What is the debate really about anyway?
Dear interested readers,
Mayfield Elementary School
My wife and I have children that attend Mayfield Elementary School .We have lived in [the] Mayfield School district since 1991. For those who been following the lack of progress at Mayfield this letter will contain very little new news. However, since there have become so many distractions of late concerning land purchase, location, funding, and even the continued existence of Mayfield altogether, I feel I have an obligation to make the entire public aware of documented facts about the chain of events that have led us to the dilemma we now find ourselves in. Our family has always been involved in Mayfield since our children began attending. We have been involved in fall festivals, PTO, room parents, chaperones, and improvement projects inside and outside of the physical structure of Mayfield as well.
-Mayfield Elementary School was constructed in 1929 and no one disagrees that it has become an unfit or unsafe environment for our children to learn or play. What does seem to be the disagreement is money and priorities. The money, politics, and power have taken our Cleveland City School Boards eye off of the ball. The "ball" being our children .They need a safe, friendly, and up to date place to learn and play. A new Mayfield School has been in the works for about ten years. A former neighbor of ours attended Mayfield when they were in great anticipation of a new building. She is a senior in High School this year.
During late 2000 and early 2001 there emerged an idea that Mayfield could be split up or merged with Arnold and Stuart Elementary Schools. On March 7th 2001 in the commons at Cleveland High School a public forum was held. With television cameras rolling, and newspaper reporters scrambling, parents from both schools as well as Mayfield parents displayed heated opposition to this resolution. The Board heard the public and agreed to have the necessary discussions to get the city councils nod of approval on a new Mayfield School.
On May 15, 2001 the headlines across the Cleveland Daily Banner read "Board Approves New Mayfield School." This decision came I might add with a motion, then a second, and a unanimous vote of approval. Site Committee Chairman Max Carroll said. "We have a good site committee and land available."
In August 2002 new members were elected to the Cleveland City School Board. This brought about a split that still exists because of frictions among board members. This dilemma must be settled by the voters since it seems an impasse from within. There were no new advancements toward the goal for an entire year because of the repeated accusations and insinuations toward one another and Dr. Rick Denning.
In August 2003 during a meeting at Stuart Elementary School the Cleveland City School Board approved $2.4 million dollars for the purpose of purchasing land for a new Mayfield School. The $ 2.4 million dollars came from a recent bond issue for the Bradley High School renovation.
On November 11, 2003 another public forum was held at Cleveland Middle School to address an emerging idea that Arnold Elementary School could become partners with Mayfield on the same campus with Arnold. The suggestion was made that this would be an advantage for Mayfield because it would be downtown and our children could walk to school. However, Mayfield's district runs from Church Street all the way to Stuart Road. Plus the children close enough to Arnold would have to cross Ocoee Street. It was also suggested that this proposal would allow Arnold to complete renovations like new windows, HVAC, a new cafeteria, and would "boost the Mainstreet program "and downtown Cleveland. This is the point the school board's focus became very blurry.
On November 12th, 2003 PTO President of Mayfield Lori Boring addressed the school board in attendance of many Mayfield supporters for fear the wishes of Mayfield was not being heard.
On March 2nd, 2004 Chairperson of the Board referred to some "unfinished business" concerning the evaluation of Dr. Denning. The referred to evaluation once again made the unbalanced board all the more noticeable. George Neren of the Tennessee School Board Association came to moderate and help address the sub-standard reviews in a public meeting. None of the poor reviews were addressed and once again much time was wasted. I would like to point out that all School Board Meeting minutes are public knowledge as well as any previous or present school system employees' record. These may be reviewed with prior notice to the city school central office. Also present for the first time was the Historic Neighborhood Association and expressed great anger over the lack of consideration the Arnold proposal was receiving. The Historic Neighborhood Association stated their interests were "preserving downtown Heritage." A suggestion was made, because Arnold campus cannot accommodate that many children, to construct a two or three story structure similar to Chattanooga or Atlanta areas have done. This was not received well on the basis that those areas did that type of construction because of no available properties. We have ten to fifteen sites which have been offered for consideration.
In March my family attended another board meeting at the central office where the site committee concerning Mayfield was on the agenda. We waited 2 ½ hours for it to come up on the agenda. When it came time for the report it was postponed until a later date. That later date happened to be in the middle of the day when most people have to work. It was later stated that the April meeting had no supporters of Mayfield present and it" didn't look good and showed very little interest from the Mayfield folks." I would like to know how many years of patience we must have for the school board to come through on what they voted to do years ago. And, I would like it if the board does cave in to political pressures and politics, they not use lack of interest or participation on Mayfield's part as their excuse. So I would summarize by stating that the Cleveland City School Board has not been able to accomplish an agreement about a location of our new school, has not been able to agree on whether there will be a new Mayfield School, and has not made any strides toward rezoning if that is even an issue, has not been able to produce even preliminary ideas, sketches, layouts, schematics of updated features in technology, and has not been able to agree on much of anything concerning Mayfield School. It seems it is about everyone else. And now the money voted on to purchase property may be used to refurbish Arnold. It seems with money in hand we have ideas coming out of the woodwork from the same ones who had no interest in, or wanted any involvement with Mayfield School in the recent past.
So, it would seem that the ten years of meetings, forums, debates, petitions, letters, and overwhelming support from Mayfield faculty, parents, and friends have fallen on deaf ears. It seems sad though that Arnold PTO doesn't want any of this merger or compressed campus idea any more than Mayfield but it seems politics over children and education once again. We are no closer than we were when the idea was born. And, truth be told we have only muddied the water with lots of things that don't even pertain to our children and their safety and education .Most parents and teachers at Arnold like their school just like it is. So, if neither school wants all these changes where are all these ideas coming from?
For all the obvious reasons and benefits a new building would provide our kids, it seems that this issue should not be an issue. It should be about bricks and mortar, children and learning, safety and accessibility. It scares me to think what our children listening to this debate would think was more important to us. Would it be historic preservation, downtown renovations, political muscle, property values, ratios and taxes, or would they think it was their interests we were holding so dear. Would they think it was their interests the school board was holding so dear. Or, do you think they would question people who made commitments to move forward on their behalf years ago, and are not willing to put all distractions aside and move toward the promises already committed to. Our children need to learn from us that if we don't stand for something, we will fall for anything.
Steve Morgan, Cleveland.