Our View: School boundaries - Do the right thingThere is no perfect plan when it comes to District 833’s school boundary issue. Let’s get that straight before we go any further.
There is no perfect plan when it comes to District 833’s school boundary issue. Let’s get that straight before we go any further.
The six plans from which the school board will be picking come April 24 — the red, white and blue plans at elementary/middle school level and the A, B and C plans for high school — are the imperfect products of an imperfect process.
But having said that, one thing must be accepted: there is no perfect process, as well.
In putting together its two-page special report on the subject of the school boundaries, the Woodbury Bulletin spoke with another school district which has already been through an almost identical scenario to Woodbury and an expert consultant who has worked with a number of other districts on this and similar situations.
And the implied verdict of both? District 833 has done an exemplary job in seeking public opinion, allowing plenty of time for members of the public to give their views, and inviting people to participate in the process.
Whatever else may be said about this renegotiation of school boundaries, the accusation that District 833 was not interested in what the people had to say may not be leveled.
Five long months have passed since the very first task force, that of the elementary schools, was set up.
A total of 17 task force meetings and three oversight committee meetings have taken place since then.
And by the time the school board makes its decision April 24, four two-hour community meetings will also have been held, allowing residents to make their case directly to the board.
In the words of Larry the Cable Guy, and as District 833 superintendent Tom Nelson (almost) said at the April 10 workshop, it’s the time now to “Git-R-done.”
So, what will the school board be looking at as it makes its decision?
Well, there’s a positive plethora of facts and figures to take into consideration. Each board member was handed a 144-page report on the process and six plans at the April 10 workshop meeting. In addition to that, an eight-page handout of “Talking Points” was distributed, summarizing the impact of each plan and proposing ways to proceed with the decision-making.
Quite apart from all the facts and figures, however, there’s the emotional aspect to take into consideration.
From kids getting up to address the community meetings and attendees all wearing clothing in the color of the plan they support, to a binder bulging with the records of every single public comment made on the subject over the last five months and the numerous phone calls, e-mails and letters received by the board members, this issue is emotional from start to finish.
What the school board members must do April 24 is separate the facts from the emotion, and do what’s best for the district.
For, while it’s commendable so many parents clearly feel so strongly about their children’s welfare that they have become so passionately involved in this issue, there has been evidence of some disturbing undercurrents running throughout some areas.
Sentiments from some parents have ranged from an almost xenophobic fear of their children being sent out of Woodbury to schools in Cottage Grove, as though it required a passport for the trip, rather than a bus ride; to the simplistic views, “Our neighborhood was here first so therefore we should not have to change,” or “Their houses cost more so they should not get what they want.”
All of this is irrelevant. District 833 covers parts of four communities: Woodbury, Cottage Grove, St. Paul Park and Newport.
As such, it must be blind to city boundary lines if it is to provide the best support to its schools, principals and teachers — and, by extension, its students.
Throughout the process, parents have been quick to state on the record that they have no bone to pick with any of South Washington County’s schools. They have, in fact, been effusive in their praise of each and every one of the district’s schools.
Therefore, let’s resolve to accept the ultimate decision the school district makes without complaint, ungrudgingly and certainly without threat (as has been rumored) of legal action to achieve the desire of one particular neighborhood.
Because, you know what? Woodbury is not alone in this. Lakeville did it three years ago. It survived and life has gone on there.
Chanhassen is building a new high school for students and adjusting boundaries at the same time. It, too, will likely come through intact.
Even more importantly, Woodbury has done this before. And guess what? It still stands.
Come April 25, it will be time for parents to start preparing their kids for whatever changes may lie ahead. It is a time for the adults to swallow their frustrations and grievances, and put the best possible spin on this to their kids.
Because kids are, for the most part, pretty adaptable. They will make new friends. They will have new adventures, join new clubs and teams and get to know new teachers.
But they will take a lead in their attitude from their parents, the people who most influence how they approach life.
Let’s just make sure that this attitude is one dedicated to doing their best at school, getting involved in clubs and societies, band and sports teams; to making the most of new friends; to establishing good relationships with teachers both old and new.
Wherever that may be.