Wednesday, April 16, 2014
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

Address inequalities in schools

As a parent of two children who were educated in the Davis school district, I am concerned about the information that was presented to the school board regarding the Montessori and neighborhood programs at Birch Lane. Two people, a parent and a teacher, spoke before the board to point out a disparity in the demographics between the two programs.

There is a higher percentage of special-needs children in the neighborhood program versus the Montessori program. There are three times the number of special education students in the neighborhood program versus Montessori, three times the number of ethnic students, and three times the number of low-income students. It seems, in fact, that higher needs learners are poorly represented in the Montessori program.

Teacher Michael Monticello pointed out that this was a disservice to the children at the school. I think he is right. But now he is being characterized as a troublemaker who has attacked the teachers and the program. He has been labeled as a bigot and a racist for stating that a predominantly white student population in a program is de facto segregation, that separate is not equal.

Is this attack an attempt to draw attention away from the troubling numbers? Shouldn’t we be concerned that the numbers are not the same? Does the Montessori program have difficulty recruiting children of color, English language learners, the difficult learners? Are the students in this program “cherry picked” for placement? Surely, entry is open to all.

Every program should be able to accommodate higher-needs children as well as mainstream children. If this is an elitist program does it have a place in the Davis public schools? What are the statistics for other special programs in the district? Do all of the children in the district, regardless of their situation, have equal access to these programs?

To “shoot the messenger” as some have been doing is a poor substitute for taking action to correct an inequity. An area of great concern regarding the education of the children in our district has been pointed out to the community. We should act together to identify the scope of the problem and then correct it, not assault the people who point out the facts. I would like to praise them.

Annie Rosenthal
Davis

Letters to the Editor

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Discussion | 5 comments

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  • Matthew QuintonApril 10, 2013 - 9:18 am

    These are all great questions. I'm sure MPAC would gladly answer them or the school district. There seems to be one sided conversation going on in The Enterprise. I think it is best to stop and talk in person and get to the root of the issue. Our students are all part of ONE school. I don't want to see our school community ruined by this.

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  • Cindy PickettApril 10, 2013 - 9:19 am

    Dear Annie - I agree that "shooting the messenger" is not a constructive or helpful way to begin a dialogue about imbalances between the neighborhood and special programs within the school district. However, I did listen to Mr. Monticello's comments to the School Board, and I can see how his words could have been misinterpreted. What it sounded like Mr. Monticello was saying was that the Montessori program is better *because* there are fewer Hispanics, English-language learners, and low-income students. In other words, he came across to some as saying "Whiter, richer = better." After talking with neighborhood parents and learning more about the situation, I realized that this was not the message that was meant to be conveyed. And it is unfortunate that this misunderstanding derailed what I do think is a very important conversation. As one of the few African-American parents in the Montessori program, I am very sensitive to the issue of de facto segregation. I, and other Montessori parents, have been racking our brains trying to come up with solutions to the demographic imbalances that exist. We've discussed improving outreach efforts and ways to solve the mobility issue. We've talked about ways to change the misperception that Montessori is an elite or exclusive program. We want action and solutions too! Best, Cindy Pickett

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  • wdf1April 10, 2013 - 2:17 pm

    "But now he is being characterized as a troublemaker who has attacked the teachers and the program. He has been labeled as a bigot and a racist for stating that a predominantly white student population in a program is de facto segregation, that separate is not equal." I remember watching those comments on Davis Media Access. The public comments seemed to be politely given and received. I think I have seen all the of the letters to the editor on the topic, and it all seemed to be civil. When and by whom was Mr. Monticello characterized as racist, bigot, and troublemaker? Those are serious accusations for anyone to make in this context.

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  • Tara DielApril 10, 2013 - 9:38 pm

    To wdf1: There was commentary made on a letter to the editor from March 21 about this issue. In her commentary, a Montessori parent called the teacher and parent who spoke "bigots" and claimed that this "sentiment is shared by more than one Birch Lane teacher." Need I say that that accusation was simply ridiculous? The Enterprise had the good sense to see that this comment was abusive and to remove the comment within 24 hours. This was a shameful act by one of the few Montessori parents who have behaved very badly in response to the DJUSD provided demographic data showing inequities. Thank you to those parents from both programs who have had calm and reasonable discussions on this issue. I do believe that we can do better for our kids.

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  • Michelle MilletApril 11, 2013 - 9:46 am

    wdf1: In a letter to the editor entitled "Whose made this choice anyway" the author claims that "the argument over choice programs has unveiled bigotry in this town". The author questions the use of the phrase "white flight" and the labeling of children as "problematic" based solely on the their ethnicity and socially economic status. In the comment section I said that comments made by a parent and teacher at school board meeting reflected a type of bigotry. It was a PERSONAL reaction to these statements that I was expressing, and in NO WAY reflects the feelings of other Montessori Parents and certainty not it's teachers. It disheartens me that my personal reflections are being used as weapon to discredit and malign these parents, and teachers, a lot of whom were also upset by my remarks. I hope this clarifies at least one issue, and that it helps put an end to the unfair and unjustified remarks being leveled against innocent Montessori parents and teachers.

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