Thank you for Sunday's editorial

Posted: Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Thank you for the March 9 editorial about student placement at Thunder Mountain High School. Thanks also to Rene Pisel Walker for her letter to the editor on this same issue.

I am a parent of two eighth graders, and two graduates of Juneau School District, and I am a Juneau graduate. I've been on various site councils for 10 years. I appreciate the Empire's editorial as I, too, question the unfair and inequitable fashion in which students are being placed at Thunder Mountain. If students are being given a choice of schools, then all students should have that choice, not just the ones who turned in cards, but everyone - including poor and minority students. The JSD reports that the 100-plus students they assigned to TMHS for not turning in choice cards were primarily poor and Alaska Native, apparently without the benefit of a phone call to elicit their choice as the school district promised it would do.

I am not against TMHS. I am supportive of it, in general, and of small learning communities and themed academies. In fact, I attended many meetings to institute small advisory groups at the high school to allow students a core group to connect to. I also respect the legitimate choice of traditional general studies. I cannot - and I am sure no one else can - ignore the dismal drop-out statistics in recent years. Moving toward themed academies and small learning communities is a step in the direction to get students connected to school and will be positive for every student. It benefits us all when every student has a good educational experience and graduates.

What I am against is inequity. I demand equity in education, and that means for everybody, not just the ones who turned in choice cards or who are the loudest among us. The current system of giving choice to some students but assigning others because it is convenient is not equitable and it must be changed. We must set up the high school enrollment system right - so that it is equitable today and tomorrow. I do not know what the solution is, but the issues must be explored and an equitable solution found. The school district has an equity committee newly formed this year. This issue is one that seems "perfect" for that committee.

Freda Westman

Dzantik'i Heeni site council member


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