Friday, October 4, 2013

Our “grassroots” educational system

When I’m lucky, my readers write my posts for me. From a reader email:
From an article in The Gazette about Saturday detention:

“I am in favor of supporting what the principals need for their buildings,” said Ann Feldmann, assistant superintendent for the Iowa City schools. “What we don’t want to do is create a program and force it upon our buildings. It has to be a grassroots sort of program.”

Too bad they don’t feel that way about PBIS.
Good point. My kids’ education has been an uninterrupted story of programs foisted on their school from above. Moreover, “grassroots” can’t just mean high-level administrators deferring to lower-level administrators in a system that’s almost entirely insulated from what the community itself wants. Who are the real grass roots?


Anonymous said...

Which Mann parents do you allegedly "speak for" at public meetings? Can they not speak for themselves? What about those of us who are fine with Mann being a larger school?

Chris said...

Anonymous -- I didn't speak for anybody at the meeting. I said, "I have yet to talk to anyone in that neighborhood or attendance area who wants to super-size that school in that way." That's a true statement.

Of course parents there can speak for themselves. I just haven't heard them do it -- and, as long as you're anonymous, I still haven't.

Chris said...

And again, no one's arguing against the importance of doing improvements such as adding air conditioning and multi-purpose rooms to Longfellow and Mann. Scenario 1c allocated almost ten million dollars for that. The issue is whether we should spend an additional $15+ million dollars over and above those renovations to expand the capacity of those schools and dramatically increase the number of students they will hold.

I'd like to know what those communities think about that plan. I don't see the district making any effort to find out.

Anonymous said...

If you haven't heard Mann parents advocating for their school -- TO THE SCHOOL BOARD, publicly -- then you most likely have not been paying attention for the past 18 months. Also, at last night's meeting, I could have sworn that you said "I speak for..." I will have to re-watch the meeting footage.

Chris said...

Anonymous: Neither of those things are true. Watch the tape if you want to see what I said.

People at Mann have certainly advocated that the school stay open and that it get renovations. I agree completely with both of those things. I haven't seen anyone from Mann advocate that the school should be expanded to hold 76% more students. If you say that they have, can you link to anything showing that?

Anonymous said...

Also, you have no way of knowing how much input the board receives just based on public input sessions at meetings. There are many other outlets for constituents to have contact with the board -- email, phone call, listening posts, etc. Do you have access to all of that? Unlikely. Finally, Mann is predicted to see substantial growth. Sometimes needs trump what people "want." Please tread very lightly when you speak for others and what you believe they want, or what you think you know, Mr. Liebig.

Anonymous said...

These people you have "talked" to -- are they parents of present or future students, or are they elderly neighborhood people -- who you tend to target and try to whip up?

Anonymous said...

Where is your link showing that Mann parents don't want to see capacity added?

Chris said...

Anonymous: Since I never said Mann families oppose it, I don't need to provide evidence that they don't. Again, I said I haven't heard them oppose it.

You said many Mann families favor it. What's your basis for saying that?

The fact is, neither one of us can say whether Mann families favor super-sizing that school, because the district has made no effort to find out.

Why shouldn't people in the surrounding neighborhood have a say in that issue? Does the district plan to take the park (and fence it in)? How will the space handle a large increase in traffic? How will it affect the Preucil School? Or do only some voters matter?

Whether "Mann" is expected to see substantial growth means little, since the attendance areas are all going to be redrawn, and new schools are going to be built. The only issue is how many students the district should put in Mann and Longfellow when the attendance areas are redrawn.

While you're at it, where is the evidence for the assertion that I "tend to target and try to whip up" elderly people? What does that even mean?

Chris said...

By closing Hoover while simultaneously adding almost the same amount of capacity to Mann and Longfellow, the plan is essentially consolidating three schools into two. (I don't mean that the actual Hoover kids will necessarily attend Mann and Longfellow, because nobody knows -- only that the plan is effectively shifting Hoover's capacity to two nearby schools.)

Adding more kids to Mann and Longfellow doesn't make them better schools, and doesn't help the kids who are already there, and doesn't benefit the neighbors of those schools. All it does is move the district toward having fewer, larger, farther-away elementary schools. There is no evidence that that's what the majority of the community wants.

If the majority of Longfellow and Mann families and neighbors want to dramatically increase the number of kids at those schools, that would be important information to know. But asking that question is not an attack on those schools, and neither is opposing the additions, which are by far the most expensive new capacity in the long-term plan, and are made necessary only by the closure of an existing school.

Anonymous said...

If you want to go down this path then we absolutely must to question and nitpick EVERY single project on the plan. Get right on that, ok? Does each and every school that needs air conditioning really want it? What do the neighbors think? Does the far east side really want a new elementary school? The south side of Iowa City? Does North Liberty want a new elementary school? Do the neighbors there really want a big new high school? What about all that traffic and dust and stuff during construction and kids squealing tires and yadda yadda? Does Lemme want a new multi purpose room? Hills? Does Penn really want to add more kids?! It’s already at 500+! Does North Central really need more classrooms? Using your rules we have to get input from every single neighborhood about what will happen in these schools. Input to the Nth degree. Do YOU want this? How about YOU, over there? And YOU? In other words none of those planning forums that went on for months meant squat and we should do nothing but stand still, right? Or are you just picking on these two projects to drive a wedge and continue to try to divide people and cause strife, despite your claims to the contrary? How completely tiresome. Either question every single project or just admit that you are trying to further divide people which seems to give you a big kick. Yawn.

Chris said...

I'm sorry if it's "tiresome" to find out if the public actually supports a plan or whether the board is foisting it on a public that wants no part of it. To me, that's part of responsive government. So far, there's zero evidence that the majority of the public wants to close a school. If you think that shouldn't matter, we'll just have to disagree.

The super-sizing of Mann and Longfellow can happen only at the expense of closing someone else's school. All the scenarios that included those additions were accompanied by school closures, and none of them were popular at the community workshops. By questioning those additions, I'm not attacking Longfellow or Mann. It's the district that has pitted those schools against one another, and I'm playing defense. Longfellow and Mann may or may not get additions, though they'll definitely get improvements. Hoover may or may not be closed. I know which position I'd rather be in.

Finally, I don't know if you're the same "Anonymous" that posted earlier, but I'm still waiting to hear the basis of the accusation that I "tend to target and try to whip up" elderly people.

Anonymous comments are welcome here, but if there's anything that's tiresome, it's having people who don't even identify themselves accuse me of things, and then fall completely silent when they are asked to defend their accusations.