Friday, November 30, 2007

Barrett Parents Will Bring Voice to School Brd.

K.W. Barrett Elementary School parents will begin contacting the school board and superintendent via emails and letters in the coming weeks, attempting to sway a decision regarding overcrowding conditions in north Arlington elementary schools.

The decision to do this comes as the school board’s Elementary Crowding and Capacity Committee draws its work to a close in December.

“This is the calm before the storm,” said Peter Constantine, Barrett’s representative on the ECCC at an informational meeting last night. He said in December, when the ECCC recommends solutions to the overcrowding, schools will be moving fast to get their ways, and Barrett needs to be prepared.

Peter Constantine.

The ECCC, made up mainly of parents and principals from all Arlington elementary schools, was largely created to ease overcrowding at Ashlawn, Glebe, McKinley, Nottingham, and Tuckahoe elementary schools, in the “northwest corner” of the county, school board documents state. Tuckahoe Elementary, on N. 26th Street, is already overcrowded according to the documents.

Last night’s meeting of about 30 parents, was calm—no yelling, no fingers in the air—as Mr. Constantine ran through the primary proposals that are out there and the “next steps” that he envisions.

The ECCC has two more meetings before it makes recommendations to the superintendent, Robert Smith.

Peter Constantine and Kevin Curtin answered questions about the ECCC processes and proposals from the group of about 30 parents at the Barrett cafeteria last night. Click to enlarge image.

Barrett parents must make their ideas heard “diplomatically,” focused around the guidelines that a Barrett committee made to the ECCC earlier in November, Mr. Constantine said.

The guidelines ask the board to maintain the strong tradition of school choice, while also allowing neighborhood students to remain at their neighborhood schools. As well, they should not be moved out of “walk zones” (areas considered a safe and reasonable distance for students to walk), and the siblings of current students should have first choice of Barrett (they should be “grandfathered” in). The guidelines also state that “Barrett values the diversity created by students from its neighborhood, cluster schools, Barcroft, and other transfer areas.”

Those guidelines will help form the content of emails and letters, Mr. Constantine said.

“Now, it’s important to say to the school board these principles are important,” said Kevin Curtin, Mr. Constantine’s alternate to the ECCC.

There was some discussion of whether the school board should only be emailed, or should people show up at the school board meetings now just to let them know that Barrett has interest and some ideas.

“If we went now, maybe we would stand out,” said Chris Giglio, a father of a Kindergartener.

Prinicpal Terry Bratt said no matter how they contact the board, “The message is definitely high ground and positive.”

The ECCC makes recommendations to the superintendent who then passes his recommendations along to the school board. Mr. Smith’s recommendations could be what the ECCC recommends, his own ideas or a mix, officials at the meeting said.

Therefore one parent, Cori Rattelman, recommended that Barrett push for ideas that would treat everyone the way Barrett parents would like to be treated. Her implication was that the superintendent might love an idea that would then be applied to a different school, and actually hurt Barrett.

The mother of two kindergarteners said, “We serve ourselves best and serve the community best when we focus on how we want to be treated.”

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