Monday, May 17, 2010

Early Morning, Big Day

After a wonderful weekend at Wisconsin Dells with our friends the Winklers, it's back to the grind. I'm up MUCH earlier than usual this morning preparing for a big day. (By "MUCH earlier," I'm talking several hours here, people. I've been sitting at this computer since 4:45 a.m. -- and I don't usually roll out of bed until at least 7:30, when Christian -- dressed, fed and brushed -- literally stands at the head of the bed and says, "Mom! Time to get up!")

But I needed no responsible 10-year-old or even alarm clock today. This afternoon, I have the rare opportunity to sit down with Rochester public schools' superintendent, Dr. Romain Dallemand -- a meeting I've been thinking about all night.

Nearly two weeks ago, I wrote a Jen's World column about the state of Rochester public schools, and my concerns about the massive budget cuts we've undergone over the past two years. For me, the biggest single detriment of the cuts (which have reached $15 million) revolves around class sizes. Thirty kids in a second-grade classroom is too much, and my own sons are feeling the crunch. But many of my readers expressed other concerns about Rochester Public Schools, from teacher tenure to unfair pay raises for upper-level administrators.

Frankly, whenever two or more parents get together anymore -- at a playground, a garage sale, the grocery store -- talk turns to the schools. And it's not usually very pretty. Parents are frustrated. And Dr. Dallemand has taken a lot of the blame.

Dr. Dallemand has his detractors -- and many of them. To this point, I have not been one of them. I believe in his plan to educate ALL the children of Rochester, and bridge the "opportunity gap" in our education. And I have long been a staunch supporter of Rochester public schools. But as I stated in my column, it's getting harder.

I have the opportunity to ask Dr. Dallemand some difficult questions today. And I don't want to mess it up.

So tell me, what would YOU ask your school superintendent if you had the opportunity? And what do you think I shouldn't leave out?


  1. Honestly, I would ask how he's going to lower class sizes. Like you, I'm so concerned about this. And I think, smaller class sizes would go further than fancy programs in helping close the achievement gap. I hope all went well with this meeting Jen.

  2. Catherine, you can bet I asked him that. And I was surprised by his answer: Class sizes are not the problem. A stellar teacher can teach a class of 25 as effectively as a class of 15.