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NEWS | EDITORIAL

Neighbors Speak Out: Strong Schools, Strong Communities
Spring Clean Up in West Seventh
Federation Update


Neighbors Speak Out: Strong Schools, Strong Communities
| 4.11

Dear Editor,

On March 15, 2011 the St. Paul Public School Board voted in favor of the Strong Schools Strong Communities Strategic Plan. In spite of the pleas from parents and community organizations to delay the vote and to give more time for community consultation there were no words, however strong, heartfelt, or well informed, that could persuade the representatives to delay a series of drastic changes that had been developed and pushed through with almost no involvement from the constituency it will greatly impact.

While the district puts forward a closure of the achievement gap as its primary rationale, there is little evidence to demonstrate precisely what in the plan will meet that goal. It is poor families who already struggle within the system who will lose out when their children are forced into middle schools a year earlier than they should be, and when they have to support their child through the additional testing (and pressure on teachers to teach to those tests) that a citywide curriculum will impose. The plan puts more stress on underachieving children and their families and, as a result, it will not serve them well in the long term.

The rational for pushing the plan through was that we have had the current system for thirty years and the need for change was urgent. But if this is what we are to have for the next thirty years, then would it not have been better to develop a plan with the community — in particular with those who are typically disadvantaged and marginalized? By forcing the plan through with such great haste it is these voices that are most excluded. Only the well-resourced had the ability to organize to have their dissent heard during the three short months between the announcement of the plan and the vote. The concerns of this group are great and genuine, but what lies beneath this layer of protest are the silenced voices of many more that live in poverty and are on the margins. The irony is that it is this group that holds the answers to the complex range of problems that manifest as the achievement gap.

However, since the plan will take two to three years to implement, perhaps all is not lost. Parents of children who are going to lose their elementary 6th grade, whose magnet program will be lost, or who begin to notice the increased pressures of testing on their child can continue to try to organize within and across schools and to ask the district to please hear and heed their concerns.

Sincerely, Amanda McCormick
sppsparents@aol.com

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Spring Clean Up in the West End
| 4.11
[IMAGE]
by KENT PETTERSON

The West Seventh Business Association, its West Seventh Enhancement Coalition, the West Seventh/Smith Ave. Task Force and the Cliff Street group, block clubs at Dousman and St. Clair along with all groups, neighbors and businesses are invited to join in for our neighborhood clean up on Saturday April 9 from 9 to11 a.m. [The Cliff Street group is asked to gather at the garden to work from 9-11 a.m.] If you are able, we will gather just after 11 a.m. in the Federation parking lot, 974 West Seventh, to discuss the day and have coffee and snacks. We hope you can join with us to make the West End a more attractive and welcoming neighborhood.

Besides the general clean up on April 9, consider cleaning your windows, adding a little paint, prepping a flowerbed or container. Businesses could pay special attention to their street appearance and signage. This is an ongoing process, but Saturday April 9 is a chance get out with your neighbors and join in a community effort.

The City of St. Paul has initiated a new Come Clean! Neighborhood Litter Campaign. If you have a public area that has high pedestrian traffic and litter, you may be interested in their offer of a trash container that you can adopt. Kris Hageman at kris.hageman@ci.stpaul.mn.us or 651-266-8866 is your contact for more information. According to Kris, participation in the Citywide Spring Cleanup event is a great way to be connected with your neighborhood and help address litter problems where you live (and work). Kris, as Environmental Coordinator, City of St. Paul, added, “The Come Clean! Program has a variety of opportunities for community members to be involved throughout the year.” For details and forms visit stpaul.gov/comeclean. In this time of tight budgets, this is a great program where neighbors and businesses can be effective in efforts to clean up the neighborhood aided by the city.

To learn more about the West 7th Business Association, contact administrator, info@west7thbusinessassociation, or visit west7thbusinessassociation.com.

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