Thursday, February 3, 2011

Ad Hoc committee voted 2:1 in favor of the Superintendent's recommendation

PPS Board members Bobbie Regan, Ruth Adkins and Pam Knowles (chair) listened attentively to the eight members of the public who had signed up online to comment during the half-hour allowed. One spoke for Alameda families who live in sections D&F (the 57th Ave. area); one spoke as an Alameda parent worried by the overcrowding; one (a BAC Sabin rep) spoke of being welcoming of students from outside the Sabin boundary but not "eager" for them, and of the importance of the International Bacculareate program; a member of the Sabin PTA wants ACCESS included in all the studies that delay will make possible; a parent of two ACCESS students and one Sabin student hopes Sabin continues on an "upward trajectory"; an Alameda parent of a 3rd and a 5th grade student emphasized that the scope of the PPS study was far too limited and very much too rushed and lacking opportunity for public response for the results to be accepted as reliable; another Alameda parent said parents can and will do what they deem necessary to assure their children attend a good school, and said nobody in the affected areas was involved in the study, which needed every viewpoint available; the final speaker noted that the BAC was charged to do the impossible: to balance economic diversity.

In their discussion among themselves after public comment, members of the board and staff recognized that they had seriously fumbled in not thinking to find a way to inform parents of children not yet in school. But they felt they had no other way open than to rely on vigorous neighborhood volunteers. In haste they had also omitted and offended several other constituencies, but they revealed little concern that they should avoid such poor communication in the future, other than to post a bit more on the PPS website. A staff member said they "typically involve neighborhood associations."

The Alameda Neighborhood Association had new officers coming in during November and December, but the communication chair (with 5 years tenure) received no information from PPS about the study or BAC or any other aspect. In fact, on Oct.28th the newsletter editor asked a writer to prepare an article based on a message from an Alameda parent saying a study and possible border change was afoot. The principal, asked about the matter, said "Currently there is no decision about boundary or anything like that. There is no plan at all, many possibilities about Alameda are being talked about... The only thing that is true is that I asked the District to figure out a plan to help with Alameda numbers....I suppose people can talk all they want and make assumptions but currently none of those assumptions are even remotely true."  Next thing the editor heard was a BAC was actively working during the holidays, with an orange and a blue plan coming forth from the district's magical hat. And on 01/09/11 ANA gathered some 50 people to try to get more light and less smoke. The ANA sent a detailed letter to the Superintendent and PPS Board members objecting to the narrow scope, inadequate public disclosure and frantically rushed schedule and requesting a delay for a better process and plan.

Finally the Superintendent determined that the plan pushed through the BAC left too many issues unresolved, that the effort, however valiant, could not overcome the lack of time to get current data, adequate community involvement, and sufficient breadth of scope to reach a solid plan now. Her recommendation was a one-year delay during which heavy-duty work will be required. Ad Hoc committee member Bonnie Regan agreed, but emphasized the delay was more of a "pause," not a decision for status quo. Ruth Adkins appeared to think that more time would yield less budget, no more agreement or support, and would provide students and teachers another year of gridlocked classrooms. Pam Knowles, with an ironic grin, voted with Ms. Regan to send the Superintendent's recommendation with a few remarks to the full PPS Board for their vote on Feb.7th.

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