Town needs to learn more to respond to racial balance mandate

FI-Letter-to-the-EditorTo the Editor

Greenwich is on the horns of a dilemma. There are only two ways to solve the state mandate to racially balance our schools.

We can either convince enough parents with kids in the appropriate demographic groups to voluntarily switch schools in such a way that the resulting composition of the various student bodies conforms to state requirements, or we can redistrict so state-mandated balance is achieved by the involuntary transfer of students between schools. Doing this will create social chaos and have a significant and negative impact on the grand list and do nothing to improve education.

Take one seven-year-old from each school, bend down to explain to each why they must leave their current school, their neighborhood and their friends to get on a bus to another school. The only way they would go somewhat willingly is if their moms tell them it’s a good thing. But why would a mom say that?

Try explaining to the child this law is designed by ideologues to prevent Selma, Ala., circa 1955 from re-emerging in Greenwich in 2013. The law does not take children’s learning needs into consideration. Race is the only thing it considers.

We need is solid evidence and insight about what will motivate parents and kids to voluntarily switch schools. We need market research from extremely competent people through focus groups, surveys, one-on-one interviews and other techniques.

Bluntly, we need to know what will motivate a college-educated family in Riverside or Old Greenwich to send their kid to New Lebanon or Hamilton Avenue and what will cause a lower income Hispanic family to send their kid to Riverside or Old Greenwich. Let’s not forget that the first family spent an enormous amount of money to locate in the Riverside/Old Greenwich school attendance zone. The Hispanic family went to Byram, not because Realtors behaved in a discriminatory fashion, but because they feel more comfortable there both economically and culturally.

We can’t delay in getting the facts to help us all make the right decisions that best reflect the desires and interests of children, parents and our town.


Peter von Braun

The author is a member of the Greenwich Board of Education.

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