Rhetoric Should Be Toned Down on School Closings Print
Commentary/Politics - Letters to the Editor
Tuesday, 12 February 2002 18:00
I appreciate your sentiments regarding the Davenport Community School District’s recent decision to close Grant and Johnson elementary schools. (See River Cities’ Reader Issue 359, January 30-February 5, 2002. ) At the same time I would call on everyone in the community to take the rhetoric down a notch. We have sent our appeal request off to Des Moines and it is now time to allow the process to play out.

I would like to tell you why we are being so persistent on this matter. First, I want to make it clear that we understand that there is a budget crisis. However, we believe that it is the responsibility of the administration to offer several alternative solutions to any problem. The only presentations that have been made by the administration involve closing these schools or doing nothing. If these schools are closed, 68 percent of our elementary schools will have more than 350 students. In Sioux City and Iowa City, only 21 percent and 26 percent of the schools, respectively, have more than 350 students. How are these districts (which are facing the same budget crisis that we are) able to provide for small neighborhood schools? They must be considering other types of funding reductions. We asked the board to table the item for 30 days so we could systematically review all the alternatives, and they voted down the motion, six to one.

If the school board is allowed to carry out this action, and it continues to follow the RDG master plan, then within three years eight of 17 schools will have more than 500 students in them. We believe that this is not good education policy. We have substantial research to back up our claim. The administration does not refute this information, nor do they cite any of their own research that shows whether or not we will have successful students if we pack them into school buildings. We continue to pursue this fight not just for our own children and our neighborhoods, but for every child in the district and the educational future of Davenport.

Again I urge everyone involved in this important community issue to take a breath and allow the process to work. The appeal process should be a starting point for reconciliation and healing as a city. Allow each side to state its case and have an objective third party determine the outcome based on the evidence, and then move forward, putting into place real processes and procedures that seek out and encourage community input and involvement in the planning of our children’s future. This community needs far less divisiveness and more coming together. In that spirit, I would call on Superintendent Jim Blanche and the board to provide openly and willingly all the documents we have requested.

Let all the information come out, and let’s start a new era of cooperation. In that way we can set an example for our kids and hopefully create a stronger community for all of us.

Alan Guard,
Grant parent,
Davenport