Thursday, March 17, 2011

Nothing Beats the Eyeball, and the ripple effect of school closings

About an hour ago, I headed over to Windmill Street School to drop off some fliers for the Parent and Community Forum on the Providence Public Schools that's happening on Saturday (you're coming, right? Right!). All inside of course was business as usual for the whole 15 minutes I was there. Business as usual, including custodial staff and kitchen staff at work cleaning up after lunch, aides walking with kids down the hall, the school office staff joking around about how lucky I was to be able to go outside into the sunshine. No joke - it is gorgeous out there today! Why I am inside typing away is something I should not consider very carefully or I will stop.

And of course it hit me like a belated load of bricks that when a school closes, many people beyond teachers, students, and families feel the effects. I don't know where the school staff at Windmill, Flynn, Asa Messer, Asa Messer Annex, and Bridgham will end up. I hope all of them who are great assets to their current schools land in places where they continue to serve young people well. This article from yesterday's Brown Daily Herald does a nice job of capturing the ripple effect of unintended and sometimes unnoticed consequences that results when a school closes or is disrupted.

Years ago, when I was settling into editing and writing Horace for the Coalition of Essential Schools, I had a long chat with Gary Heyder, a custodian at Hilliard Weaver Middle School in Hilliard, Ohio. He was so thoroughly eloquent about his work as an educator, accomplished as he went about his work as a custodian that I did what love doing best, which was to work with him to shape his words into "A Caring Adult in a Different Setting," which ran under his own byline. The title is meh - I really wish we'd called it "Nothing Beats the Eyeball" - but the piece is a powerful strong reminder that the adults that spend time with our kids at school have the potential to be forces for greatness in their lives.

I cannot say whether any of the school staff that are affected by the school closures in Providence interact like Gary Heyder does (thought I'd bet that some do). I don't know offhand if any of them are unionized here and the ways their contract with the city (or with Sodexho and/or Aramark) affects their prospects for continued employment in other PPSD schools. If anyone who is reading this has a clue, please comment to shed some light.

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