Rescind redistricting decision
Published 4:40 pm, Thursday, September 16, 2010
The Board of Education did a major disservice to the residents it was elected to represent Tuesday night when it voted to approve a redistricting plan before properly vetting it.
The fact that the decision was 5-4 also raises serious questions about the plan and its stated intention to address space issues at the middle schools and throughout the district. The board certainly need not agree on everything, but on something that could have such a profound impact on students and families, it would seem appropriate to have greater consensus.
Clearly there is concern among parents, too -- so much so that the location of the meeting was changed from the school district's central offices to Roger Ludlowe Middle School to accommodate more people. In the days leading up the meeting, school PTAs sent out e-mail blasts encouraging parents to attend the meeting and have their voices heard. And, over the last few weeks, the opinion pages of this paper have been filled with letters from parents who are concerned about the plan's impact on their children's education, as well as the overall social, financial and environmental issues.
In a way, parents were scrambling to inform each other about this redistricting plan, because they had little time to learn about it and its implications.
It is unsettling that the committee which recommended Option E conducted its review during the summer months when many families are away on vacations and, naturally, not as in tune with the goings on of the BOE. Even more disturbing is the speed with which the district and board moved forward with this redistricting plan.
Given this level of concern, the prudent thing would have been for the board to not vote on the redistricting plan.
More time is needed, more information is needed and more input from the public must be brought to bear on this decision.
It's mind boggling to think that the majority of the board could vote to approve a redistricting plan that does not include a detailed cost-comparison to the existing feeder patterns or other plans that were considered, however briefly, by the subcommittee that recommended Option E.
It also defies reason to think that a student at McKinley or Stratfield will take a bus across town to attend Tomlinson Middle School, as they would under Option E. Granted, students from those two schools currently go on to RLMS, but shouldn't a plan that puts them on a shorter bus trip -- that decreases the amount of fuel used and emissions created -- be considered?
It should. And that's why we were heartened to see that board member Sue Brand suggested such a plan. While it may not be a perfect alternative to Option E, we commend Brand for taking the time and initiative to provide an alternative and create the opportunity for more discussion.
We understand that there are time constraints here, that the district's application for state reimbursement of the Fairfield Woods Middle School building project must include updated data related to the school's feeder patterns. We certainly should not jeopardize the reimbursement -- particularly in light of the economic climate -- but we doubt the state would not be amenable to working with the district, and providing it with more time to formulate a redistricting plan that residents are comfortable with.
After all, parents understand the need to redistrict. But they expect that it will be done in the best possible way, with the least amount of disruption to their children, and that they will be involved in the decision-making process.
The bottom line: the vote should be rescinded and the plan and others -- including their implications and costs -- should be explored in an open fashion with ample opportunity for public input. Take the time and do it right.