FRANCES EDSTROM

Now you see it, now you don’t Magicians back at work in Dist. 861


(2/8/2004)

by Frances Edstrom

Wait! Wait! Okay, okay, we won't close Dakota. (In the movie version of this column, I see Joe Pesci saying that.) We'll keep it open. All those parents who have been working on a charter school concept out there can just stand up, file neatly out of the room and go home. Remember, no talking! Stay in a nice straight line.

Take a look at the latest "options" that Dist. 861 administrators passed on to the school board for cutting the budget.

They are not options at all, but simply different ways of closing schools, different ways of serving the district employees rather than the parents and students. All of a sudden, rush, rush, let's add Dakota back in to the equation, even though we voted to close it, and it is well on its way to being severed from Dist. 861. Now, presto chango, closing Dakota is not a savings, but keeping it open is!

How do we figure that? Well, we simply close Madison and Central instead.

Excuse me, but somebody in Dist. 861 administration really should begin to treat parents and school board members like grown-ups.

Or at least without such obvious disdain.

Dakota parents, to their credit, took the news of the closing of their elementary school and turned it around to their advantage, creating a plan for a charter school which gained state sponsorship. Now their kids will have a school close to home. Well, didn't the walls just practically come tumbling down there on the corner of Huff and Sarnia.

Dist. 861 administration, and consequently the school board, have been suffering for some time with a big reality disconnect in regard to charter schools. Their latest stumble, thinking that Dakota would not be successful in seeking charter school status, is proof that they are still not operating in the real world.

In their defense, school board members must be given a little slack. A little. By now anyone on the school board should know that relying on Dist. 861 administration for current and accurate information is always chancey. Dist. 861 administrators, if not school board members, should have known the state's parameters for creating charter schools. It should never have required an after-the-fact trip to St. Paul to find out why the state granted Dakota's charter.

Dist. 861 administration should also have a better pulse on the community. They figured that since the parental objection to moving fifth graders to the Middle School didn't materialize into hordes of parents taking kids out of the system when the district called their bluff, the same would happen at Dakota. People who make over $100,000 a year should have better decision-making process than the old "seat of your pants" approach.

Decisions made using faulty input will always themselves be faulty. Dist. 861 school boards have suffered in this regard since the eighties. It might be time for a change in standard operating procedure.

Wait, wait! I have an idea. Let's make all the schools charter schools, eliminate district administration, let the bus company figure out how to get kids where they are supposed to be going, and let teachers make their own deals with the schools. Happy kids, happy parents, no panic attacks over the budget every winter"

But what am I saying? We'd have to lay off a full-time reporter at the Post because there would be nothing but harmony and contentment in school news. Who wants that?

 

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