Monday, November 25, 2013

How to convince me that its best to close Hoover?

First, I am concerned that the board has not publicly addressed the repeated concerns about the closure of Hoover. If the board plans on voting for Hoover's closure as part of the Facilities Master Plan, would all school board members be willing to publicly express your rationale for the closure of Hoover and attempt to have the issue discussed at the December 10th board meeting? Speaker after speaker at countless school board meetings and administrative gatherings have expressed repeated concerns about the closure of Hoover. In response, I appreciate that Mr. Murley has articulated reasons why the closure serves some district goals, and I appreciate that he has claimed that the board has made the decision on the basis of these district goals, but he is unwilling to defend or explain the value judgments that result in pursuing some district goals as the expense of others. For instance, he will say that the primary motivation behind closing Hoover is that it would allow the district to address equity concerns related to the facilities at the three comprehensive high schools. However, when asked specifically about why this is more important than an elementary school, he simply asserts that it is a value judgment that the board has made. It is important for the board to minimally provide an account of why this value judgment is correct.

Second, I am concerned about the level of scrutiny and deliberation that the board has had with regard to this value judgment about high school equity, if that is indeed the rationale. There are two horns to the dilemma: (a) the current iteration of the facilities master plan does not bring equity to the facility plans of the three comprehensive high schools. It leaves West High's capacity at 94 students higher than City High, and City High's capacity at 90 students higher than the North High School. If equality according to capacity is the issue, then each of those high schools should have a capacity of 1500, 1590, or 1684 (or some other such number). (b) If equity is not just about on-paper capacity but about substantive issues pertaining to how those who are least well off in the district will fare under the proposed plan, then it is important for the board to speak to these issues. What, in particular, will City High lose if it does not have access to the Hoover land? Furthermore, how will this loss affect those who are least well off at City High?

It has also come to my attention that the board has not really engaged with communities that are most seriously affected by inequalities in our district as evidence by concerns expressed about MLK, Jr. day, the ID policy, and really just not consulting with members of the minority community. If the board wants to find out whether there is an evidence-based reason based on substantive equality concerns, they should actually engage with minority community members. In that vein, I encourage the board, in the regularly meetings that they should be having with the Coalition for Racial Justice and the Center for Worker Justice, to ask for their input about whether whatever is lost by City High's not having Hoover's land will harm those who are least well off at City High.

Lastly, to make the argument for closing Hoover air tight, I would like to know if the board and administration have explored other avenues of securing land near City High to prevent the losses associated with not having Hoover's land. Here I have in mind efforts to buy, for example, Chadak field (the 5 acre plot of land that is one block, or 200 steps further from City High than the closest part of Hoover's land), and/or buying land that becomes available adjacent to City High property over the next 6-7 years. If those efforts have failed despite an honest effort by the board and administration and if what City High loses will have a direct or indirect detrimental impact on the well-being of those who are least well off in our district, then the board will have my full and unqualified support for the closure of my children's school. And I suspect that goes for almost all of us.

What say you?

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