This is a post that I’ve had in my head for a couple of days. It has morphed as more information comes out and more public statements are made and more blustering threats, implied or spoken outright, come out of the mouths and keyboards of folks.
I must be talking about the political campaigns, right?
I’m talking about the swirling passions and emotions and, let’s face it, the intimidation that is happening all around the proposed new charter school in Novato.
Oh, and I completely understand that my mere mentioning it on a forum such as this opens up Pandora’s box of anger and hatred and venom. If you try to walk a neutral line, you’re either flat-out uninformed, hiding your true feelings, childless, or just too chicken to say how you really feel publicly and, quite possibly, privately.
I won’t even get into what you are if you’re for the charter school or against it, but if you think the “undecided” get grief, heaven help you if you make your choice known to those not on the same side.
Don’t leap to the conclusion that I’m accusing any one side of intimidation. I’m saying intimidation works both ways. Or three ways, in this case.
The opponents? They post (and sometimes then delete) comments on the Patch that can really only be interpreted as threats to name petition signers, approach the signers at their kids’ schools, and conduct “exit interviews” with them. And while the organized folks opposing the charter might have no intention of bringing it closer to home, who knows what lunatics are out there and what they might do with the information?
The proponents? The North Bay Educational Foundation has sent emails advising that the names have been released “to an individual and to a Marin IJ reporter” and they ask signees to get in touch with NBEF if they “believe your name is used inappropriately as a result of NUSD’s decision to publicly disclose petition signees’ printed names.” If that doesn’t make you think twice about going to have a look-see, I’m not sure what would. And if that doesn’t sound like a veiled threat to the district — a putting-on-notice, if you will — I’m not sure what is.
And the district? Even before the charter application was submitted, the district's superintendent told the IJ a school would close because of the charter. The district-retained lawyer at the board workshop publicly stated the names would be released. And just a day or two ago, the district tells the public that the signature document will not be posted or released, and in the very next sentence tells everyone that “if a Public Records Act request is received, only the petitioner signature and name will be released.” When I walked into the superintendent’s office to view the petition in its entirety this morning, the name of every single person who signed the petition — parent and teacher — was right there in the binder, no Public Records Act request required.
I get it. I really get it. We’re talking not only about children but our children. I understand how visceral the reaction is when we’re talking about the well-being of children in general and of our own children in particular.
I am also that moron who can truly see the two sides. (No, I can’t see the district’s side. But you already know I’m biased on that score.) I am Janus on this score. On one side is a person who fears the reverberations the charter school will have on the schools that, for better or worse, my kids will and do attend. That side also looks with such sadness at the vast number of kids currently in my son’s grade at Rancho who won’t go on with him to one of the two middle schools.
The other side says, you know, if there weren’t issues — real issues — that affect many parents’ dealings with the district and the schools, there wouldn’t be this movement. If true choice had been accepted — nay, embraced and promoted — as so many have tried to through the years, there wouldn’t be this movement. This is the side of someone who thought about just going virtual charter to escape the district rather than continue condoning the actions that include, but are in no way limited to, closing Hill Middle School without a plan, wreaking havoc throughout, and then calling the whole damn closure a “merger” of staff and students of Hill and San Jose middle schools in order to remove it from Program Improvement status; repeatedly refusing to hear out parents at Rancho who wanted to differentiate the curriculum but stay within the NUSD “family”; and refusing to deal with its own personnel matters.
On a personal level, I beat myself up for not being able to make a stand because I know, in my heart, that I remain conflicted. I really do. If my youngest were a couple of years younger, I can’t say that my husband and I wouldn’t be all over this. That makes me a traitor to some. My perception that the charter is dividing this community beyond repair makes me a traitor to others.
There’s no end in sight. There’s no fixing the rift. But can’t any of us just agree that we can be reasonable people who happen to disagree? Do we all have to keep pounding the crap out of each other? If you’re never going to change someone’s mind — and you’re never going to change those minds because they are made up — then can’t we at least just be civil?
I’m sorry that I already know the answer to that question.