The full report of the school closure task force came out last Tuesday, so I’ve been busy writing to the school board, and I spent almost six hours at the school board meeting last night. I actually was pretty impressed by a lot of things that I saw there. Members of the public (including your humble scribe) spoke for three hours; people made a lot of good points, and repeated each other remarkably little given the length of comments. I also liked what I saw from the school board: they were clearly paying attention throughout the comment period, following along in the report when people referred to specific aspects of the report’s evidence or logic. After the public comment, the school board members clearly felt that they needed a lot more information than they had, so they decided to devote next week’s meeting to investigating evidence and digging into issues that people had raised, instead of proceeding to a vote as planned.

I can’t say that I was too impressed by the superintendent, however: in particular, she seems to have a habit of defining words to mean what she wants them to mean, instead of what the rest of the world thinks that they mean. The best example of this is in the press release that her office issued about the report: it says that

the over-arching goal was to make a closure decision that was the least disruptive

(emphasis in original) and then proceeded to outline a plan that wouldn’t simply close a single school (as was the plan, and as the rest of the task force thought they were deciding) but would, in addition, gut a second school, and ensure that students at that second school would have to change schools in third grade for the indefinite future, unlike all other schools in the district. She tried to ease the disconnect by following the above quote with

– meaning that it promoted the best learning environment for all students

but of course, as laudable as the latter goal might be, it simply is a completely different goal from minimizing disruption. (And I am personally not at all convinced that her plan met the latter goal, either.)

This curious use of language wasn’t confined to the press release, either. In response to complaints about the facts that the task force at times held their discussions in closed sessions, she explained that, in fact, the meetings were always open sessions. At this point, my jaw quite literally dropped, and I let out an involuntary squeak (which earned me a bit of a glare); while I’m aware of the expression, this is the first time in the life that I’ve had that involuntary physiological reaction myself. She then further explained that, by “open meeting”, she meant that people were allowed to speak in public for an hour before they were all ushered out, the doors were closed and windows covered, and the rest of the meeting proceeded in private. Which is, I think, not the way that most of us understand the phrase.

Anyways, I guess I’m attending school board meetings for the indefinite future; seeing how they work, I’m actually rather interested. And, as I said a while back, I’d been feeling that I should get involved with local politics a bit more…

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