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Are They Listening?

Are They Listening?

We Know At Least One Person is Bored
We knew change was coming. We knew it would be drastic. 20 Million in debt can do that. But the changes that have already happened and those that have been announced (or even just rumored) have a lot of local parents up in arms. Reduction in Force layoffs, special needs student consolidation and school closings have most people asking – where does it end? Some parents have spoken out at the community meetings, others have taken their concerns online. According to reports, soon-to-be Superintendent Wardynski is watching all of this closely. The parents who are speaking up certainly hope so.

Facebook pages like Save Monte Sano School and Huntsville City Schools Unite have popped up almost overnight and have been successful at organizing people and getting press but will it do any good? The Editorial Board at Huntsville Times thinks the closings should have happened a long time ago. Some local parents disagree. A few of those opinions can be found below.

What do you think? Is the Board really listening to concerns at these meetings or is this just a ruse to make it look like community opinion matters? In the end, will the closings recommended by the demographer happen regardless of community opposition? Are parents just being protective of their neighborhood and not seeing the “big picture”?

Why Isn't This Auditorium Full?

Debbie D.
I think special needs students should not be segregated. Forcing children with autism spectrum disorders, in particular, to change schools is a very bad move. New environments and changes in routine are very tough on children like that and it will worsen their symptoms. I think they should’ve addressed the problem ($) before it got so big, not purchased some of the expensive technological things (like the visitor photo ID stickers and computer system that support it; I’m guessing that was extremely costly.) I think the superintendent is overpaid, too. Take some of that salary money and pay on the system’s debt or buy something that helps the students.

Mike M
The system is in a bind. It is basically broke and looking to save money. One plan to do this is to consolidate special needs children into one of three schools. In many ways it is a simple, elegant plan that might even do what it is supposed to do. Save money.

My first instinct is to say it is a good plan. That saving money in these trying times is what should happen…But really, it isn’t that simple. I’ve also got a son with special needs. Oh his needs aren’t the same, but they are. As a second grader he is reading at fifth grade level and finds typical classroom work beneath him. As a result, he takes up more time in the classroom from the teacher than a more “neurological normal” student.

So what prevents the system from rounding up these time-takers on the higher end of assessment and “saving money” by putting them together in a distant school. Perhaps a school with weak test scores? The answer is absolutely nothing. Should they do so I’d have little recourse but to accept the fate or make my child attend normal classes.

To some, that might sound like a good plan though. Let my child benefit from advanced schooling and excel. But I don’t want him to just excel at school, I want him to learn to interact with those other kids too. Because when he leaves school, that’s who will be his coworkers and employers.

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And ultimately, that’s what my friend wants for his child. It is easy to say that autistic children take up more money or time than “normal” kids. But that’s an excuse. Once you remove them… Segregate them out of the school… Then you’ve got the freedom to look elsewhere for waste that isn’t really waste at all. Maybe my child is next?

Huntsville City Schools Unite
After the school board open forum on Thursday night, it was clear that the school communities were not united as they each responded to the school closure recommendations. I am deeply committed to my community and school, and I know that many parents all over Huntsville feel the same about theirs. Through that shared sense of commitment to our children’s education and their schools, we can focus our energy, talents, and ideas to create solutions for resolving the school district’s financial crisis without sacrificing our children’s right to an excellent education in a safe and healthy environment.

Based on the anticipated savings from the recent mass layoffs alone, Dr. Ed Richardson projects that the school system will have eliminated its debt and built up the state-mandated minimum savings within just a few years. Closing schools is driven by the separate need to balance school system capacity and projected enrollments. Dr. Richardson’s approach of following layoffs immediately with school closings does not afford the school system nor the community the time to approach these two issues with a well-balanced strategy. Nor does it afford the school system time to monitor the financial progress resulting from the recent layoffs. Instead of jumping straight to school closures, opportunities for improving the school system’s balance sheet can be realized through implementing further operational efficiencies and common organizational management practices within the central office. Academic priorities on a per-school basis can also be used to identify savings at each school. Implementing efficient practices first allows the school system and the community to develop a sensible strategy and obtain all the necessary information to make the best decisions. Specifically, a demographic study must be followed up with a transportation study and academic performance assessment. Additionally, the city itself needs to weigh in with the economic impacts that would be felt across the city.


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