By NICK GRABBE
Friday, October 9, 2009
AMHERST - The School Committee faced strong criticism Thursday of its plan to redraw the elementary school boundaries.
The first of two public forums was at Mark's Meadow School, whose closure next year necessitates the redistricting. The second forum will be at Crocker Farm School next Wednesday. The committee is due to vote on the plan Oct. 27.
Adrian Durlester, a Mark's Meadow parent, questioned the committee's major goal of equalizing the percentages of children from low-income families between the three remaining schools.
"A common fallacy equates the term ¿equal' with the word ¿fair,'" he said. "Getting the same percentages is a worthy goal, but it might not be best to have it as a top priority."
Derek Dassatti, who lives on East Leverett Road, has children who are among the few Mark's Meadow students who would not go to the same school as their classmates next year.
"Why should my kids lose their school and then also be totally split up from their community?" he asked. Economic equalization is a "noble goal," but the committee should not focus on it too narrowly, he said.
Nicholas Rege-Colt of Valley View Road said he has a fifth-grader who would have to go to new schools twice in the next two years. "Is this tragic? No. Is it ideal? Definitely not," he said, suggesting that open enrollment continue for one more year.
Alan Kellman, the parent of a Wildwood second-grader who would go to Crocker Farm under the plan, said the committee "has a lot of goals to balance, but minimizing the trauma of transferring kids has to be weighed heavily."
Michelle Dunch criticized the plan to bus children living at The Boulders and Mill Valley Estates out of the Crocker Farm district to achieve better balance.
"You should find some other way to draw the lines that doesn't unfairly burden low-income kids," she said. "Moving them in that way labels them."
Several speakers criticized the plan to break up children clustered at certain schools by language, especially at Fort River, where 33 students of Cambodian ancestry attend. Of those, 22 would be moved to new schools under the plan.
"Preserving the Cambodian cluster would be an affirmation of the district's commitments to academic success, culturally responsive education and loving connections with our families," said teacher Thomas Chang.
Vince O'Connor of Summer Street said that the schools have to convince voters of the need for a tax override next spring, and "a plan that's disruptive of kids' lives" doesn't help.
"This proposal is seen as the highway to heaven, but it's the road to perdition," he said. Of the plan to break up the language clusters, he said, "Kids who don't have identities don't have a future."
My Goal in Blogging
I started this blog in May of 2008, shortly after my election to the School Committee, because I believed it was very important to both provide the community with an opportunity to share their thoughts with me about our schools and to provide me with an opportunity for me to ask questions and share my thoughts and reasoning. I have found the conversation generated on my blog to be extremely helpful to me in learning community views on many issues. I appreciate the many people who have taken the time to share their views. I believe it is critical to the quality of our public schools to have a public discussion of our community priorities, concerns and aspirations.