By Josh Clorfeine
I am a supporter of the district’s Child Development Center. My son attends what the district alternatively refers to as the “CDC” and the “District Preschool.” I like the quality of the program and the fact that the District can offer this as a service to our community.
I am a supporter and fan of Sycamore Ridge. My daughter is a second-grader at Sycamore Ridge and I am very impressed with the school.
I am a supporter of the DMUSD as a whole. I generally contribute to the DMSEF rather than looking for opportunities to contribute to a particular school or program. I love hearing my daughter’s friends and parents speak highly of the schools they are involved with — and those include most schools in the District.
I am a supporter of attempts to monetize the preschool program. These are tough times for families and for our district — what a great idea to try to generate revenue to help our District as a whole. I feel good writing my preschool tuition check each month to the DMUSD rather than to a traditional preschool.
I am a supporter of making infant care and preschool readily available to children of our district’s teachers. These teachers are the heroes who influence our children and make the DMUSD what it is. They are the ones singularly responsible for our children coming home from school with smiles on their faces each and every day, with new vocabulary in their arsenals, new math skills to show off, and remarkable skills, sensitivities and awareness to defuse difficult situations thanks to the Peace Builder program.
However, notwithstanding all of these facts, my support falters when the district determines to offer supplemental programs at the expense of what must be treated as the single most fundamental goal and responsibility of an elementary school district: providing the best possible education and school experience for our K-6 students. This may not have been as big of an issue when Sycamore Ridge had lower attendance and these programs could be housed at Sycamore Ridge without causing the acute problems they cause today. Unfortunately, it seems to me now that our District is in danger of losing sight of that single most fundamental goal and responsibility.
I don’t need to repeat the detailed effects of housing supplemental programs at Sycamore Ridge at this point in time—you all know them or can refer to PTA communications or the Parents for Sycamore Ridge website to see them. But for those of you not familiar with these matters, at a 30,000 foot level and based on those sources, I believe Sycamore Ridge currently has no unused classrooms, is forced to dedicate about a quarter of its classrooms to house supplemental programs designed for a districtwide and district-employee-based clientele, and that the effects of this appropriation of K-6 resources include safety issues, the displacement of Kindergarten students from age appropriate classrooms designed for them, K-6 classes enrolled over district established caps, and denial of admission to Sycamore Ridge to students that live within Sycamore Ridge’s attendance area.
To my fellow parents, please focus your efforts to fix the current situation on productive and positive communications. Make your voices heard. Write to the Board. I’m happy to say it appears that’s happening. Hundreds of you have signed the petition at the website: http://www.thepetitionsite.com/723/920/080/Parents-for-Sycamore-Ridge/ A number of parents attended and spoke at the last Board meeting. Please attend the next Board meeting and make your voice heard in a stronger manner than signing a petition.
I know we all feel strongly about these matters. I know I do. But please don’t focus on legal arguments and attempts to compel the Board to take action through litigation. Tools like these can be useful to inspire discussion and to make sure you have an audience and that your voice is heard. That’s happening! Now use those forums to inform the Board of the issues and to guide them to consider the right things, set the right priorities, and make the right decisions. Litigation, regardless of the outcome, would waste everyone’s resources — resources that could be used to make a real difference in all of our children’s education.
And to the board, please step up and show some leadership and considered thought. Please don’t make people feel disenfranchised. Please don’t make people feel they’re speaking to you about the same issues year in and year out with no progress. Please really stop and think about what your single most fundamental goal and responsibility should be. Look at all the energy that’s being devoted to this issue and how your inaction is creating an “us vs. them” mindset to try to solve this problem that you’re perpetuating. This district has seen enough threats of litigation. It has seen enough litigation. It has wasted enough money on legal issues. This District has experienced too many issues over the past years that cause parents at different schools to fall into an “us vs. them” mindset to try to protect what they see as the future of their children’s school or their children’s educational experience.
Many residents of this district have a perception forged over prior years that the only way to be heard is to raise legal issues and threaten litigation. Please, disabuse them of that notion. Inspire some confidence in the community. Earn the deference to your thoughts, deliberations and proposals that I’m shocked to see lacking at this point.
And, please, take some affirmative action to make parents and attendees of all schools in the district view themselves as a single community rather than as a loose collection of individual fiefdoms, each required to protect its own survival at the expense of others. Elementary education does not have to be a zero-sum game.