By Bill Shilstone
An audience of anxious and sometimes angry parents filled the McKinley Institute of Technology auditorium Monday night to hear Redwood City School District Supt. John Baker explain how they can be heard before the board adopts a reorganization plan Nov. 28.
Alternatives that include closing and merging some of the district’s 16 schools have been prepared by an advisory committee to meet a $10 million budget shortfall created by steadily declining enrollment.
Parents Monday night expressed frustration that the meeting format did not allow them to share the microphone with Baker, that there has not been enough time for their input, and that the individual proposals do not include cost-saving figures.
Baker said the figures would be made available and invited email or telephone feedback to him or board members between now and Nov. 28. He has read 235 emails so far, he said.
Monday’s feedback was in the form of comments written on post-it notes – orange for con and green for pro – pasted to poster boards mounted in the hallways, one for each proposal. “Yes. No-Brainer” for closing the district office and moving it to a school site. “Families are going to leave regardless of what you do. Create equity and use this opportunity to … create an equitable school district.” Most were written in Spanish, reflecting the district’s 70 percent Hispanic enrollment.
“We’re going to come out of this better than we came in,” Baker said. “This is an opportunity to rethink how we educate our students. No matter what the decision, many will not be happy, but we are going to make it work, and your input is essential.” He then spelled out how the input will happen.
The link to the proposals is here.
The public has three more chances to weigh in at community forums, then will be able to look at and respond to Baker’s semi-final and final recommendations to the board, which will be posted with board agendas the Fridays before the Nov. 14 and Nov. 28 meetings.
The next forum is Thursday at 6 p.m. at Taft School, 903 10th Ave., Redwood City. The final two will be Thursday, Nov. 1, the first at 8:30 a.m. at Hoover Community School, 701 Charter St., and the second at 6 p.m. at Kennedy Middle School, 2521 Goodwin Ave.
The Nov. 14 regular board meeting will be a public hearing and board discussion on Baker’s recommendations. Baker then will make a final recommendation for board action Nov. 28.
“We’re going to have to find a bigger venue,” he said, looking out at the overflow audience. Police had to clear the aisles, moving people onto the stage, before Baker could continue.
Trustee Dennis McBride responded to shouting audience members by apologizing for the “less than ideal process” but said the board could not have proceeded differently and that there still is enough time for feedback.