Monday, December 04, 2006

Will Ya Look At That . . .

I went to a (avoids the obvious searchable terms) meeting of the elected people who make big decisions in a school district tonight for the purpose of supporting our charter school in their application to add sixth through eighth grades to the charter. This is pretty important to me because, frankly, going back to homeschooling is more appealing to me than sending junior to the middle school (even though we live in the part of the district where the kids would go to the pretty new middle school with the good parking instead of the old middle school with the nearly nonexistant parking). Well, going back to homeschooling in general is appealing to me. It's just that people have limits and working full time, caring for the twins, and homeschooling all at the same time was aging me like a super hero getting all their powers sucked out of them in a Saturday morning cartoon. I would have preferred to keep on homeschooling, but sometimes you don't get to do what you want.

So anyway, lots riding on this school getting 6th grade.

Principal submits application to group of elected people. Some of group is new I think. There has been big bru-haha in our district over funding for an extraordinarily large project and the way the board handled criticism related to it or something and in most recent election some members were up for reelection and I'm not sure, but . . . some of the elected members looked like they were still learning the ropes. So they were probably new. Initial reaction was not positive on the part of two elected members. No real input from most of group. Enthusiastic support from one elected member. Closer to neutral but not really opposed to anything on the part of one other elected member.

It looked BAD. But our principal didn't wilt. He commented that it was okay if they turned us down flatout because we'd be right back with a new proposal that addressed the comments of the negative elected members. Not in a snake head kind of way--our principal is not from around here (here, as in, this hemisphere) and they don't snake head where he comes from. They're quietly polite and determined and that was him. He also mentioned that he himself is the parent of a fifth grader (the group with the most to lose if we "go away and come back in five years" like they wanted) and that . . . that changed something. That made him suddenly less a representative of "the school" and more "the first of the parents that you will hear from tonight" and indeed one of the elected members used that to start inviting "some of the parents who are here tonight" to speak.

And we did. We each got five minutes. And even the ESL parents were compelling in their testiomony. The first speaker never mentioned that she is also the PAC president (like PTO), but she did tell the elected group exactly what it's like for a kid who graduates from the school and returns to the regular public middle school--they lose all their language (we have Chinese and Spanish every day at every grade) because the middle school can't accomodate the kids. I spoke, too. I don't really remember what I said, but I was the last or second to last to speak and I made them laugh and then made my point and then I sat down.

And something wonderful happened. One of the elected members who hadn't said anything at all said a rather emphatic word of support. He said he heard us and he heard that we needed something the school district doesn't have right now. And other elected members agreed. And the whole situation changed. A bunch of parents stood up and said what they could to change the elected members minds--and minds were changed. At one point one of the parents who was speaking her five minutes paused in what she was saying and asked that everyone in the audience who was there just to support the charter school stand up, just so that the board could see. And it was a good size audience. And maybe half of the audience stood. I'm not really sure (I was in the front, so most people were behind me). That was maybe one of the turning points. But I think mostly it was just a little bit of everything that each person said.

And it was just a really amazing thing to see. It really looked bad. And then a bunch of people stood up and said, "You have to reconsider this. This is really important. We really care about this." And so they did. They're reconsidering it. I don't know the outcome, and I lean towards the cynical on things like this, but . . . I'm glad I went to the meeting and stood up and spoke. That's all I'm saying.

No comments: