Dear Superintendent Almanza,
I am writing to comment on the redistricting proposal.
I have 5th and 2nd grade sons at Congdon Park, a son entering kindergarten this Fall, and another son who will begin school in Fall 2002. I was the
founding Chair and am currently a director of the Congdon Park Elementary School Foundation, and my wife Cherri is slated to be the incoming co-chair
of the Congdon PTA this Fall. As I hope you can see, my family is deeply committed to and involved with public education, and accordingly, we are
extremely interested in the proposed redistricting.
I attended Tuesday's meeting of the School Board, part of your Wednesday morning meeting with PTSA representatives (also attended by members Rolf and
Zeitz Hudelson), and will be attending Monday night's meeting at Ordean Middle School. While the emotion in those rooms was quite evident, I
understand that the decisions before you and the Board cannot be made on a purely emotional basis, and that any change in boundaries will be certain to
create unhappiness for some, including, perhaps, me. Having said that, I
offer the following comments in what I believe is a balance between
pragmatism, and sensitivity to community. I hope you will consider them in that light.
Timing. I know you are being urged to slow down your decision making, with the proponents of that view equating a slower process with better decision
making. I don't believe slower is necessarily better. While I urge you to actively seek out and be genuinely responsive to input from the community, I
think that can be done in a timeframe which still enables some level of implementation during the upcoming school year. I believe that should be
the goal, I don't believe speed and quality are mutually exclusive here, and no matter when this type of decision is made and implemented, some segment
of the population will be unhappy.
Corridors. I think the corridor approach with three elementary schools
feeding one middle and then one high school is a good idea.
Congdon Boundaries. I have several problems with the proposed boundaries or Congdon Park. Before you wonder, let me clarify that yes, my family is
one of those which would be impacted by the proposed boundary changes. The proposal will result in more than half of the current Congdon families being
reassigned. For a "surviving" school to be impacted to such a degree is, in my mind, unnecessary and unfair. With regard to proposed attendance
levels, the modest increase in students does not warrant such a wholesale reshuffling. Congdon is not being closed because it is too small and,
therefore, inefficient, as are others under the proposal.
Why then, the dramatic changes at Congdon? In the meetings I've attended and in the coverage available through the local media, the primary
motivation appears to be a desire for a different socioeconomic mix in the district's central corridor. I've heard numerous references to issues of
"equity" and "fairness", which seem to be the acceptable code words for this type of manipulation. I am in no way opposed to some expansion of
Congdon's western boundary to assist in this larger district objective, but I believe that the current proposal seeks to accomplish a disproportionate
degree of this goal through changes at one school. I ask that you keep the themes of equity and fairness in mind as you consider the impact of the
proposed boundary changes on the families of current Congdon Park students, many of whom chose to live where they do in large part due to Congdon.
The impact on Congdon of the redistricting proposal is unnecessarily
severe, the motivation appears well intentioned but too focused on one
school, and the boundaries do not, in my opinion, adequately consider
neighborhood concerns. Specifically, the proposed eastern boundary runs right through the middle of a neighborhood, when a slight relocation to the
east would result in a boundary which follows existing natural neighborhood boundaries. A line from Lake Superior that runs up through the Ordean
athletic fields and Northland Country Club to Jean Duluth Road seems to me to be a far more logical, much less disruptive, and therefore far better
eastern boundary for Congdon Park than 34th Avenue East, as proposed.
I ask that you consider the eastern boundary I've suggested, in combination with some western expansion of the Congdon boundary to assist the district
in achieving its socioeconomic objectives. I also ask, however, that western expansion not be prioritized to the point that Congdon Park is
expected to shoulder the brunt of the district's efforts in this area. 14th Avenue East up to 8th Street, or 6th Avenue East up to 4th Street, both seem
more reasonable than an expansion to Mesabi Avenue.
I've tried to be reasonable and realistic in considering the current
administration proposal, and in communicating my concerns herein. All I ask is that you consider them with an open mind as you make the difficult
I would be happy to speak with any of you, at any time, should you wish to do so.