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April 1, 2020

3/18/2020 2:54:00 PM
Factory farm education vs organic offerings

Dear Editor,
At last nights school board meeting there was a real "a-HAH" moment when a concerned mother spoke out about the school board's proposed full-day ELP plan not fitting what she and her child needed. She asked the board, "When were you going to tell parents about this?" Referring to the fact that no effort other than scant lines in committee minutes and the agenda for the current meeting mentioned what will be a drastic change for the youngest learners in the district. Many older board members felt indignant saying they were telling parents "right now," but I could see the younger members understood what the young mother was saying. The mom then asked if they were voting to approve the measure now as well, and they said they were. Everyone seemed shocked except for the presenters from the school staff and the school board.
I was a part of a large group begging for a similar effort, for the school board to engage Ridgeway stakeholders in the process of closing or reimagining the elementary school. There has been what I view to be a concerted effort of misdirection and withholding of information crucial to making an educated decision about closing a community's last school - not because people on the board are diabolical, but because they are human. Humans avoid pain - as a police officer I can assure you pain and fear of pain are great motivators. The board doesn't want to face people questioning (painful at times) the necessity of what they are doing. The problem that policing has had to face is that using coercive force has to be a last resort. I recommend your school board heed that lesson- use coercion only in emergencies. When people have the courage to show up at your board meetings and say, "this action will negatively affect me," take the time to listen and form committees to examine the issue or step down as a public official.
Now to the feedlot- much of the arguments made last night both for closing RES and for full day ELP (or pre k) hinged on economies of scale and emerging trends, not evidence. We predict x enrollment... we visited this other school and they did x... these are great insights but not evidence and not emergencies. Treating education like a feedlot where we fatten as many children with knowledge as we can then call it efficient sounds unattractive to me, but I have high hopes for my kids and I hope Dodgeville parents do too. Ridgeway Elementary is your best little windsock of hope capturing winds of innovation, creativity and community learning. It's also located in the one region of the district burgeoning with growth. An artisanal organic farm if you will. Notice how little voluntary turnover of teachers they've had at Ridgeway versus 28 teachers leaving Dodgeville. Something is different at Ridgeway and it hinges on the size of the school. We are a community where all the kids know all the other kids. There is no anonymity - less bullying and more caring. The teachers take a great deal of pride in "their kids" long after they leave the school and the kids are just as fond of their teachers... even the hard ones. Isn't this what every parent wants?
Go ahead, take a quick vote after minimal outreach - coerce this school to close. But you can't be mad later when a charter school pops up and the 20 families who fled your coercion and feedlot stylings pay extra for a caring community school. Smaller families demand more from education not less. No amount of sneaky Fund 80 taxes will cover that marketing issue. Tax payers get ready for that plus a referendum for a new elementary school... until the school board slows down and starts fitting the product to the market, you're throwing good money after bad. You'll have pretty schools with no kids and no happy teachers in them.

Kimberly Alan
Town of Ridgeway





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