Wednesday, January 23, 2008

School Board Schmozzle

Glen and I went to the Board of Education meeting last night, just to listen to the discussion. Now, even after an evening and a morning to digest what happened, I'm still kind of confused. On one hand, it seems as if the board and the district have been hosed repeatedly by the state — in that a good deal of funding for our projects has dried up, and Trenton has been moved WAY down on the state's list of priority school districts — and I didn't get the impression the hosings would end any time soon. After hearing about all of that, it's hard to just point the finger at them and call them stupid.

On the other hand, the crowd — of nearly 100! Sweet! and all sorts of press! — was told several times at the beginning of the meeting that "nobody ever said we were going to demolish the existing high school," and I'm sorry, but that just sounded like bullshit to me. Even if the existing school doesn't get demolished, what the heck is going to happen to it if it's abandoned? Certainly, it will be allowed to fall further into disrepair until it crumbles -- like so much else in this city. And then, it will probably be razed once and for all.

I also got the distinct impression that the superintendent and several board members were either pissed, or at least uncomfortable, with the number of warm bodies in the room. And when Board Member Lisa Kasenbach suggested that members of the community be invited to participate in discussions, in a formal committee setting, she got the smack-down rather severely. To be fair, this was my first meeting, and maybe Ms. Kasabach is the thorn in the board's collective side, and maybe her colleagues had had enough. But, she seemed reasonable to me, though I did understand Board President Joyce Kersey's point, too: there are (supposedly) committees and rules and structure in place, and there's no need at this point to start from scratch.

But the fact that Ms. Kasabach was shut down so sternly and the meeting promptly adjourned — without public comment — shows that this particular body does not feel in any way obligated to serve the community. They were appointed by the mayor, not elected by the public, so their "so screw the public" message was loud and clear. And the stunning display of disrespect of the board members toward one another was uncomfortable and embarrassing. What a shame. The public gets screwed repeatedly by the powers-that-be in this city (what timing with the KHov/Champale story, huh?).

Anyway, the board — I think?? — will vote on a course of action next week as to whether to renovate or build new. Either way, I'm left wondering about the quality of the education. Will it suddenly improve with new or renovated facilities?

Note: I was talking to Glen about the size of the crowd after the meeting, and he suggested that there's some kind of inverse relationship between politics and sports and the size of the crowd. When your team is winning, the crowd grows, and everyone buys the hats and jerseys and so forth. When your team is sucking, no one wants anything to do with it. When your political group is doing okay, citizens tend to back off and just allow the group to do its job. Once too much shit begins to happen, citizens start showing up. Right or wrong, it's the way it is, and the politicians don't have to like it. But they ARE supposed to serve us, to work with us, and not hold us in contempt, no matter what.


Miss Karen said...

I wonder if the district abandoned Trenton High if it might actually have a better chance of survival. In the hands of the state and the local powers that be, it seems very likely that the building would end up getting a half-assed renovation at best, if that's the direction they go, given the funding situation. But since the grand old edifice stirs such strong feelings in so many people, maybe if the school district gave up on the building, some (admittedly imagined at this point) private group could do a proper refurbishment...funded by corporate grants, rich people with consciences and nostalgia, etc., and turn it into something other than a, rec center, who knows.

Because another complicating factor is that huge schools with thousands of kids in them are probably not the best environment for learning, at least according to recent research into the relationship between school size and student performance. And the one thing that Lofton said last night that I appreciated is his only priority is to do what will best serve the students. Sadly, it sounds like nothing is going to happen very quickly, no matter what the board decides.

pbaman said...

You made a good point about what will become of the Trenton High School building if a new school is built and the old one is not torn down. It sounds like double talk. The Palmer appointed school board never said they wanted the building torn down, but if a new school is built there could be another rotting building in the city.

trenton007 said...

From what I've seen, the School Board is a dysfunctional group that knows absultely nothing about school construction. It's frightening that such an important decision is in their hands. They seem to be relying on the know-nothing state school construction authority then scold them at public meetings. What's gong on here?