Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Public Forums on SLPS School Closings

I just got back from the first public forum on MGT's recommendations for St Louis Public School's facility closings. I left 2 hours and 35 minutes in, after 53 speakers had been heard. Over thirty were still waiting to speak when I left. Students from 6th grade on up spoke, parents, teachers, community members, aldermen. This is important, folks. They are proposing closings or cancellation of programs to over 29 schools. I'll go through my notes and give the highlights of the comments, but Gateway, Big Picture, and McKinley turned out the crowds.

Many of the schools affected are magnet schools with great reputations. Many will be moved to schools that cannot offer the same programs, so it's not just that buildings are closing, it's that whole programs will be lost. We struggle so much with education, I don't see how we can afford to shut down the few programs that do work and that have proven successful. In other cases, it's special needs schools that will be lost-- or whole neighborhoods closed down. How is there even a neighborhood left if there is no school within the community? In the 4th ward, ALL the schools are on the list (and 2 were closed last year).

There's one more forum, and even if you don't have kids in SLPS, you still have a vested interest. This plan will change our city, and not in a good way. We will lose what few educational resources we have. Go to Vashon Saturday morning at 10am. Or submit a comment online to SLPS.

Two highlights of the night for me:

1.) The first student to speak was an eloquent eighth grader who stated, "We're not dollar signs; we're students striving for knwoledge."

2.) Later, a student from Big Picture (an alternative school selected for closure with no new facility offered) reading a poem about the second chance he got at Big Picture: the student, a 16 year old young man who just fathered a baby girl, broke down in the middle of reading.

These students, all of them, were eloquent as they powerfully advocated for their schools, their communities, and their right to a future in the schools they have grown to love. There are so many people who think the city doesn't produce intelligent kids, or that it's the exception and not the rule. After 6 years of working in SLPS schools, I see them succeed every day. It's a shame that with all they have to fight to be successful, they now also have to fight their schools closing.

Go to Vashon Saturday. I'll be there, standing in line, waiting to be heard.

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