My apologies if this is a duplicate message. I sent it earlier, but not
everyone on the list received it.
Dear Superintendent Almanza and School Board Members,
Since I first saw the long-range plan, my views have done about a 360
degree turn-around. Like most parents, my first reaction was emotional - I didn't want my children to have to change schools or go farther away
from home. And the way the whole process has been handled - proposing many drastic changes at once; asking for public opinion AFTER the plan was
made; referring to human beings who will lose their jobs as savings in "staff costs;" little consideration of the children's reactions (there
were elementary kids crying in the hallways thinking they had been kicked out of their school and teachers who were told not to discuss this with
their classes) - let's just say it could have been handled better.
However, after thinking about this more calmly, I do feel that the plan
makes sense, at least in theory. I sat through a meeting and talked to
parents at one of the more affluent east-side schools yesterday, and what came through more than anything was a surprisingly racist perspective.
There was talk of "diluting our population" with "those kind of kids" and assumptions that bringing in downtown children meant automatic behavior
problems and lower academic standards. There was resentment that the district could "mess around with our school" - said with a definite sense
of ownership (i.e., "our money" made this school what it is, therefore we own it). The phrase, "I'm not a racist, but..." was spoken several times.
I had not seen this side of these individuals before. To be fair, I don't
think all of the parents at this school feel that way, and I don't want to
give the impression that they're a bunch of prejudiced snobs. They are
hard-working parents who want what's best for their children, and they are used to having the best. They worry about the quality of their kids'
education, and they want some control over what's happening. I can't
blame them for that. However, I'm now thinking that it might be better for children not to be educated in such an elitist environment. There were
also some legitimate concerns raised, such as, if special needs children come to our school, will their special support (counselors, social
workers) follow them?
I still think the Duluth Schools need to raise more money at the local
level (since we can't count on consistent support from the state), and I
still think the current plan should be put on hold pending parent and
community input. (Right now, the general feeling seems to be that we can express our opinions, but the plan is a "done deal," and that's wrong.) I
think the reasoning is sound, and the objectives are good, but the community needs more time to come to terms with the issues and to fully
consider all the alternatives, costs, and benefits. If people are not given that opportunity, they will react with emotion, and many will move
or withdraw their children from the public schools. Has the board considered potential loss of revenue from students leaving, or
redistribution as families move into more "desirable" areas? Without time to adjust, more of that will happen.
One final suggestion - why not close the Central Administration building and move offices into schools where there is extra space? With modern
technology, there is no reason why all the offices have to be centralized in one location.
Thanks for listening to people's opinions. Please take them seriously, and don't make this a "done deal" just yet.