I’m sure some readers regard the Ashland School Board’s reboot of its vote to close two charter schools as an enormous waste of time and effort.
Some might even buy School Board President Jessica Pergolski’s assertion that the entire imbroglio was a product of manufactured outrage.
“The news media itself tried to spin this as a controversial issue,” she said this week as the board took a second kick at the cat and again voted to close the schools.
With apologies to Ms. Pergolski, I have to disagree. When the school board illegally meets to make a momentous decision without telling constituents what it is considering, and then students themselves organize an effort to inform board members and the public about how vital the charters were to them, there’s nothing being manufactured.
That’s genuine controversy, no matter how you slice or spin it.
What she and the rest of us really should be focusing on, though, is how impressive the students were through all of this.
They didn’t lose their tempers or make spurious accusations as they worked to save the Oredocker Project and Lake Superior High schools.
They wrote an impassioned letter to the board asking that its decision at least be delayed and that students be involved in the decision-making process. They offered to meet with board members, and argued that their record of success spoke for itself.
And then, demonstrating the project-based learning and problem-solving that are hallmarks of charter schools, they contacted this newspaper to make their case.
Lake Superior High School student Ella Syverson told the Daily Press she understood that the board intended to try to recreate the charter success within traditional legacy schools.
“However, this does not take into account what the charter students and staff think of as the key to their success: their multi-age, relationship and community-based, advisory-based model,” she wrote. “Students at OPS and LSHS feel that their school is family, and that this family will be destroyed by this decision. Students and parents are sad, and they are angry. In addition, the charter contract allows them exemptions from some (state) regulations. Without the contract, they will be unable to take impromptu field trips, learn beyond the confines of state standards, and other means of unconventional learning.”
In fact, all of the kids we talked to as we reported on this story were just as articulate and on-point as Syverson. Even the middle-school students.
To me, these kids are demonstrating precisely the kind of community engagement and involvement that we want our schools producing.
If this entire episode reveals anything, it is that the charters produced some darned sharp kids — kids that I expect we haven’t heard the last of as they graduate and perhaps grow into Ashland’s next generation of leaders.
Peter J. Wasson is managing editor of the Ashland Daily Press.