Friday, October 4, 2013

Parent Consultation and Participation under the SAB: How does it work?

A note on the practice and process of parent participation and consultation in regard to possible school closings, from Susan Turk based on notes from the meeting on October 2 at Roosevelt High School.

[Original event notice: October 2, Wednesday, community forum on the future of Mann and Shenandoah Schools, 6.p.m. to 8 p.m., Roosevelt H.S., 3230 Hartford Avenue. 63118, Parking available from the lot entrance on Compton Avenue.]

"I attended the meeting at Roosevelt HS tonight.  The company hired to facilitate the meetings and submit a report to the SAB is none other than Unicom.  People who participated in the public input meetings for the Danforth Freeman report may remember Unicom for the way they controlled the data they collected for that.  We couldn't talk at those meetings, just respond to their survey questions via clicker.

Anyway, this meeting was also tightly controlled.  They had everyone sit at small tables in the cafeteria.  Attendees could not choose their tables, Staff assigned us to tables as we entered.  We were only supposed to talk to the people at our table, not to the group as a whole.  There was a Powerpoint presentation and we were given worksheets to fill out as a table plus individual comment forms. They wanted input on 2 options, whether to raze Shenandoah and built a new school on its site or whether to renovate Shenandoah and build an addition to it.  They said Mann would close no matter what.  

There were a lot of residents from Tower Grove Heights at the meeting, Mann's service area.  Two of them objected to the meeting format, not being able to speak to the whole group and the lack of a third option which was mentioned in messages promoting the meeting.  The third option was to keep both schools ,open and renovate both of them.  One of them was a man  from my table.  Another was an older man from another table.  He started walking around to other tables and expressing his concerns.  The facilitators tried to stop him from doing that but he mentioned his wish for that  third option and other people in attendance expressed their agreement with him by applauding what he said.  The facilitators saw they had a rebellion of sorts on their hands and told us to write what we wanted on our work sheets.  We had to rate the 2 options and our table gave the lowest grade possible to their 2 options and wrote our wishes to keep both schools open and renovated.  I got the sense that other tables were doing the same thing.

There is going to be another meeting Saturday at 10.a.m. at Central/ Cleveland HS at Kingshighway and Arsenal.  It will be interesting to see if the meeting is run the same way and how the attendees react.  The meeting was over in about an hour.

The SAB is supposed to get Unicom's report at their Wednesday, October 9 meeting. It should be interesting. They may not like what they hear."