LEAVE IT to school board member Barbara Lett Simmons to respond to a difficult issue-- school closings--in an inflammatory way. When Superintendent Floretta D. McKenzie submitted a proposal for closing 12 schools, Mrs. Simmons was ready: "What's going on is very simple," she observed, in noting that there were no closings proposed in Ward 3. "The rights of people are being evaluated based on whether they fill out a long or short form on April 15."
That's very simple, all right, and quite a slur on the professional ability of Mrs. McKenzie, whose idea of what counts in the unhappy business of closing schools is actually a little more complicated: Mrs. McKenzie notes that the criteria included 1) the current enrollment at a school in relation to its capacity; 2) the age of the school building; 3) repairs and improvements needed; 4) whether it houses any community programs; and 5) whether it is near another school to which students could transfer.
Even if you don't accept all of these criteria, this approach does seem a bit more sound than meets the eye of Mrs. Simmons. Besides, if Mrs. Simmons is serious about a sock-it-to-all-wards-regardless approach to school closings, she might wonder why only one school in Ward 8 (and barely in the boundary) is proposed for closing.
Every public school parent in town knows how painful the closing of any neighborhood school can be, and that is why the closings become political as well as budget and education issues. And in this instance, there may well be a solid argument for reviewing and revising Mrs. McKenzie's proposals. But Mrs. Simmons has yet to make it.