As a nonparent, small business owner, taxpayer and long-time citizen of Astoria, I voted for the bond measure to remodel Gray Elementary School because it was promoted as a way to secure the future of neighborhood schools in our town.
Upon attending the Astoria School Board meeting of March 11, I was surprised to discover that Gray School is now being “restructured” to warehouse kindergarten students and serve as administration offices.
This “restructuring” appears to have already been engineered, and done very rapidly, before site committees and budget committees even had a chance to study the options, and without public input.
There is considerable controversy about whether this radical “restructuring” will even save any money, which one assumes is the principle reason that it was deemed necessary by whoever decided it was.
But the most troubling aspect is the process by which this radical decision was made.
The school board did not even pretend to care about the testimony of the 100-plus people who bothered to attend the meeting, and did not acknowledge the research and thought that one of its own members had put into her presentation about options to the “restructuring.”
The school board and superintendent might consider taking the time to at least “fake it” when citizens come together to discuss what they want their tax dollars to pay for and how they want their communities to function.
By not even bothering to pretend to reflect on the testimony of the people who attended the March 11 meeting, the school board demonstrates an arrogance of power, encourages disempowerment and despair, and of course loses its credibility as a group which promotes the principles of democracy.
This sort of decision by executive fiat only encourages us (and our children) to be more cynical about the importance of mindful individual and group engagement in any aspect of our lives.
The Daily Astorian’s editorial March 22, a dismissal of the citizens’ concerns about being cut out of meaningful involvement with their elected representatives, is very disturbing, and portends even less possibility for the people’s voices to be heard.
Slap another nail in that coffin of representative government, and hope that the children and teachers and what’s left of our bombed-out communities have the resilience to survive in the top-down, media-distorted, privatized, voucherized, brave new world of industrialized education, brought to us by the Washington, D.C.-based Citizens for a Sound Economy.