Child’s Plea Won’t Save School
Carthage Paideia Academy is one of the schools slated for closure as the result of the Cincinnati Public School (CPS) Board of Education vote on Dec. 11, 2006. When it will close was on the minds of some people in attendance at Monday’s board meeting.
An unhappy parent, Thad Long, took issue with a point in the superintendent’s report asking the board to approve an early closure if the enrollment numbers dropped to the point where it was necessary to do so.
“We were told a few months back, before the holidays, that our school possibly would be left open for the 2007/2008 school year,” Long said. “I feel like that decision’s already been made to lower the enrollment of Carthage Paideia. So, come the end of this year, what decision’s left on the table is, ‘Enrollment’s down, we need to save money.’ I hope before it’s too late, don’t close an effective school. When my children look at me and say, ‘Dad, where am I going to school next year? What are my options?’ I don’t know. I really don’t know what my options are.”
Superintendent Rosa Blackwell acknowledged that no children are being accepted into the kindergarten program for next academic year, making it clear that the numbers at the school will drop as a result. She also took issue with Long’s perspective.
“Mr. Long, I’d like to state for you and other Carthage parents, some of you may recall that I did visit with you earlier this year and I was very clear about where we were as a district,” Blackwell said. “First and foremost, I reminded you that the board had recommended closing of Carthage in the original (facilities maters plan. I did tell you that that was slated for June of ’08 — however if in fact it appeared that it appeared that the numbers were decreasing to the point where we did not have the option, we might have to close earlier.”
Referencing a series of documents sent to Carthage parents, including a survey asking questions about the priorities parents have for their children’s school and a letter informing them of another Paideia academy in the system, Blackwell said CPS is making every effort to give Carthage families priority placements in other schools.
“It is not fair to you to inform you at the 11th hour that Carthage is closing,” she said. “It is our attempt to give you the professional courtesy of letting you know that it may close before ’08 so that you have an opportunity to look at other schools.”
A few minutes later the shortest speaker approached the podium and dropped a stepstool in place so that he could reach the microphone.
“My name is Jarad Long. I am in the third grade at Carthage Paideia,” he said. “I have come here tonight to tell you that I am sad. You’re not only going to close my school, but close one year earlier than it was planned. What options are you putting in place for next school year? Please don’t close my school. Do the right thing. Don’t close an effective school.”
When a school closes in a community, it’s difficult. Handling the logistics of finding and getting kids to a new location, on top of all the emotions that go along with breaking up existing classes and losing familiar teachers, can be rough. Trying to prevent that by fighting to keep a school open for the sake of children is admirable. But when does the time come to make the best of the situation for your child’s sake — as opposed to scripting him or her with your message?
Is it a form of emotional blackmail aimed at the district and the board? Is it an important lesson in standing up for what matters to you, even if the odds appear to be overwhelmingly against your position? People talk about the importance of parental involvement, but is there a line of “inappropriate” that ought not be crossed? What would any of us do under those difficult conditions?
By the way, Jarad received a round of applause for his courage and willingness to stand before a room full of adults and speak. But the board approved the request to close Carthage early if it becomes necessary to do so.
— Margo Pierce