Sunday, May 31, 2009

Neighborhood Schools

Citizens' Forum and the Neighborhood Schools Coalition present an open discussion with parents, concerned citizens and neighborhood leaders on
Tuesday, June 2, 2009
6:30PM – 8:30PM
Fountain Community Church, 2100 Broadway
(one block east of Meridian, up ramp from parking lot)
• What do our public schools mean to the neighborhoods they are in?
• Walkability, smaller schools, involved neighbors – what is best for
• What are the economic realities and how should neighborhood
schools be financed?
• The school board – its relationship and obligation to parents and the
• Will infill and a changing demographic impact our neighborhood

Friday, May 29, 2009

School Board followup

Report from Wendy Jones:

Last night (Thursday, May 28), Superintendent Vedra presented the school board the draft capacity study he has cooked up to evaluate and then close small schools. Several people were able to speak to the board before the study was presented, and the board members actually heard us. We told them the study was flawed, the time frame was too short, and that these are not the times to make big decisions to close schools.

Lisa Iverson put on her professional hat, and told them that making big changes after a series of losses, and all of these cuts have been losses, is damaging to children. She urged them to slow down.

Teresa Hamilton went through the draft plan and highlighted the flaws point by point, showing that it is basically a complete sham.

I told them that closing schools would chase students away to the private schools leading to a costly decrease in enrollment, and reminded them that taxpayers specifically asked to have their neighborhood schools retrofit and then wanted their children placed back inside them. By closing the schools they promised to preserve, the board puts themselves in a terrible position. Taxpayers will remember that their money was mismanaged, and the next time the schools try to pass a levy they will not succeed.

School board member Ken Gass had little to say. Board member Kelly Bashaw thought the study was a good idea. Board President Steve Schoenfeld noticed the due date of the study was December 17, which was a good catch. He remarked that he was glad he was not going to be one of the two newly elected school board members, because they would be presented with the study and asked to vote on it at the same meeting they would be sworn in at.

Board member Melody Rhode, however, really saw that this study was very poorly planned. She asked who the experts would be, to guide the volunteers through the process. Vedra answered in circles. She asked where the source information would come from. Vedra said the information will be collected by the committee with the help of the school district. She clearly saw that Vedra intends to provide his own data to a group of unskilled volunteers and then ask them to make decisions that will change the direction of our schools for the next 15 years. She was not happy.

Board member Ann Whitmyer took the historian position once again, saying that these studies are nothing to worry about and that they are performed every few years. She called on the senior staff to help her remember some study that was done at some time and had nothing to do with anything.
At this point she asked the district's assistant superintendent, Ron Cowan if he could remember the studies of yore. This was an unwittingly brilliant move. Now that Ron Cowan had been recognized, he stood up and gave us some good information, some information which could make the capacity study redundant and send Vedra back to the drawing board. Ron Cowan related that his office is required to perform a Capital Facilities Plan every 5 years or so. The current plan expires this month, and his office will present the board with the new 5 year capital facilities plan in July. He basically told the whole room that his nearly complete study had already done what Vedra was looking for, and that it was done by professionals with real data. He made Vedra's plan look like a silly waste of time.

It was a great meeting. We made a difference this time. It feels good. So...

The next thing is the Citizen's Forum meeting June 2.

Try to bring a friend from the north side of town who cares about neighborhood schools.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Superintendent requests capacity study

At the Bellingham School District board meeting Thursday, May 28, 7:30 p.m., Superintendant Ken Vedra presented a draft facility capacity study.
Here's the agenda item:
The Superintendent indicated to the Board and the community that we would initiate a capacity and facilities utilization study during the budget savings process. Attached is a draft recommendation of the report proposal from the Superintendent for the Board's consideration. If the Board requests additional requirements be considered, please indicate the necessary changes. The task force proposal will be recommended for approval at the June 11, 2009 School Board meeting.

Draft facility capacity study
This is a big deal. Read it carefully ... notice the reference to "small" schools. They're setting it up just like the budget advisory committee ... the superintendent will give the final recommendation to the board. If he wants to close schools, he will. And he's made his feelings clear.