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Eating Crow: negative feedback can be good

I have gotten some feedback regarding my recent "I would be furious"post from someone I respect, very negative feedback. Amy Hall, operator of the Stafford Growing Pains FB page, an exceptionally knowledgable woman who knows a whole lot more about the issues Stafford faces than I, gave me a good dressing down in response to the post. Reading it made me feel like a 5 year old caught with her hand in the cookie jar, an uncomfortable feeling to say the least.

If Amy were a troll, I would ignore it but she is not. Her response, and some words from the SB, have made me realize that I need to eat a bit of crow. No better way to do that than in front of the entire internet! After all, I am not running for office, I have nothing to lose and a whole lot more to gain by being an individual who can own up to being wrong.

Before we get started, I will say 1) I stand behind all the numbers I crunched in that article 2) I believe that when undertaking a redistricting initiative like this, it is only natural to assume that relief for the students will be felt in the short term as well as the long term. I assume that many parents feel this way and I still feel like if this affected me, I would be angry. 3) I never intended to come across as some sort of expert, in fact, I enlisted Amy's help during this process so that I could get up to speed. I am no expert, I am just a mom and housewife who decided to get involved for the benefit of her community. That is the only reason I got involved and I certainly still hope that, in aggregate, I have done that.

To be clear, I am NOT picking apart Amy's comments, I just want to respond to them point by point. She is more right than wrong here so please don't feel I need defending. Alrighty, let's get to the fun part (for you, not so much for me) and see what Amy said about my post.

Amy: "I'm disappointed that you've chosen to take on the role of provocateur. Your blog has been helpful to disseminate vital information and encourage citizens to engage their government. However, I feel that this post is inflammatory, lacks facts, and misrepresents the work of the School Board. "

Me: Amy really lays into me here. I never intended to be a provocateur, any one who knows me knows how much I hate drama. I am truly sorry that I have given anyone this impression or worse, if my post did just that and provoked negativity that was directed at our beleaguered public officials. Amy:" From the first work session on November 29 the SB has set forth the goal of achieving their capacity goals in 2020-21."

Me: In all of my research, I do not believe that this was truly well communicated, that 4 years from now was the only important metric. As I said above, redistricting should be undertaken to relieve long-term AND short-term issues, in my opinion.

Amy: "Beginning the redistricting now allowed the SB to offer the grandfathering option. Intermediate relief was a goal but not the primary goal. Having learned from the challenges/mistakes of previous redistricting efforts the SB utilized a new method of engaging all willing citizens in the process. Look back at the recommendations that came out of the CFHS public meeting. You'll see that the two options presented last night are extremely similar to the input provided at the meeting. "

Me: Here is the link to the spreadsheet to which Amy refers and there is no denying, she is right. While I heard a lot of complaints about the SB ignoring the recommendations of the community meeting, it appears that those individuals were only responding to the inclusion of certain neighborhoods in certain options. Let's look at the spreadsheet:

I apologize for the tiny print but all highlighted numbers in pink reflect 1) APU's that are included in the current options on the top and 2) the percentage of individuals who believed those APU's should be moved, all of which represent over 70 percent agreement. The only APU's not selected in this high percentage group that are included are APU 124 to MV and APU 187, also to MV and the tiny portion of APU 163 that is in the current options headed to North. It looks like the people at the community meeting really did the heavy lifting for the SB. Amy is 100% right and the SB DID, ultimately, listen to the the suggestions from the community meeting. They just took a very convoluted path in getting there. I have said in previous posts that I support more community involvement rather than having options crafted by hand-selected individuals behind closed doors. I should have caught this much earlier but I was not at this meeting. Since I was not affected I was not even made aware that it was happening and only learned of it in retrospect.

Amy: If you've attended the Board members' district meetings one thing you've heard almost unanimously is that people wanted a sibling option. They got it! People insisted that SB members give greater consideration to people who already live here over those who haven't even moved here yet. They got that, too!

Me: I have attended the meetings, I did hear that people wanted these things and I have no problem with either item. The SB was absolutely correct in doing both, although the sibling policy potentially creates more short-term problems for Forge that should not be glossed over.

Amy: And, the citizens spoke with a loud voice to the SB and the BoS that HS #6 must be prioritized. The SB has been incredibly responsive to the "will of the people."

Me: Ok, well, yes, when everyone was "threatened" with their child being removed from their districted school, the response was overwhelmingly "Just build another high school, duh." My concern here is that HS6 has been discussed for over a decade now. SB member Scott Hirons, who may have revised his previous opinion, even expressed to me that I continue running the blog to help insure that HS6 actually does happen. Now that most people are no longer "in danger" there is a huge potential for apathy on the part of the community and that other priorities could take over yet again. I am not explicitly stating that will happen but we all have to be honest and admit it is a possibility.

Amy: And when the critics complain that only the opinions of the Colonial Forge parents were considered, remember that every single meeting was publicized County-wide and open to residents of any and all districts. Me: While I agree that people should have known, I also understand that people did not. I will argue that the January 26th meeting was NOT heavily publicized and not open to all districts. Augustine North apparently had no idea they might genuinely be affected and had a meeting to address it 2 days before the SB work session/meeting. I submit that there is a communication issue here, it is not ok to just say it was in the paper and that they should have just known. I plan on addressing this communication issue in another post

Amy: Further, your assertions about immediate relief are hypocritical. In your "Do Nothing" post on Feb. 19 you called the situation a "non-emergency." You called the overcrowding caused by doing nothing a "surmountable" challenge. Now you're castigating the SB for not providing relief next year. Their actions not only provide relief to CFHS next year, they meter the influx of students to the new schools so that no school is faced with overwhelming impacts.

Me: I take exception with the hypocritical statement. I recommended the Do-Nothing option as simply that, an option that should be considered. I believe that if 1) the community as a whole, and I sure got a lot of feedback in this regard, feels that this has been rushed and that they are somehow being man-handled by their elected officials, then delaying the decision for the next school year is appropriate. 2) in options A and B, relief is minimal for next year. The extra 31 students over capacity that Forge certainly seems surmountable in the short term, if the SB could not find a solution that works long term and requires no further redistricting until HS6, is built, if and when that happens.

Amy: Your derision of the SB is unflattering to you and unfair to them.

Me: Referring to the options as garbage was a step too far, as was calling the move "chickening out." I know better than to name call. No excuses but it was very late and I was pretty angry. I will never post after midnight again, lesson learned. I do owe the SB members an apology for that, it minimizes all of their hard work, is unproductive at best and damaging at worst. Amy: And finally, you missed the vote last night to preemptively redistricts the Winding Creek development to NSHS. Again, a response to citizen input.

Me: I did have to go after a very long day, Amy nailed me here. I am glad the SB made this decision. There you have it, in all it's glory. I have no problem apologizing for not being my best self here and for making a couple of mistakes. I appreciate Amy's, and anyone's, feedback. I am not perfect and do not purport to be so. I just hope that I still have the respect and trust of my community. I would like to continue to serve in this capacity as Stafford still has a lot of big issues to address.