these shared facilities expanded and rooms be added to school campuses? This should be cheaper than buying land and building whole new schools?
In summary, I am very disappointed that nobody seems to think beyond the surface of the issues that are being used to determine where our children are going to attend school. I am also glad that I have the ability to vote against the incumbents on the school board who approve these changes, because that is what I and many of my neighbors will be doing.
This weekly column features opposing views from readers. These opinions are contrary to those expressed on this page or which otherwise take issue with something that appears in The Herald. All commentaries submitted become the property of The Herald and may be republished in any format.