No matter the result, appreciate the effortThere were four tables covered with sheets of paper, maps, colored markers, overheads, three-ring binders, calculators and packets of information.
By: Judy Spooner, South Washington County Bulletin
There were four tables covered with sheets of paper, maps, colored markers, overheads, three-ring binders, calculators and packets of information. Several people had laptop computers.
Water and snacks were available but many brought cola drinks from home or the office. Cups of designer coffee got cold as the pace of the work sped up.
Six oversize maps mounted on foam-core were displayed. People consulted them from time to time, pointing to areas on the map to make a point to others seated at their table.
Numbers were the language of the early evening meeting that extended past the two hours set aside. Everyone had pens in their hands.
A meeting of company leaders mulling over a possible corporate merger?
Not even close.
It’s a description of the scene during the second meeting of the District 833 High School Attendance Boundary Task Force on Tuesday, March 4, in the board room at the District Service Center.
Since last fall, I’ve been covering the process to re-draw attendance boundaries that will go into effect in fall of 2009 when East Ridge High School opens, ninth-graders move to high schools, junior high schools become middle schools and elementary schools house grades kindergarten through five.
You might think I would be sick of it by now, but I’m still fascinated.
I’m currently reporting on the work of the high school task force, coming after the work of the elementary and middle school task forces.
I’ve watched people change.
Elementary task force members came to their first meeting with few personal agendas. The few that did had an opportunity to plead their cases but they didn’t find acceptance.
I worried that aggressive lobbying by a few would muscle the task force into abandoning reasoned opinions. That didn’t happen.
Members listened and debated. In the end, the elementary task force did what they thought was best for the district as a whole.
I mentally clapped.
Facilitators Mike Vogel, assistant to the superintendent for operations, and Dave Bernhardson, started the process by mapping the district in blocks of neighborhoods roughly corresponding to developments such as the “Highlands” in Cottage Grove or “Stonemill Farms” in Woodbury but assigned them numbers and not names.
As members got deeper into the process, they knew the names of developments, but I think it initially helped them to look at areas without prejudice.
I observed individuals coming into the first meetings of each group who became team members by the time the meeting was over.
There were times when I watched one of four team members at a table argue for their point of view. I was truly amazed at the power of a group. Even the most passionate gave in to the majority if they could not get support.
Some task force members drove around the district so they could locate areas on a map. Others talked to neighbors and parents and staff members of the schools their children attend.
There’s a tendency to believe task forces drew arbitrary boundaries without considering parents’ concerns, but I didn’t see that.
These folks are taking their jobs very seriously.
Judy Spooner can be reached at email@example.com.