I was thinking some more about the extent to which the Board is culpable for doing a less-than-stellar job in following through on maintenance projects, like the tuck-pointing at East. But it occurred to me that I’m an East parent (or at least I was until I reached parent emeritus status following this year’s graduation). I have been at East a lot and have attended nearly all the meetings of East High United (the school-parent group — the link to the group’s webpage seems to have disappeared). While at the school, I have never once heard concern about bricks crumbling or the pressing need to restore the façade of the building. The building is certainly not falling down.
What I have heard about – what everyone connected to East has heard about and painfully experienced – is the preposterously poor state of the school’s theater. The orange plastic chairs that might once have been appropriate for a bowling alley are emblematic of the dreary ambiance of the facility.
A group of parents has been working with East and the District for some time on developing plans for a total renovation of the theater and a fundraising campaign to raise the $3.5 million that will be needed for the project. Susan Troller wrote a nice article about the effort a few months back.
The group recently launched a website for the project — called “Raise the Curtain” — which is well worth a look.
Kudos, of course, for the terrific work of the parent group, spearheaded by Biz Johnson and Kari Douglas. This effort does raise larger questions, though. Is the funding model for our public colleges and universities, which increasingly rely on large private donations for new facilities, going to filter down to the high school level? Isn’t it the responsibility of the community to support and maintain our K-12 public school structures? If efforts like East’s “Raise the Curtain” initiative succeed, does that provide an excuse for our friends in the state legislature to cut our funding even more? How does the district’s equity policy fit in?
These are worthwhile questions, but an interest in thinking big thoughts inevitably takes a back seat to the exigencies of the situation. We’ll try to raise the private money first and hope we have the opportunity later to ponder the implications of success. Necessity is the mother of accommodation.
But, circling back again to the beginning of this post (finally!), here is what I think my point is. An example of a perceived problem – like East non-tuck-pointing as illustrative of maintenance shortcomings – can be either accurate or not, helpful or misleading. The tuck-pointing example would be helpful if the intended larger point is that there are hidden dangers to our schools as maintenance is deferred and the buildings slowly deteriorate in ways that people are not really noticing. Of course, the intended point itself may still be inaccurate.
The example is, I submit, misleading if it is meant to stand for the larger point that the obviously deteriorating conditions of our schools are being ignored. Our focus on this particular tree can cause us to lose sight of the forest that is comprised of a whole host of efforts by the district, teachers, parents and the community to protect and maintain our facilities, like the many maintenance projects that were performed at East and the Raise the Curtain effort at the school, and like the Ash Street entrance renovation project at West High.
Anyway, my own hidden agenda here is that I wanted an excuse, however tenuous, to link to the Raise the Curtain webpage. Maybe if East’s Raise the Curtain group exceed their fundraising goal, they can donate whatever they don’t need to an East tuck-pointing fund.