Guest Opinion | Adrienne Ann Mullen: Diversity Matters, Choice Matters

Published : Wednesday, October 9, 2019 | 12:43 PM

I am an educator, I am an advocate for student success, and my most important role is that I am a mother. I am the parent of four children who have attended PUSD schools since 2001. My children have survived two rounds of school closures, the first in 2005 with the closure of Linda Vista after students were moved to Audubon for a year. My youngest child was at Burbank Elementary when it was closed in 2011. Now, here I am again, with my daughter at Marshall Fundamental School.

It is baffling that Marshall Fundamental is even on the list. I find it unsettling that a subcommittee is making recommendations on school closures that appear to be based on the principle of closing schools with higher enrollments to help those with lower enrollments, without regard for the level of parental choice. Further, since everyone, including the committee members, have inherent bias which leads them to target someone else’s schools, their recommendations are inherently biased against certain schools. To avoid this bias which everyone has, the primary criterion the board has used for several rounds of closures has been simply low enrollment.

The criterion of low enrollment was used in 2005, 2010, and again in 2018. To date (2019) with the closure of Jefferson, Franklin, and Roosevelt, low enrollment was the primary driver. I have read the rhetoric and the claims that Marshall is a school of wealthy white privilege; yet, when reviewing the California Department of Education data for 2018-19, this claim is not supported by evidence. In fact, Marshall is the most diverse secondary school in PUSD. It serves socioeconomically disadvantaged students, Latino students, students with disabilities, and a significant number of African American students, homeless youth, and foster youth. If the thought that disbanding Marshall would somehow create more equity, this mere action would accomplish the opposite. Doing anything to Marshall affects more students in traditionally at-risk subgroups than any other school.

Marshall is a school of choice as is all of PUSD; parents can make an academic choice that best fits their child. The notion that the subcommittee is basing its rationale (a school of choice can be recommended for closure with the thought that students and programs will disperse to the other three high schools and build stronger programs) is not based on PUSD migration patterns. The migration pattern of parents and students is that Marshall is their first choice. Just because you move a program to a new school site, the synergy that made that program a success does not move – the foundation that held its strength is now fractured. The practice of choice will continue and families will continue to make the best choice for their child, which means the students that chose Marshall will not necessarily return to their home school of Muir, PHS, or Blair.

I have read many opinions on what schools should close. I have heard that the other three high schools have specialized programs and Marshall does not have a specialized program (Academies, Dual-Language Immersion, IB, Early College). Marshall has a specialized educational program that has been built thoughtfully over time with a foundation of structure, strategic sequence, student success, and diversity of educational choice. An educational program is defined by the strength of students, staff, faculty, and administration. Do not underrate the strength of Marshall’s educational program, built on access and equity.

We know as a district that the benefits of diversity matter. The Kahlenberg Report (2018) prepared for the Pasadena Educational Foundation and shared with the Board of Education in January 2018 outlines the benefits of “diversity makes us smarter.” Researcher Eugene Garcia shared that each student comes to school with their experiences, culture, and language; the benefit of each comes when students are in diverse educational environments that allow them to share their experiences and learn from each other. The actual demographics of Marshall provides the benefit of diversity created by school choice. Until now, the thought that a school that has excelled across the board would be on the list for school closure is incomprehensible. I understand the necessity to balance a district budget; however, to balance it on the backs of achieving schools is a formula to further push families away from PUSD and exacerbate the enrollment decline. Simply, diversity matters, choice matters. PUSD Proud, Marshall Strong!

Adrienne Ann Mullen is the PUSD Parent of a Marshall Student and PHS student and a former Pasadena Board of Education Member

 

 

 

 

 

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