I did not attend the first meeting because my son had a concert at UMSL. (It was awesome, by the way.) I did, however, hear complaints about the first meeting and the fact that questions and discussions were primarily moot because choices had already been made. I also have a friend who attended the first meeting and left it feeling positive so, I went to last night’s second meeting with an open mind. I have included in this summary a link to all of the options proposed at last night’s Town Hall meeting for the Ferguson-Florissant School District. https://www.fergflor.org/Page/3995
I was very disappointed with the tone of the meeting and that the three options presented were created without any input from the people. I could be wrong about this but, the first meeting I attended in December 2017 was for the initial idea of restructuring and redistricting. I was not made aware of any meetings between then and now. For changes this large, for taxpayers and voters, we should have the option to weigh in on: 1) the options that would be put forth and; 2) of which option we approved. The options should have been presented earlier so that parents and other community stakeholders could weigh in. The only feedback they requested yesterday was questions meaning, one of those options would be chosen even if the majority of the people did not like any of them. Dr. Davis seemed to talk down to the parents and the board offered very little.
I was also disappointed that two of the three options included a steam high school. Dr. Davis spoke about schools not being at capacity yet the steam middle school is not at capacity, from what I understand. How can a steam only high school be fiscally conservative when it will also not be at capacity? I asked the question why can’t a steam option for classes be available at each high school and received a very ‘word salad’ response, not an answer. He made it seem impossible for steam options to be at each high school. The schools have regular classes advanced classes, honors classes, and college level classes. Why would steam classes be impossible? He did not provide me an answer and; in fact the idea of a steam high school seemed very self-serving.
When the board received the questions, they barely responded to them. They lumped them together based on their own interpretation and, in some cases, rephrased them altogether. Finally an audience member, Raychel Proudie, called him and Rob Chabot out on not reading the questions and just paraphrasing them. Her question was about the crime increase in Berkeley, specifically after the high school was closed. Her comments encouraged other members to speak up. One gentleman expressed his sadness that the Berkeley name would be erased from the district after its history with track and other successes.
Talking down to parents will not win anyone over and it was unfortunate that the setup was designed to rush through the presentation without any meaningful input. For all of the board members on the Board of Education each one could have met with smaller groups to actually discuss the plans but, to have one meeting in December and then three meetings, four months later with ideas pretty much in place, displayed that Dr. Davis and the board did not really want parent input.
If the mantra is One District United, why separate gifted children from their peers? From a personal standpoint, my son could have gone to the steam school because his grades are excellent; however, he did not want to leave his friends. In the real world we will not always be able to work with people who are on the same academic levels that we are, so we need to learn to work with diverse people. Separating children into a special gifted school, within a district that is struggling financially and with discipline problems seems very irresponsible. It is current day desegregation and I was very disappointed that more conversation about this did not take place with the community prior to the scheduling of these meetings.
As parent, alumni, and community leader, I want all of our children to be successful. The building of a steam middle school within the district was a huge undertaking. It would be prudent to see if the district receives a positive return on its investment before making additional changes in the steam realm. For the record, if no other options are put forth, I choose Option 1.
There is much we need to do as a community for our children. I hope to work more with the district in 2018-2019 school year and I hope you will join me.