Friday, February 10, 2012

Consolidation Notes -- 12

Well, it's almost a year since I wrote on School Consolidation that

My Upstate New York village has had a school for quite a while; it may not have a school for much longer.
Later I listed some Consolidation links, and some more, and then some data about Upstate NY Demographics and School Consolidation, and more Consolidation News. Then I thought about Khansolidation as an alternative, but more Consolidation News kept coming from many states. Then New York passed an actual budget and I wrote a few Budget Notes; here and in other states there's a connection between Budgets, Consolidations, Charters. The budget looked very bad for 2011, but Colgate helped: Colgate v. Consolidation -- maybe. For now. And then in fall we had an author come talk about it, and my reaction was Consolidation and "Hollowing Out the Middle".

Since then we've had a few months with no particular merger-movement, but that's over: on Wednesday this week we saw School Boards Meet to Discuss Merger Study. They met at the Morrisville Stadium's Hospitality Center, which (as the tour video says) has "kind of a sports bar feel to it"; an amusing choice. For someone like me, it's a choice to prompt meditation on education as a consumption good, at least as much as it is a source of skills and knowledge (and a status good, and so on). The main purpose of the meeting, it seems, was to go around and around the table of superintendents and school board members, asking for questions to be addressed by the study: by the time nobody had any more to ask, there were 31, and then the same people were asked to prioritize the questions. "You have 40 points; choose one question that gets five points, and apply the rest of your points as you please except that you shouldn't give more than five points to any question."

Questions included a variety of topics -- I don't have the phrasings right because they were edited as I scribbled, but there were items resembling "How does merger affect transportation?", "Would class size change?", "How will state aid affect the new district?", "What will be the impact on the community's voice in governance?", and "How can we get the community to feel involved?"

The questions as questions were not objectionable, but it wasn't really the way I'd do it. I'd like to start with a list of basic assumptions about the next 10, 20, 50 years, like declining upstate population and enhanced technology and; for each of these assumptions we'd have a list of uncertainties. For example, Colgate's baby boomers, my generation whose kids are mostly grown, are retiring and being replaced with younger families -- the nursery school is turning kids away and we may be at the bottom of enrollment rather than locked into continuing decline. But that's not certain; all we know is that each of us has some assumptions, and it would be good to list them and list the questions about them. (Will Dodd-Frank, and other factors pushing finance-industry bonus packages downward, result in a permanent decline in state aid?)

Then I'd have a list of the groups of affected people, starting of course with current students and current teachers and their subdivision into overlapping subgroups. (E.g., athletic groups overlap with theatric groups overlap with Model UN; at the same time we have farm kids and local-business kids and academic's kids from Colgate and from Morrisville, and in "Hollowing Out The Middle" terms we have the kids who are likely Leavers and the kids who are likely Stayers and....) For each group, I'd like a list of what they put into the system, if that's distinctive, and what they get out of it; then for each of these a list of descriptions of how this may change if there is a merger, and how it may change if there is no merger. And I'd throw in the effect of uncertainty: does merger circumscribe future flexibility, or enhance it? (I suspect the merger, as a multi-million multi-year commitment, would necessarily make it hard to make future choices, but I could be wrong. I usually am.)

In effect, we want voters to have two crystal balls, one showing the after-merger view and the other the after-no-merger view; we can't quite do that, but we can try. And then I'd expand the choices a bit: what if we set up a charter school? A STEAM school (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics)?

One which tried to use...well, never mind. We'll see.

Or then again, maybe not.

update:Our Superintendent reports at The Consolidation Fesibility Study Begins.

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Blogger kcbausch said...

Excellent and insightful post!

9:38 AM  

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