Inside the Newsroom

News, commentary, insight on local happenings and fun from the staff of The Saline Reporter and Milan News-Leader.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Is school of choice in Saline less of a flashpoint than in years past?

About 60 people or so attended an open forum held in the Liberty School auditorium the evening of June 25. They came to hear Superintendent Beverley Geltner explain her decision to begin a school-of-choice program in Saline.

I was struck by the attendance. I expected to see a packed house.

I was struck by the mostly sedate atmosphere. There was disappointment, disagreement, and disgust, sure, but I expected to see fire, outrage, and accusations.

I expected to see, in short, what I saw at similar forums on the issue a few years ago. I remember well the first "townhall" meeting then-Superintendent Sam Sinicropi called to discuss school of choice. It was held in the high school library. An estimated 160 people crammed in. And they were not happy. Their anger was palpable. It turned out to be a bloodbath. Opponents of school of choice chewed Sinicropi to pieces and spat him out. I don't know that he was prepared for the virulent reception. If he was, it didn't help. Looking back, I believe from that moment Sinicropi's days were numbered. I don't think he ever recovered a segment of the community's confidence, and school of choice became a flashpoint for disaffected residents displeased with the district's direction on a variety of fronts.

Flash forward then to Monday night. School administrators who were veterans of the first School of Choice War seemed relieved to me; revved up for an all-out assault, they really only had to fend off a few volleys. It wasn't even vigorous enough to be characterized as a skirmish.

And at the Tuesday night board meeting following the forum, not a single person rose to speak in opposition to school of choice.

Why? I wondered. What has changed over the past year since the school board voted 4-2 before a crowded boardroom to reject a school-of-choice plan presented by Sinicropi as his final shot over the bow?

Are opponents of school of choice weary of the fight? Do they see it as a fait accompli? Maybe many of them changed their view and have come to think of school of choice as disagreeable but palatable -- a lesser evil than laying off teachers and support staff? Did the administrators' decision to package the presentation differently by focusing more on school of choice's potential to reduce elementary class sizes than its potential boon to the budget appease people? Is it simply because Geltner is a new voice and was the candidate of choice for many of those who were most ardently opposed to the Sinicropi administration and so has been granted greater leeway?

Could be, I guess.

Then, again, maybe Monday night was not indicative of lessened opposition to school of choice in Saline. Maybe something's brewing.

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Blogger Beardsley said...

Brian, we are surprised by your reaction. You've been close enough to the heart of this issue to understand that attending a meeting for one way dialogue is of no interest to this community. For many days and nights over the past few years we have put the rest of our schedules on hold to speak at board meetings, sit on committees, attend forums, construct and complete surveys etc. The Board knows how we, and so many others, feel. A meeting to explain or rationalize a decision already made; one against all previous community input, is of obvious little value. We went to our son's baseball game instead. Bill and Wendy Beardsley

July 12, 2007 at 7:54 PM  

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