Dear Mr. Welty:

After attending tonight’s Board meeting, I find myself
puzzled about the Board’s 7-2 vote to set “parameters”
for the public input process presented by Kap Wilkes
and Karen Schuder. 

As I understood the vote, the Board decided that any
recommendations that arose out of the process would
have to take as a given the following “parameters”:

1) There would be 3 corridors;
2) The grade configuration for all schools would be
K-5, 6-8, 9-12;
3) Elementary schools would have 3 or 4 sections per
class; and
4) High Schools would be 1000 to 1400 students.

If my understanding of tonight’s vote is correct, 
these “parameters” essentially mandate the following

1) All elementary schools must have at least 450
students (3 sections times 25 students/class times 6
grades in K-5 equals 450 students), which means at
least two and perhaps four elementary schools will
2) There will be three high schools (this must be if
size of the high school is limited to 1400 and grade
configuration must be 9-12).

If my understanding of tonight’s vote is correct,
therefore, the public input is severely circumscribed,
and indeed is limited to things like drawing
boundaries to accommodate the students from the soon
to be shuttered elementary schools. That’s it. Plans
such as the one mentioned by Patti Rolf, for example,
which sets up a K-8 Woodland, couldn’t even see the
light of day through the input proccess, whatever that
process might be, because those kinds of plans don’t
fit the parameters.

One way to look at tonight’s vote is like this: the
Board voted tonight to close somewhere between 2 to 4
elementary schools, certainly the two smallest
(Rockridge and Birchwood), and to retain three high
schools, and left it to the community to determine
what schools to cut. After hearing input from the
community that neighborhood schools were important,
the vote essentially said, “we still don’t consider
that something of value, but we will let you decide
what schools are to be closed (and by the way, don’t
try to keep any small schools open)”. 

Am I missing something here? Please tell me that I
heard things wrong tonight. 

Incidentally, I appreciated your efforts tonight to
point out to the Board that it was premature to take
such a vote. I cannot believe that the Board would,
in order to seek the community’s input, basically
dictate the terms of the final plan. If the purpose
of tonight’s vote was to increase “buy-in” by the
public, and to get creative solutions on the table, I
think it will fail terribly because the process will
be seen as nothing but a sham with pre-ordained

Again, I hope that my understanding of tonight’s vote
was wrong. Please let me know if I am missing


My Reply


You've described the consequences of the vote very well. Even Mary Thompson, the Trib's reporter, didn't quite get it. We've always known we would lay off 25 teachers. That was hardly the most newsworthy thing that happened last night. We will close elementary schools after next year. We will keep three high schools. The only devil left is the one in the details and the parents will get to wrestle with it.