Sunday, November 20, 2005

Old North End Community Alternative Proposal for the Schools

We are concerned that the proposal made to the Burlington School Board, to close Lawrence Barnes school, was made without any consultation with the people affected, the residents of the Old North End. We share the School Board's desire to improve the academic experiences of low-income students, but we do not believe that closing Barnes will contribute to this goal.

We propose that, instead of rushing to close Lawrence Barnes school, the School District establish a task force, in order to move towards a community consensus on how to improve the academic experiences of low-income students, and how to deal with budget pressures, and that no decisions on school closings be made until the task force completes its work.

This task force should be composed of both school board members and community members, and must specifically include:

* Representatives from the PTOs of all Burlington schools
* The Neighborhood Planning Assemblies
* Representatives of the school staff

In addition to parents and staff from the schools, participation should be invited from organizations representing various constituencies and issues pertinent to poverty and the Old North End, including but not limited to:

* City government: City Council, CEDO, or any other relevant departments
* The Vermont Refugee Resettlement Program and other organizations representing immigrant communities
* Anti-poverty organizations such as Community Action
* Youth organizations
* Housing organizations
* Government, academic and/or nonprofit representatives with experience about transportation issues

In addition to studying the issue, the Task Force must hold public hearings, which must be:

* At least one to be physically held in the Old North End
* Designed to be participatory (not just lectures)
* Open to a wide variety of viewpoints (i.e., not stacked with "experts" of a particular ideological bent)

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