Fight or Flight? Which one comes to mind when you think about the high school siting saga? More importantly, if our community were a living body, what kind of neurotransmitters would be coursing through our collective circulatory system?
I am concerned that there is a lot of emotion building up over this one topic. To be clear, we have many issues before us that grab our attention and cause our heart rate to spike; pension turmoil, Obamacare, now the holidays are upon us, slick roads, the promise of more taxes, Common Core, potentially big Primary and General elections next year… The list goes on. I am not saying emotion is bad; Malcolm Gladwell and Jonah Lehrer will point out, with many words and anectdotal stories, how emotions play an important role in our decision-making process. But we have to balance that with a method of rationalization as well.
So I ask, in terms of the high school siting issue, what really is most important? What really is the core issue that is stirring up our emotions?
I have a lot of my own questions for the Board and the Administration. For example, how is a multi-hundred-million-dollar high school going to effectively address the achievement gap? How does it serve the population of low-income families and engender engagement? I have sent these questions to the Board on December 3rd and have not heard anything, yet – I am hoping they will be addressed at the board meeting tonight.
The way I see it (as mentioned previously), we are currently suffereing from a lack of sound, viable planning that should have occurred over the past 40 years. It didn’t, and these are the cards we have to play with. We are in a quandrary of a growing school population and a lack of seats to put them in. One party wants to build a sparkling new high school that is ready for the “22nd century” (whatever that means) and grandiose facilities. Another camp wants to “keep Central central”, but so far the Board says they have not been presented with a good way to do that. On the one side, people are fed up with all the talk, talk, talk and want some ACTION! On the other hand, some are not yet convinced that the right people have been talking in the first place.
The Promises Made Promises Kept (PMPK) Committee will tell us that the 1% Sales Tax has a goal of securing land for the high school. That has been the “plan” – once the land is purchased, the PMPK Commitee will check that off as one more promise kept. I guess that is a start. The 2008 “Great Schools, Together” project recommended that we explore the questions of “fewer larger schools or more numerous smaller schools?”. We kind of took a stab at that via Lisa De La Rue’s “literature review“, and I believe the district is using that one factor as the bulk of their “keeping two high schools” argument. However, U of I Law professor Laurie Reynolds points out that a lot of work needs to be done before we seriously consider a high school north of I-74. Of the 2011 options, “it is a cavalier, dismissive, almost farcical treatment. The clear focus is to make the case for building a new school.” While DeJong-Richter took it a step further, the options did not change much and the focus has still been to make a case for building a new school.
Ok, time to get real. For most people reading this blog, and for myself, higher property taxes are not really going to hurt us too much. Maybe we eat out one less time in the year, maybe we hold off on buying the new TV for a month. The people that feel the pain the most are, in my humble opinion, the ones we should all be listening to. It is my perspective that if (a big fat if) the low-income population legitimately votes in favor of the high new high school, given all the nuances and ramifications of how those families are affected in the long-term, I say let their vote carry the day. In terms of a true democracy, I see my job as supporting those that need more help. Sure, yes, I have a place to voice my own opinion (hence this blog), but really, who is that helping?
What if all us upper/middle class folks make it a point to listen to and relay what those less fortunate are trying to communicate? I wonder.
A short article in the NG today prompts readers to proivde one last bit of input to the Board as the Board makes the final call on which piece of land they want to purchase for a high school. Due to the way the Board works, it is often hard to see how input makes any difference at all because the Board goes into closed session to deliberate on a number of big decisions, and in this case, they have already declared (as with last week) they will not announce the winner. This is not the kind of “transparency” I had expected.
I am going to let my norepinephrine level die down a little. We need to choose our battles, not blindly fly into them. What really is worth fighting for?
PS – there is a very real flip side of this coin as well. For too long we taxpayers have allowed our governing, elected officials to do whatever they want, sometimes getting away with murder. We have to demand accountability, and we have to pursue it relentlessly. But the focus must never become “what I want.” The focus must be “how can we all have a voice”.