Top 10 Reasons For Keeping Cherokee School Open, and a Proposal For Growing It as a Magnet For Diversity, an "Anytown School"
Why keep Cherokee open? Why not let it be a center attracting others? A Top 10 List First: Much merit in Project Schoolhouse; the Tulsa Public Schools are not the enemy; economic situation developed because of the last few years budget cuts by the state legislature and Governor in Oklahoma City; without those cuts, with the actual increase in funding that should be done, we would be celebrating having small classes in big schools where the community could then use space too, instead of looking to punish those schools where enrollment is small by closing them. At a time of much loss and abandonment in our zipcode area, it is tempting to react out of a sense of scarcity, but our best ethic and highest value is to respond proactively in collaboration. Second, Why was Cherokee put on all three plans to be closed, since: 1.) Cherokee’s enrollment is more than some other schools who were not slated to be closed in all the plans, and its projected enrollment is more than Greeley’s projected enrollment which was projected to decline. 2.) its cost per student for building operation was lower than other schools that were not slated for closure, plus the age of the building is wrong on the data; the current buildings do not go back to 1920, that date was for the high school that TPS tore down already recently; instead the buildings date back to the mid or later 1930s, and have been upgraded. 3.) its proximity rate to other schools was also on average with others, better than some worse than others; it is farther away from the nearest other elementary schools compared to Greeley which is much closer to Houston. 4.) its academic performance was also in the average range compared with some other schools nearby 5.) it is one of the most ethnically balanced student populations, and we thought that was one of the goals for the district—see the proposal for building on this strength 6.) its number of students in its area who have transferred out to other schools rather than attending at Cherokee was a lower percentage than most other schools nearby, though it has low number of students transferring into the school compared with others nearby; we have questions about those schools data that shows high rates of both transfer in and transfer out; become a magnet for diversity here in this diverse community and attract others in. 7) It has been site of community support for ecological diversity science education, with the community planting community gardens and beautification and educational flower beds, many trees donated by community groups, and the recent receipt of a Mohammed Ali Peace Garden grant to build a peace garden in a school in an area of high vulnerability (what will happen if the school is closed to all these plantings beautifying the school for the students and community?); additional events have been held that were not mentioned in the data for community involvement: the grounds have been used for community BBQ events; there are many Partners in Education with Cherokee though none were listed on the charts, and other groups use it; we have had one of the longest during the summer feeding programs for the community children and youth; in fact when the summer lunch programs close at other nearby schools in the summer those children and youth come to Cherokee for the program because a community group here pays for and coordinates the free feeding program and doesn’t rely just on school staff to operate it so it can only be open when summer school is open; community information is distributed along with reading materials to all those who come during the summer feeding program; if the school closes, it will drastically affect the nutrition needs during the summer of our area children whom are already in families with high healthy food anxiety states, according to a recent survey in our area done by the University of Oklahoma Graduate Social Work Dept and the A Third Place Community Foundation, one of the school partners. Also scouting and other programs such as Principal for a Day involving community people have been held at the school that were not listed on the community support chart. The school does have a backpack program for food which wasnt listed on the chart. It is a title one school which wasnt listed on the chart. There is mentoring which wasnt listed on the chart. There is tutoring which wasnt listed on the chart. There is a daily clothing center at the school run by one of the community partners, which wasn't listed on the chart. There are Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts and a Fitness Program and a Basketball team as after school programs which werent listed on the chart. 8) it is a safer environment compared to some of the statistics for law enforcement calls in the communities surrounding other schools that were slated to be open. Important for attracting and keeping enrollment 9) Our families have difficulties with transportation and if students have to go to school further away it will be harder for the families to go to those schools for parental involvement and for emergencies if they do not have a car or reliable transportation 10.) Cherokee School represents a historic community, having been an independent school of its own before the 1938 merger with Tulsa Schools*, and is the keeper of the Turley Community historical artifacts and Turley High School display within the school and on the school grounds; students came to Cherokee from areas both inside and outside city limits; in fact before Greeley was built students in its area once were Cherokee school students. In fact, What legal documents are there that date back to the merger in 1938? Third, the Dangers: In a two mile radius of our area, there is a 40 percent abandonment rate for vacant homes, just residential not counting commercial buildings; we do not need to add another major building to those in our area that have been abandoned, particularly one of this size. We need to reward people for living in our area. Our area already has been damaged by the closure of the TPS Morris School and the land where it was being used as a dump by TPS which has attracted others to illegally dump there. Even if students do travel greater distances to attend other TPS schools, they will still be living in this area that has been further abandoned and this will affect their quality of life and hence education issues. It does take a village to raise a child, and you can't do that if the village is abandoned. Each Community Matters as Each Child Matters. Fourth, An Alternative Proposal: An "Anytown School" Magnet For Ethnic and Ecological Diversity 1. Students in higher grades are more able to adjust to travelling longer distances to schools, so focus grade shifting by eliminating the middle schools as in Proposal A; in our area close Gilcrease as a Middle School; McLain will have 7-12 grades; elementary schools will have PK-6. 2. If that doesn’t achieve enough enrollment capacity, consider adding to it in our area by: 3. Merge Greeley back within Cherokee boundaries as it once was, and by adding Grade 6 back this should help reach capacity at Cherokee-Greeley. 4. Create Cherokee/Greeley as an intentional curriculum “Anytown School” to borrow from the model of the Oklahoma Center For Community and Justice, as an Elementary Magnet for Diversity, ethnically and ecologically, capitalizing on the strengths of the school already with both diversity and also with the outdoor classrooms, Peace Garden, community gardens underway, all here in the 74126 zipcode that is the most fragile community in the larger area, with the lowest life expectancy and lowest income and fewest services. Combining the two areas again should increase the diversity. Such a magnet school is needed to prepare students both for the new economic world that exists multiculturally and with a “green jobs” focus we are creating in our area through McLain Initiative and the Vann Industrial Park in our school area across from where many of our students live. 5. Just as Rogers is becoming an "early college" school, Cherokee-Greeley would be an intentional "early high school" 6th grade focus to prepare students to make that cultural leap to 7th grade at McLain; if they don't make that leap right, attuned to the diversity issues they will face as adolescents in school, they will be more prone to drop out especially coming from vulnerable families. 6. This plan path should help build back the full ethnic balance at McLain it once enjoyed, a situation that will help build back the wider community as well; without such a path, the imbalance is likely to continue.
Posted by Ron at 8:11 PM