If you’re from Scranton and you’ve been on Facebook lately, chances are you’ve come across a lot of talk about the problems the Scranton School District is facing. As of this posting, there is likely a rally going on at West Scranton High, organized by the Facebook group Save West Scranton High School. Between that group and Scranton School District Community Advocacy, we are looking at two major forces in the city with clear desires and clear will.
The Scranton School Board has an informational meeting on Wednesday, March 21st at South Scranton Intermediate and will be discussing possible boundary changes (Note: Previously, I erroneously confused a series of committee, informational, and regular board meetings). These changes will send kids from McNicholas Plaza and Kennedy elementary schools to West rather than Scranton when they become freshmen. Educationally speaking, this is a very sound move.
Right now you’re looking at program and job cuts related to the fact that West Scranton is underpopulated while Scranton is overpopulated. Evening them out will mean that, rather than cutting an elective or an AP class at West because there are only 5 kids on it, and rather than kids at Scranton being packed into a classroom with 30 others, you’ll see parity between the two.
If you’re against program and job cuts, you should be in favor of these boundary changes.
If you want better class sizes for your kids, you should be in favor of these boundary changes.
Hell, it means simple things like shorter commute times for Minooka and South Side residents, since West High is closer, and it means traffic congestion at Scranton High will be relieved.
But directors don’t always think in these terms, so let’s talk about the politics of it.
Politically speaking, closing West Scranton High School or turning it into a junior high is a career-ender. Further, voting against boundary changes isn’t far from a political death sentence either, as it’ll be guaranteeing those aforementioned program cuts at West Scranton High School because of Scranton’s overcrowding and West’s under-utilization.
West Side is the largest contiguous voting bloc in the county. We turn out in higher numbers than the rest of the city (consistently at or above 50% vs the 25-30% you see in South Side precincts) and there are simply a lot more of us. As a neighborhood, we tend to vote as a bloc. If our school and our kids’ educations are on the chopping block, I’m relatively certain we wouldn’t really forget that.
I know I won’t, and while I’m outspoken, I’m not nearly so loud as most West Siders I know.
Remember nearly 15 years ago when the closure of West was a possibility? We put a whole slate of candidates on the school board simply on that one issue. If West Side sticks together, votes its own, and ignores the rest of the city, the city will be under-represented. By way of a simple example, I teach at Riverside, comprised of Moosic and Taylor. Moosic has about 300 more voters show up during each election. The Board is overwhelmingly stocked with people from Moosic (seven of nine, if my count is correct).
If the Board chooses to walk down a path that’s detrimental to West Scranton, I can almost guarantee it’ll be detrimental to their political careers.
But political consequence aside, saving West by keeping it open and changing the boundaries just makes policy sense.
I hope the Board does the right thing.