Archive for the ‘Accountable schools’ Category

I sympathize with those opposing the demolition of Casey Middle School or the demolition of Louisville Middle School’s historic facade as part of that school’s renovation. However, because of history, I feel less than hopeful for Boulder Valley School District challengers.

I’m one of the many who remembers well how in the 1990s, Dean Damon, then the superintendent, and the school board circumvented the community’s values for strong academics with a district-wide move to middle schools and their dumbed-down essentials.

In Broomfield Heights Middle School, touted as an excellent district middle-school example, foreign language offerings were less than a fourth of what I received in junior high. Academic time gave way to classes in Paula Abdul dancing, yo-yoing and other non-academic pursuits. Students often couldn’t take advanced math classes unless they were in the right pod. Teachers became little counselors to students in its adviser-advisee “home room” program.

When Boulder rejected middle schools based on their own merit, Damon used a guise of overcrowding in Boulder’s elementary schools to justify moving sixth-graders into junior highs. Once a typical middle school’s grade configuration was made, no one could stop the essentials.

Nevertheless, before the decisions were made, hopeful opposition crowded numerous school board meetings and forums. Also, they delivered to the board hundreds of signatures on petitions stacked about a foot high. The board couldn’t have acted more poorly than it did. It immediately announced it would proceed with middle schools as planned.

Later and over time, numerous groups lobbied the school board without success against school closures caused in large part to the sixth-grade exit. Much of the blame belongs with the earlier school board and Damon. So does growth of charter and focus schools and open enrollment. In an odd way, open enrollment is also saving from closure some successful Boulder elementary schools.

Despite past failures, is it possible that someone, even in the district, could improve the odds that opposing views could be discussed in a constructive manner that could bring satisfaction to participants and, hopefully, resolve conflicts?

“Absolutely, exclamation point three times! That is at the top of our list,” said Mike McDaniel, a member of BVSDWatch, a not-for-profit grassroots, volunteer organization with an informative Web site, BVSDWatch.org. “It’s called an ombudsperson.”

BVSDWatch members shared some literature with King about the use of an ombudsman in school districts around the country. In a recent phone interview, Superintendant Chris King said he was interested in the idea and has included $25,000 for contracted ombudsman services in the district’s budget to be approved by July 1. Exactly how the services would be accessed by constituents has yet to be worked out.

As a constituent group that sees the need, BVSDWatch already is fulfilling part of that ombudsman role and encourages contact with other groups or individuals. McDaniel also warns the district that people aren’t going away as quickly and quietly as they did in the past and that “the drums are growing louder.”

Let’s hope the school board follows King’s lead.

Source: Published March 9, 2008 Daily Camera

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