Monday, March 30, 2009

"The closing of a school should be seen by any measure as a profound failure"

On Thursday, March 26th, Andrew Tonkovich, Modjeska Canyon resident and father of six-year-old Louis, addressed the OUSD board:

This board made a very poor decision two weeks ago, and we are back tonight to ask you to please reconsider. The closing of a school should be seen by any measure as a profound failure, in this case your failure. It is the absolute worst decision any board can make, notwithstanding one member’s assurance that the campus might somehow be reopened at a future time. The standard for judging your success as a group of elected decision makers is not in your ability, finally, to transport students on a bus or to sacrifice one one community toward presumably preserving another.

(Louis Tonkovich on March 5, 2009)

Our little elementary school is, we know, a singular campus in a singular community. We are indeed small and unique and remote and politically vulnerable. It seems that we are also the test-run decision for a worst-case scenario, perhaps as a way to see what the rest of the district will put up with by way of closing other schools. But so far we have been the singular worst case.

I know that your decision was for you individually a difficult one to make, but it was, finally, also just too easy. Close the smallest school, regardless of the actual savings, regardless of the effect on pedagogy, regardless of the impact on kids. Isolate and abandon and use as an object lesson the school with the fewest children.

(Silverado Elementary students, circa 1918)

I’m still not sure you understand the likely effect on our community, even though we have explained that the school is the thread that weaves our families and citizens together. In giving up on our school you are now helping to dismantle our community.

And that is also your failure, and your loss. Because you have in our Silverado group activist parents, community members, educators, environmental ed managers and administrators, potential donors and grant writers and business folk who asked you only to please, please give us a chance to work on something with you, to propose a way out --- who offered you a chance to not close a school.

(Silverado Elementary Students, circa 1930)

Our plan was --- is --- viable and real, a program for an environmental sciences education campus that could positively address not just the short-term difficult decision but build for a brighter future --- not only for the canyons but for the district.

We are still here, and still asking. We have not given up, and we have not given up on you. Please. We need your imprimatur, your sponsorship, we need one year to help all of us in the district --- not just Silverado Elementary --- be creative, risky, imaginative and brave. Closing a school is, finally, just not acceptable. I am confident that you know that too, and I hope that some among you will be brave enough to see that you have a chance, still, to revisit a mistake, to address a mistake, and to try harder. We pledge to do our part and you can know that the faith you will have won from not just our community but the entire district will be profound and long-lived.

(Silverado Elementary School, circa 1930)


Write those letters and emails! See the sidebar on the right for more information.



  1. I wish the trustees who voted to close the school would come to Silverado and announce their decision to the children face-to-face, take their questions and explain their reasoning. They need to see the real consequences of their actions.

    I wonder how many of the trsutees have actually visited our school.

    I wonder how many of them would send their own young children on a daily two-hour round-trip bus ride along the canyon road...

  2. Has the Superintendent visited?

  3. Has anyone checked out whether the school qualifies as some historical site designation since it has been serving the canyon at one site or another for over a century?

  4. Would the school district be liable for bus accidents?