Monday, May 07, 2007

A Member's Impressions of Get Smart Tacoma

Report on Get Smart Tacoma, Stadium HS, May 5, 2007

Dear Conversation members,

I attended the Get Smart Tacoma meetings from noon on, after going to another thing in the morning. Others from our group attended, and may have things to report, as well.

Lots of good people there, and some very good ideas emerged. The draft report on the vision and near-term goals should be out by early June, perhaps earlier on the web page, and we will have a chance to comment upon it. I will bring concerns to the group, as I am sure others will.

Some odd things happened there.

One group reported its list of issues and items to addressed during the post-lunch general session. Racism was, inadvertently, left off the list presented to the whole group. At the end of the presentations, during the Q&A, a member of the Conversation asked that it be put back on the list, and moreover have the group clarify what they meant by ‘racism.’ They said they had discussed the notion of white privilege.

A second odd thing happened during the final group presentations, later in the afternoon. Our group discussed, among other things, ways to have each middle school student paired with a mentor within three years. Our one year goal was to have 25% of the students paired with mentors, targeting first the most at-risk students. Well, the way it got reported to the whole group was that we wanted 25% of the at-risk students to be paired with mentors within a year. A member of the Conversation added, from the audience, that the way it was written on the page was accurate—that 25% of ALL students should be paired with mentors within one year, and that the most at-risk students are to be targeted first. This means the at-risk rate of pairing with mentors would be somewhere between 50-100%, depending on how one defines at-risk.

A third odd thing happened during the final group presentations, later in the afternoon. Our group discussed both grassroots and top down organizing of Tacoma to support education. One suggestion for the top down approach was to have the Superintendent and the Board to get together with the print and broadcast media of the region a few times per year, and challenge them to cover the tough problems facing the public schools, and to education the public on the need to have widespread participation in the ways we try to address them. Tell them it is their responsibility to do this. But, the way it was presented to the whole conference was that the media should be encouraged to report the positive things that go on in the public schools. A member of the Conversation wrote a detailed note to the conference organizer, explaining what was actually discussed in the group.

The last odd thing that happened was a surprise speaker, inserted at the end. The number of attendees had dwindled from about 135 to about 65, which included the consultants, the principals and school board and other officials that were there, the grand nephew of one of the speakers, the works. So perhaps 40 community people were still there. The speaker presented a Powerpoint lecture on the College Success Foundation, which does good work, and which announced a new program for the period after their current grant runs out. While informative and certainly related to the topics of Get Smart Tacoma, this was hardly a focus on getting community participation.

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