I'm a closet optimist. Why is my optimism hiding in the closet? I'm a self-proclaimed glass-half-empty kinda gal. And yet, oddly enough, when it comes to politics and government (including our public school system), I always find myself hoping for the best; hoping for the one guy, the one woman, the honorable person, who is going to stand up and do what's right for our citizens. And yes, I believed in this ideal long before Obama was anywhere near running for office and despite my years of working in politics in California and on Capital Hill.
As a parent of two children in Rohnert Park schools, I was at the school meetings when the school district ignored all the parents' pleas to keep open a school where the children were actually doing well, excelling in their studies as well as the oh so important test scores, and where the parents actually wanted to be involved in their child(ren)'s school. I was there when the school board decided to close Gold Ridge Elementary as one of the two school closures only two years ago (after having already closed more schools only a few years prior).
And now, judging by how the board handled the past closures, I (and many of my fellow school-closure-casualty friends) knew it would be useless and frustrating to go to meetings where the board would supposedly listen to (more accurately, ignore) people's thoughts, ideas, possible solutions. During the last wave of school closure meetings, I remember one vocal parent in particular who vehemently suggested the board consider moving the sixth grade back into the elementary schools to once again raise the dropping numbers of students in the lower grades. They didn’t listen back then, but suddenly, that’s the idea that is going to save more schools from closing.
I feel guilty, actually, for not going to the latest meetings. But just as I told a parent a few years ago who didn't understand what the board was proposing and if there was any hope of the board keeping the schools open…once the board releases the false notion of "reviewing a proposal" to close schools, they have already decided to do so (regardless of what the school board members tell reporters) and only have to go through the motions to secure the path of their sledge hammer.
My son was lucky enough to have finished in the last fifth grade class at Gold Ridge before moving on to Creekside Middle School. My daughter wasn't so lucky and was forced to move to another school; a school that doubled in size overnight, where they had to build too many portables (spending $600,000 to save a million? or something similar that makes no sense) and where the principal and teachers appeared overwhelmed as they tried cramming twice the number of children into a multi-use auditorium half the size of the auditorium at Gold Ridge for lunch and other events, and then, raising the number of students up to 30 per classroom in the lower grades.
Okay, enough sour grapes. I know it’s useless. I’m just one of many who feel melancholy every time I pass the school property where buildings used to stand. But now, my children are faced with more overcrowding next year as the district moves the sixth grade down to the elementary schools and crams in all the seventh- and eighth-graders from Mountain Shadows Middle School into Creekside. At best, this is a recipe for disaster.
A lot of families we know are deciding whether or not to move their children out of the district as the board continues to strip away the programs and remaining positive characteristics of the local schools; you know, those little details that make people actually want to bring their children into the district.
In business, it is said, it takes money to make money. Yes, the budget is a disaster, but I can’t be the only one who sees that if the board doesn’t try to promote/develop some good programs in our schools, our district will eventually die when residents with even the smallest amount of money (or simply the ability to drive a few miles) take their children to surrounding school districts that are trying to make their schools better rather than stripping them of all their meat.
So, where’s that little optimist inside my head? I’m struggling to find it when faced with the poor decisions made by the school board that is supposed to represent the welfare of Rohnert Park schools. In my opinion, they certainly don’t represent the voices of the parents as proved by too many “comment” periods in the past.
Soon, the board will proceed with a final vote on this matter. They will tell reporters they may not vote with the recommendation, but do they really believe the parents are that gullible?