Wednesday, March 14, 2007

What's new--Public School Advocacy

What's new in public school advocacy land?

Let's see. Many people have been asking for an update. I think I shall itemize:

Since Jan 14th, 2007, the eve of our illustrious Venice Edition of "Martinis, Magnets & More," and as a response to the swell of emails from confused parents, I cranked out and made available an informative 25-pg guidebook:

Westside Guide to Public Elementary Schools:

Navigating Magnets, Charters, Permits & More

"a no-nonsense, easy to understand, nuts and bolts type handbook covering all your Westside public elementary school options."

*Demystifies Magnets, The Point System, how Charters work

*Outlines how (and when) the different Lotteries take place

*Identifies when a Permit could help and more
*Complete listing of 57 Westside Elementary Schools and their contact #'s
*Handy month-by-month
timeline of application and lottery deadlines

I have been selling those directly to parents via paypal, and donated 100 copies (including the document file for additional print runs) of a condensed version to my preschool for all future matriculating parents.

Was approached to speak to the local Neighborhood Council's Education Committee where I presented my idea of forming a loose affiliation, an "uber-booster" support summit where core parent leaders from all the Westside neighborhood schools could gather to compare notes, share resources and successful strategies to grow and revitalize our neighborhood feeder schools. There is roughly a dozen schools in the immediate vicinity, some of which are doing really well while others are struggling.

Was invited to attend a citywide think tank of active movers and shakers within the public school community to discuss and share strategies to raise the profile of the little neighborhood school. How do we shift the perception and improve the schools in order to get the neighbors back into the neighborhood schools instead of abandoning them for other options? This is the core question.

An ongoing online dialogue was formed to continue to share resources and ideas, of which I have been an active participant, resonating with parents, even gathering support from the other side of town.

I also have volunteered at a revitalizing local neighborhood school, attending booster club meetings, spreading the growing excitement of the school and assisting at the last tour for prospective parents.

On the horizon:

Considering hosting a brunch for prospective parents who might be considering this local school, forming a safe environment for candid discussion, and ideally to encourage active participation and enrollment.

Been considering how to form and connect active parent clusters at the neighborhood schools that could use more help and a perception shift.

Been asked by a write-in to the LA Times to put together another Westside community public school event, based on the successful buzz the last one generated.

In the meantime, I have attracted one who's intent it is to badger, attack and write inflammatory misrepresentations about my "work" (among others) and virtually stalk via internet anyone who may or may not be able to reach me to obtain a copy of my parental guidebook, which he insists contains "conspiracy theories" or ways to maneuver around the district's administration, which it does nothing of the kind. Although at times lucid, wrapping nuggets of truth around misinformation, I have been told he has a history of this, a restraining order against him from the local elementary school, and that there is a district person who's sole job is to monitor his petty yet combative behavior, his relentless filing of public grievances and letter writing campaigns. Nevertheless, it gives me great pause to continue the inroads I have built thus far, and to open myself up to this kind of thing.

Having no "hidden agenda" other than wanting to help parents learn of and navigate their options, and rallying the neighborhood for parent participation, this man's recent activity and barrage of emails (cc'd all over town and all the way up to the mayor of Los Angeles), makes me question just how far I want to stick my neck (and my name) out to try to unify and build community.

So for now, I am on the fence, reconsidering next steps.
Perhaps I will give up this noble idea of community activism and become instead a private, self-serving, mind-my-own business capitalist, as so many have done before me. But then an idea strikes me, and I envision an intuitive way to proceed, much to my husband's dismay. (He would rather I bring in a substantial income instead of mucking about in this public school volunteer pit.)

Some days, though I resist it, I feel called to this work. Can't explain why. I just know things, and aren't afraid to do them. I actually feel I can make a difference and am encouraged when others seem to respond to me when I speak out.

Other days, on receipt of another tiresome email, I cease and desist, and question what the hell I am wasting my precious time and energy for.

So there you have it: one foot sinking into the quicksand that is LA public schools, and the other running out the door.

In the meantime, there was something quite momentus for me in putting together a "mini-book," complete with an outline and table of contents and clarified arc. It's as if my "big book" idea is now somehow less frightening and more do-able. So, for that alone, it has been a great ride.


Prema said...

The work you are doing is tremendous. And you many great beings and teachers are harrassed and 'stalked'...not that you should proceed if it doesn't feel safe or worth it, just that it's a sign that you are moving and shaking, indeed.

Perhaps there is a way to integrate the different calls. Advocacy, writing, creative arts. If anyone can bring them together, you can.

Lots of love and support out here from cyberspace. I'm watching and checking back to see what your dance looks like.


Jerri said...

People will indeed listen, T. And you can make a difference, a big one.

Only you know whether this is your path. Deep inside, you know. Maybe this is the work. Maybe it's been the gestation of something else. If you don't know now, rest in the certainty that you will. Listen to your heart; watch for guidance. It will come.

When you comment on my blog, I feel as though someone wrapped a warm towel around me after a cold shower. Your encouragement means so much to me. Seriously.

Thank you. And blessings for wherever the journey takes you. Like Prema, I'll check back. Meantime, I'm here if you need an ear or an eye.

Jerri said...

BTW--you're right about the pieces of me in the "Not That Kind of Girls." Or at least things I wish I had.

Sheila--she's a piece of work. I'd love to have her spunk and her ability to act in her own best interests. It's all a matter of degree, don't you think?

That damn balance thing. Enough and not too much is the hardest thing in the world, if you ask me.

In some ways, that might be part of the struggle you describe in this post. Advocacy is a tremendous calling, yet it rightly leaves you wondering how far to expose yourself.

Again, blessings for the journey.