16 August 2007

Drawing the Line

In a couple of weeks, many students in this school district will be at new schools. Some are changing due to moving up in grade level; but many children will be in unfamiliar territory due to the closure of two schools and subsequent boundary changes. Families were allowed to "appeal" any changes, but I'm not sure how many were accommodated. My understanding is that the majority of people who asked for reconsideration of placement were those with two or more elementary school aged children. This is because parents wanted their sixth grade students to finish at the school where they started and it was easiest to have the younger ones still assigned to that school. It's understandable, and yet, if you accommodate the eldest child, can you ever defend drawing a line and not following the same course of action for the younger ones? Does a district ever "force" a family to accept the boundary change?

In one district, the answer appears to be "yes." In the Williamsburg-James City area, "a single mom hopes a third appeal is a charm in her effort to persuade school district officials to let her two teenage daughters attend the same high school for just one year." Things aren't looking to be in the mother's favour. The school board has yet to overturn any administrative recommendation in this regard. (You can read the full article here.)

"I'm a single mother," she said. "My ex-husband lives in Texas. One hundred percent of my family lives in California. We've got one car in our household. "I can't express enough the difficulties that taking my children to two high schools will cause."

Her family's circumstances, she said, distinguish her from many other parents, including board member Ron Vaught, whose children will attend separate high schools. Vaught, who couldn't be reached for comment, will have one child at Warhill and another at Lafayette.

"I have no problem academically with her being at Lafayette," Allen said of her daughter Julia, "but it's just - for this one year while I have one still at Jamestown - the challenges I have of parenting them both, the extracurriculars, being involved in two PTAs. I can't do it.

"I'm trying to get them to (prove) that point: What harm does it cause everyone else to honor my request? Yet, I can prove that it's causing me harm and limiting opportunities for my children if they split us up."

I understand the need for consistency. I can also see why the school board might feel that in honoring one appeal, they might have to honor them all. But I also wonder if this situation might not merit a case-by-case examination of some sort. Is there some way to balance the needs of the individual within the global needs of the school district? We'll know in a few weeks how the realities of boundary changes are shaking out here. I hope that things run more smoothly for our families than they appear to be for the Virginia district.


Dr Pezz said...

One size fits all...

The Science Goddess said...

Apparently it does---whether you like it or not---in some districts. I think ours would be more hardnosed if it wasn't already having such PR issues.

Hugh O'Donnell said...

Even in the best of times, with a good board and a great supe, local economics, and the resulting shrinkage or growth, creates challenges that discomfit the community.

I detest "one size fits all," as a solution. I'm sure DrPezz would agree with me that it's the cowardly leader's way out.

As tough as reboundering can be, I personally believe that a district has to be gutsy and ready to advocate for citizens who have extreme challenges with change. That means considering each case on its own merits. But that has to be plainly stated in the opening hand the district plays.

Of course, you're damned either way, because if you take the high road, the folks who don't get their way accuse you of unfairness, yada, yada.

Bottom line, I'd rather take a tomato for doing the right thing than hide out behind a "one size fits all" policy.

But...the process of examining who needs what and how badly can be wearing on the petitioner too! Another opportunity to take a tomato. ;-)

The Science Goddess said...

This particular issue is just one out of many faced by educators that have the same "pull": how do you balance the needs of one against the needs of the entity? I think we too easily confuse "equal" with "fair."

Dr Pezz said...

I absolutely abhor the "one size fits all" policies in my district. I know it's time consuming and difficult to go case by case, but we are in the business of doing what's best for kids.

I'm sure we have all experienced situations where one method or approach didn't work for everyone. We had to accommodate our students in the best way we could. I don't see this as much different at its core.

Hugh O'Donnell said...

The way I like to think of it is, "Fairness isn't treating every child the same, it's treating every child at their level of need."