From dandelions to the budget, St. Paul parents and teachers voiced their suggestions and concerns at the Hubbs Literacy Center during the February 12 St. Paul Public Schools (SPPS) Listening Session.
With 30-35 parents and teachers in attendance, four SPPS Board of Education members were there only to listen and not to make decisions. The board members did not have a set agenda; instead they gave community members the opportunity to ask questions.
“This is a participatory democracy,” said treasurer of the SPPS Board of Education Tom Goldstein. Other board members present included John Brodrick, Anne Carroll and Keith Hardy.
Community members asked many questions, and some offered ideas to save money. One attendee asked why schools are spending so much money on dangerous pesticides just to kill dandelions. Other issues brought up were four-day weeks, school safety, early childhood education, and of course, the “hot topic,” as Hardy called it, the budget.
Carroll said one of the problems with the budget is related to the fact that enrollment in the schools are declining. Carroll joked that parents of child bearing age should have more kids.
Carroll said the board is not scheduled to approve the budget until June 16. She also said legally the board must approve it by the end of June. Carroll said the budget also depends on the stimulus package and the legislative session, and decisions about which programs wll be cut are not final at this point.
One parent who attended the meeting is unsure that she will be going to the next Listening Session. “I would suggest that maybe… break it up into elementary [and] secondary schools,” Bo Vue, who has two young children, said. “Have the meetings more specialized, so that I don’t have to hear about issues related to high school.”
Dalia Baez, a parent of a child in high school, said she came to the meeting to learn more about the budget, but also to show support, and she is definitely coming to the next meeting, “to let [the board] know that as a parent that I’m here to help them.” She said she “definitely” thought her voice was heard. “I love seeing the parents here because it shows me that this community is not falling,” said Baez.
Casey Merkwan is a journalism student at the University of Minnesota and an intern at the Twin Cities Daily Planet.