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Archive for March, 2007

I mis-typed the day of the City Council’s Education Committee’s first meeting date in a post below. April 3 is the correct date, but it is TUESDAY, not Thursday.

By the way, you can probably keep tabs on this committee’s activities by signing up for Cliff’s e-newsletter at www.cliffwood06.com

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ESPEC’s first birthday

In the last days of March, 2006, the closing of Nathan Bishop was announced. Our Citizenspeak campaign, sending email to the School Board and City officials asking them to keep the school open, was launched on Friday, March 31, 2006. It was the first time we publicly identified ourselves as the East Side Public Education Coalition. So, I guess today is good as any other to say happy birthday to ESPEC.

(Here’s a link to a case study on that email campaign by Citizenspeak’s creator, Jo Lee)

It’s been an interesting year, to say the least. It’s been full of frustration, confusion, hope, joy, and lots of hard work by many people. Most important, I think, is the fantastic sense of community and commitment to public education that we’ve seen on the Greater East Side.

I doubt any of us thought at the beginning that it would wind up taking as long as it has, but we’re confident of reaching our primary goal of reopening Bishop, so it all seems worthwhile. Stick with us, because we’re going to get there.

I’d like to say thanks to my fellow steering committee members (see “who is ESPEC” in the header) and to the many, many others of you who have contributed in so many ways to our goal of keeping great public schools on the East Side. And here’s to our second year!

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Are you missing our email updates?

We sent out update #18 today and I’m getting “undeliverable” messages from some of the people on our email list. In some cases, this is probably caused by oversensitive spam filters. Please check your spambox and “whitelist” us. In other cases, the mailserver returns “unknown user”. This might be an email address that was copied down incorrectly from a signup sheet. Please email me if you’re not getting our mails.

Meanwhile, the update can be seen by clicking on the following link (more…)

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The new City Council Public Education Committee will hold its first meeting Thursday, Tuesday April 3rd at 6:00 p.m. at City Hall. Cliff Wood, the Ward 2 Councilperson (in whose ward Bishop sits) chairs the Committee. Mike Solomon is Vice-Chair. This Committee promises to be a strong forum for discussions about Providence public education.

The new Providence Educational Excellence Coalition (PEEC) has a press release saying they will be present to ” to voice its concerns regarding the restrictions the existing teacher’s contract places on Providence’s ability to attract, employ, retain, and support effective teachers”.

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We’ve just received the official notice about the upcoming meetings, as well as a Flyer (pdf file) that you might hand out or post in your daycare, coffee shop, or other community gathering place.

NOTICE : The Providence School District has several buildings in various stages of design/construction progress—Adelaide, Central, Hanley and Bishop.

In the case of Bishop, community involvement has been taking place over the course of the year. The next step in order to obtain approval from RIDE for the funding of the Nathan Bishop Project is to develop a site specific design that is acceptable to the community. In the instance of an existing building greater than 50 years old, the design also has to be submitted and approved by the RI Historical Preservation and Heritage Commission. To accomplish this, the City engaged an architectural design firm, Architecture Involution (ai-3.com) to facilitate this process and develop the requisite design documents. The aim is to meet a feasible timeline that reflects the Supt’s commitment to the community to re-open Bishop. This firm presented to the Bishop steering committee last week, and two community meetings have been scheduled for April 11th and 24th (see attached [flyer]) to discuss the options that exist–rebuild, renovate or hybrid. The firm will present examples of middle school design concepts for these three options to review with the community and obtain their thoughts and comments.

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Architectural Involutions, the firm hired to design the new Nathan Bishop, will present designs and explain their approach at a public meeting sponsored by the School Department:

Wednesday, April 11th
6:00pm
ML King Elementary School

This will be your chance to give opinions to the official decisionmakers about renovation vs. new construction, historical preservation, “green” construction, etc.

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Update: The East Side Monthly Editorial discussed here is now online here.

East Side Monthly has a curious editorial about Nathan Bishop in its April issue. The editorial makes some good points but it is ill-informed or misguided on others, and a response is in order.

The first point of the editorial is that, before tearing down Bishop to build a new school, we should think carefully about whether it would be better to renovate and preserve the structure. There is nothing to argue with here, as everyone agrees that we should carefully consider the costs and benefits- economic, aesthetic, cultural and educational- before we make this decision. Fortunately, the architects will soon be holding one or more public meetings where residents will have a chance to carefully consider and weigh in on these issues. We hope the ESM editorial staff will attend. Watch this space for announcements regarding dates.

The editorial’s point that we should be wary of new construction because many new buildings are downright ugly is also well-taken. Some modern schools look like, to quote School Board member Bert Crenca, prison architecture. At the same time, the designs of Architectural Innovations, the firm hired to design Bishop, should convince almost anyone that new schools can be lovely indeed.

The editorial then suggests that the DeJong Planning Group would profit if Bishop were torn down and rebuilt, and their recommendations are therefore self-interested. This is not really credible. First, the costs of tear-down and new construction are less than those of renovation. (I would have assumed that ESM would endorse one of these options but, as noted below, they don’t seem to see the need for having Bishop as a school). The critical point is that DeJong would not be directly involved in either course of action. DeJong was engaged to develop a plan for the city, which they have done, and been paid for. The work, if any, that is done to put that plan into effect will be done by others. At most, DeJong might be brought back after a few years to update the plan. They really have no financial interest in whether it is implemented.

Finally, the editorial suggests selling Bishop and the property on which it sits. It is hard to believe that anyone who has paid attention to the events of the last year would seriously put this forward. It is now clear that demand for good-quality public education on the east side is strong. The School Department recognizes this, as does the City. I would have hoped that an East Side media outlet would not be left so far behind the curve. Shuttering the only middle school in the area, and thereby eliminating 40% of the public school seats for K-8 is NOT in the best interest of the community. It is highly surprising that East Side Monthly would suggest doing so.

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