Tuesday, June 03, 2008

North End/Downtown Presidents Issue Joint Letter

This crossed the Salemtown e-mail list this morning:
To the members of the Community Task Force on Student Assignment, the School Board, the Mayor's Office, and Metro Council:
As members of the leadership of some of the neighborhoods that make up Nashville's urban core, we were disappointed by the process that led to the recent rezoning proposal of our public schools by the Community Task Force on Student Assignment. The rezoning proposal, by changing the public schools our children attend, would dramatically impact our community if adopted.
In particular, a process that leads to findings released at the very end of an academic year; a process that yields a single public hearing prior to a vote by the sitting school board; a process that will be voted on by a board whose chairman will presently be replaced; and a process whose end occurs in the middle of a competitive school board election cycle while a new director of schools is being sought strike us as indicative of recent trends that seem almost calculated to break down trust between the greater Nashville community and the school board and its related instruments.
While we are glad that the task force included members of the community, when reflecting on the process used to arrive at these recommendations, we are left to wonder at striking inconsistencies in outreach. Why, for instance, were neighborhood leaders invited to participate in a focus group with a member of the firm searching for our next director of schools, but these same leaders were not contacted to participate in any of the preliminary aspects of creating the aforementioned recommendations?
One of our chief concerns is that, while the findings are vocal about the need for resources to be specially apportioned, the allowance for choice, and attempts to mitigate disruption, no specific mechanisms or methodologies are set forth to ensure that any of these ideas will be appropriately implemented. With Pearl-Cohn High School set to have its student body become 91% African-American, how can we be assured that we are not returning to an era of separate but equal schooling?
Furthermore, this proposal risks dealing a blow to Nashville's thriving urban core. Without a single downtown school available that is not a magnet, the concept of neighborhood or community schools is an absent one for current residents and presents few incentives for potential residents. The findings of this task force seem to ignore the urban core of Nashville as constituting a community.
We believe that the recommendations on the table serve as the basis for many important and necessary discussions. But we believe that they should not be voted on within a matter of weeks of a single public hearing under these conditions. We encourage the task force and the school board to reflect on process and to spend its summer vacation working instead on a report for the new school board indicating how the community could be better involved in and ultimately better served by its processes.
Sincerely,
Ben Bahil, President, Urban Residents Association
Stacy Mosley, President, Historic Germantown Neighborhood Association
Thomas F. O'Connell, President, Salemtown Neighbors Neighborhood Association
Jason Powell, President, Hope Gardens Neighborhood Association
Salemtown President Freddie O'Connell added the following disclaimer:
I signed my name representing myself in my role but not as an expression of the will of our association. I'm hopeful that no one views this as an abuse of power or title. I have tried to be as communicative as possible about my thoughts and intentions given the short timeframe. I welcome all feedback, both on the letter and the propriety of signing my name to it.
As yet, no critical feedback has been given to Freddie's signing the statement. My only criticism is that SNNA is continuing to respond with support whenever the Historic Germantown, Inc. President summons without any reciprocation on her part. When will HGI do some back-scratching?

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