Thursday, March 6, 2008

Toquam School Pretty Much Dead

I have a couple of blogger friends whose kids go to school at Toquam Elementary. It's one of only four of Stamford's twenty schools that meets federal No Child Left Behind standards, yet it's the one school that Stamford chose to close to save money. Ya got me.

Toquam is a magnet school, which means kids apply for the program, and rather than going to their neighborhood school, they go to this magnet school. Magnet programs tend to be smaller, which is probably a factor in this magnet's success... and Stamford says the reason they're closing Toquam is because it's the smallest school. Yeah... that makes sense.

My friend Manager Mom wrote a post reacting to last night's meeting in which the board explained to Toquam parents how kids would be transitioned from Toquam into the new school being built down in the Cove. The Toquam parents I've heard from are more rational than you'd expect for people who aren't getting clear answers on what's happening and why. They seem OK with the school being closed as long as the focus is on what's best for kids and for all of Stamford schools.

However, the school board's plan does not address that focus at all, which to me completely ruins their credibility. Two problems:

1. The board has not addressed how this move relates to test scores. Does it matter that a successful school- one of only four in the entire district- is being dismantled? You don't have to be too smart to answer "yes" to that question, so why has the board not talked about it? It seems like they have no answers and no idea what they are doing.

2. The transition to the Cove school sounds messy. The Cove school is an environmental magnet, and kids will come not just from Stamford but from other area schools. The Toquam kids will still be part of the Toquam program, separate from the Cove program. Each year one Toquam grade will be phased out. So, after the current fifth graders move up to the middle school level, no new kindergarten grade will enter the Toquam program since their program is being phased out. Won't the Toquam kids feel isolated, not to mention the teachers, who will have very few colleagues in their program?

To me, it sounds like the school board is trying to slap together a solution to get people off its back. Why else would they come up with such a ridiculous, unrealistic transition plan? Unfortunately, it's going to be the Toquam kids and teachers who suffer through a crappy plan, and the Cove school that's going to have to figure out how to work two programs in one building.

The issue is complicated because it involves money, building resources, and all sorts of board members and finance committees and who knows what else. I wrote a long, informative post about this in January. My brain got so tired trying to understand all of the newspaper articles, but one of the main ideas I was left with after the research was Why would young couples, or anyone with young children, move to a city with a school system in total disarray and with no clear plan on how to improve? That's the one big thing that makes me think twice about buying a house here.

Visit the Toquam parents' site, Save Toquam, for more Advocate info. There's also a blog maintained by a parent that has articles and info.

4 comments:

David said...

actually that link is to a blog from one of our parents.

The full SaveToquam site is at
www.savetoquam.com

thanks for giving us your time and analysis. awareness is our strongest asset.

The latest options for toquam include a better, "non-isolated" transition at the EMS. This is the solution, other than keeping Toquam open, that the parents seem to be most open to.

Stamford Talk said...

Thank you for the website correction; I'll fix it right now!
I'm curious to hear more about the non-isolated option. Is there info on that online already, or can you put it up on the blog or website?

Anonymous said...

I find this whole situation extremely upsetting. Power and politics once again are getting in the way of a successful education program! I am a teacher in a different school district and the Board of Ed there messes with success all of the time. What ever happened to the "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" philosphy? Fix the broken parts! I am a home owner here in Stamford, and I probably won't send my son to our neighborhood school because I don't feel secure that he is going to receive a good education there.

Patty said...

Count me as another of your readers with children at Toquam. Thanks for continuing to highlight the issue.

The entire situation is maddening (not to mention sad). The board clearly intended to close Toquam all along. I am not quite certain why they have put the Toquam community as well as several other schools through the wringer all year when this decision was already a foregone conclusion.

Another perplexing aspect of this decision (aside from the school being one of two elementary schools in Stamford that is actually NOT FAILING) is that Toquam is the only school in Stamford that is socioeconomically balanced. The BoE is undertaking a tremendous initiative to redistrict the schools to achieve balance while also choosing to close the only school that meets their criteria.

Odd.

What is so valuable about the Toquam facility? How will the building be reused? Who benefits from this decision?

The BoE seems to have a strong bias against magnet education. Why?

I hope the Toquam parents are not the only voters who remember this ridiculous decision during the next BoE election.