26 October 2006

Closing In

School closures are a fact of life in this part of the country. Housing prices that are out of reach for young families coupled with smaller family sizes means that there are a lot of empty classrooms: classrooms that cost a lot of money to keep. My district currently has over 1800 seats at its elementaries that are empty this year. While no final decisions have been made (and won't be until Valentine's Day 2007), the threat of closing 2 of our 14 elementary schools is driving a lot of other things within the district. Any other changes have been put on hold for now, knowing that the stress of the closures, people changing jobs, programs being cut, and so on will be enough to deal with. There's no sense in talking about rolling out the new report card district-wide.

Seattle schools are also facing some closure issues. Theirs are quite ugly---lots of name calling and personal attacks, when in the grand scheme of things, these are not personal decisions. I can't say that if I wouldn't be upset if I was a parent in an area where the neighbourhood school was slated for closure, but I hope I wouldn't hurl racial slurs at the supe.

There are lots of articles (like this one in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer) examining the issues in Seattle and some thoughts about the supe (who is leaving in August). It does take a certain kind of leader to be able to head a school district, let alone do it well. We're very fortunate where I am. We have one who knows that "Kumbaya consensus isn't leadership at all -- it's death by a gazillion selfish interests."

The remainder of this year promises to be a bit of a wild ride, especially for those of us huddled down in Curriculum. Our jobs may very well slip away with budget cuts. Some people have already looked into retirement options...others are already in line for transfers back to the classroom...still others are training for other jobs. We can see the writing on the wall much more clearly than many in the district. If you're a music teacher in an elementary school, good luck. If you're a coach, be prepared to have fewer players---a combo of "pay to participate" and less travel funds. This place is going to be a much leaner machine in a few months.

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