Sunday, October 30, 2011

SCHOOL DISTRICT GERRYMANDER? Teacher/parent worries about CPS redistricting

By a CPS educator and parent who asks "Do we need an OccupyWorleyStreet?" 

As a parent of children who have gone/are going through Hickman High School and employee of Columbia Public Schools (CPS), I'm closely watching the new Columbia Public Schools redistricting plan coming out at the end of the month. 

I do not want to go on record with my name, but I would like some light shed on the redistricting process to make sure it is done fairly and benefits the whole school district. I have a growing sense of dread concerning the new boundaries. I would like to hear on record that political clout isn't going to cloud this difficult decision, as it sounds like, from your recent articles, things are going in city Ward redistricting.  


When the last CPS redistricting took place 10+ years ago, I trusted the system. However, the original plan was to move 400 students from Hickman to Rock Bridge and I hadn't looked ahead as to what neighborhoods were leaving Hickman and the effect that would have. I looked at the Columbia Tribunefound a concern by Dr. Arvarh Strickland who cautioned us to look into the future. Apparently, the redistricting committee back then did not heed his advice.  

The Grasslands, Old Southwest, Russell Blvd and Katy Lake areas were all taken from Hickman to Rock Bridge. When you take 400 middle to upper middle class families from a school that already serves urban, low income, and minority areas, the loss has detrimental effects. One for instance: loss of advanced placement classes because not enough students are interested or capable of taking AP courses. 

I believe wholeheartedly that Hickman offers the highest quality education. I believe Rock Bridge also offers a great education and have many friends that teach there and know many kids that go to school there. But I worry about how Hickman High turns out in this. And I worry even more about the new Battle High.

We are looking at creating boundaries for high schools using only Free and Reduced Lunch as the "equalizing" factor. But other factors -- like how wealthy or well-funded is a school's PTA -- play a major role. Think about what the higher-income Mill Creek Elementary PTSA is able to offer its students as opposed to a lower-income school like Benton Elementary

doesn't come anywhere near that. These considerations are as important, but not as readily measured or acknowledged. Rock Bridge High School's For The Love of the Game purportedly brings in a lot of money. Two student parking spaces were auctioned off for $1,000 each. I'm pretty sure Hickman High School's Hog Roast.

I realize that the school redistricting process has to be somewhat secretive. There is much at stake and there will be unhappy people. I've also visited with [CPS redistricting committee chairman] Don Ludwig a couple of times. 

But Mr. Ludwig has been heard to say, "we have to keep the south happy, as they are the ones voting for the tax levy." 

Do we need an OccupyWorleyStreet?

Letting political/economic pressure dictate that certain schools stay "rich schools" at the expense of other schools helps only the rich. We should all remember that the entire community -- not just one part of town -- benefits from a good school system.

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