Hi Kate, I'd be much obliged if you would post this on your blog.
My name is Lauren Smith and I am a vice president on the PTA of John Muir School and also a parent of a student there. In light of the comments that I've seen recently, here and on "Turn Around John Muir," I would like to say a few things.
First, I think it's unproductive and entitled to sit around on the internet and snipe about a school real children go to-- a school my child goes to, and a school that real parents are working at-- parents whose children actually go to the school. It's offensive and publicly devalues the work people are actually doing, and gives a false sense of superiority in what the internet complainers are doing to help. (Nothing.) Storming a school and attending a meeting in a place where you are unfamiliar is really the epitome of white (middle class) privilege. In fact, so is creating a blog to "turn around" a school you haven't spent any time at. Neither anonymously commenting nor storming the meeting were or will be productive or helpful for anyone at John Muir.
As a parent of a student at John Muir, I have concerns and critiques of the school and constructive criticism to offer the staff and administration. I actually spend time at this school, know teachers, students, fellow parents, administrators, and involved community members. My critiques are real. The critiques of those who drive by the playground, look at statistics on a website and judge the demographics and neighborhood of the school are not based in reality, they're based on reactionary attitudes and for some, in prejudice. I will continue to work to better John Muir from the inside, in what I truly hope is a non-patronizing, positive way. And if anyone else is interested in working to make John Muir better, they are more than welcome to register with SF School Volunteers and come to school and get to work.
I value the space that "the SF K Files" gives to parents and community members for discussion about schools and really appreciate the way that Kate has chosen to give space for discussion about John Muir without participating in the snark.
Folks who complain about things on the internet lose sight of the impact of their words. They're shielded by their homes and computer screens from the consequences those words inflict on others. Some staff and parents at John Muir feel like the school is under siege. The things that people have said on the internet have created an incredible amount of stress for many of the people who are working at John Muir. Some of the criticism directed at the school might actually be valid, but it is lost in the mire of disgusting classist comments and race baiting.
On "Turn Around John Muir" I see a lot of comments about the imbalance of ethnic groups at John Muir. First of all, The entire San Francisco Unified School District has a huge problem with racially segregated schools. This almost ALWAYS happens at the disadvantage of students of color. God forbid somebody's white kid should be the one who has to be different; God forbid your child should have to experience something that children of color have been experiencing in predominantly white schools for oh, well- ever. It smacks of white entitlement that people are actually demanding the SFUSD to increase the number of white students coming into John Muir next year. I'm sure if you make a bunch of demands on your blog, other people's blogs, and in emails to the school district that there will be BIG CHANGE following. It seems that whenever white people get all up in a tizzy about "demographics" the people that suffer well, they aren't white. So this line of "action" deeply concerns me.
I feel slightly ill about the fact that that I am afraid to write the above without adding that I am a white, working class parent, because I know that doing so will calm fears of "reverse racism" because of my white privilege and working class status.
I sincerely hope that the parents of incoming kindergarten students at John Muir this fall will be more respectful and humble than what I have seen on "the SF K Files" and "Turn Around John Muir." Otherwise we will end up with a lot of unproductive conflict in the coming school years.