Will it work?

FI-EditorialAfter months upon months of talking, Greenwich finally has a racial balance plan. But whether or not anything will actually change because of it is very much unknown.

The Board of Education approved the plan on Tuesday, sending it to the state for a response. While no one knows yet what Connecticut’s Magic 8 Ball has in store for Greenwich, it doesn’t seem likely that the state is going to come looking for a fight. For all those so convinced a year ago that a fight of epic proportions between Hartford and Greenwich was looming, that was never going to happen. It was never in Hartford’s interest to go after the town, especially when calm discussion was bound to be more productive than hysterics, and Greenwich hauling Hartford to court would have been expensive and poorly conceived, to say the least.

Does this plan have a chance to succeed? No one can brush their hands together and say “That’s that” and then walk away.

It’s easy to look at the ideas of improving the magnet programs at both New Lebanon and Hamilton Avenue schools and wonder what is different about this approach vs. the one that forced the state to take action. After all, the previous attempts to fix racial imbalance by installing magnet programs in schools didn’t move the needle much, and this plan just seems like the old one albeit with a bit of booster put into the fuel.

That’s not necessarily a bad idea. There’s no conclusive proof that the magnet approach failed. It was the execution that was poorly handled. You can’t just go to a school, tap a wand and go “Voila! You are a magnet now!” while expecting the problem to be solved. Parents had no incentive to go to New Lebanon or Hamilton Avenue from outside the district because previous boards and adminstrations gave them none.

So let’s make it work this time. Let’s expand the space at New Lebanon. Let’s not break any more promises to Hamilton Avenue parents. Greenwich owes it to these schools and these communities not to leave these kids behind.

This overtly contentious process has fortunately cooled down once the hysterics over busing and schools of choice died down. A lot of people did not distinguished themselves as they suddenly became experts in constitutional law and the “not in my backyard” mentality came up in certain communities. Now is the time for all of that to be left in the past.

There is a plan in place and the district must ensure the plan works. The state is not meant to be an opponent. You can argue the merits of racial balance mandates all you want. But the die has been cast and it’s in everyone’s interest to focus on its success.

The state and Greenwich must be partners in success, and that goes beyond just test scores. It goes toward making sure each and every student in this town gets the very best education no matter if they’re at New Lebanon or Riverside. That is how Greenwich thrives.

Today at Greenwich High School a graduating class of students from every area of town will throw their caps in the air in celebration. They came from all the elementary schools to form one huge class. But the public schools didn’t do enough for them and for the classes that followed because of issues starting at the early levels. That must change and it can starting now.

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