Cristobal Stewart

On waiver issue, let’s find a common-ground solution


Some concerned parents assert that the school waiver policy has led to overcrowding at North and South high schools (“Parents claim schools are overcrowded,” July 27-Aug. 2 issue). In the absence of quantitative data verifying this claim, I’ll leave the technical determination of whether or not a school building has met its functional capacity to our education experts — the superintendent and the Central High School District’s professional staff — although, I suspect it has not met that threshold.

I think it’s important to take issue with the broad claim that perceived overcrowding is the policy’s “unintended consequence,” and proof that it is failing. I believe the opposite is true: it is evidence that the Board of Education, through its policy-making function, has successfully created an intra-district school choice program that all parents use to select their school preferences. However, the policy’s impact has been arguably even more far-reaching than that. Indeed, many activists believe the school waiver policy has been a wonderful vehicle to promote racial, ethnic and religious diversity across the district’s schools and foster creative acculturation among differing groups within our community.

Board President William Stris should rightly view our school waiver policy as an opportunity to “balance” the rights of all parents, and not as an opening to do what is politically expedient. I suspect the answer to this so-called controversy may already exist within Board of Education policy. I also urge our school trustees, many of whom are searching for the right answer to this complex issue, not to hide behind a Citizens Advisory Committee tasked to endlessly study it, but to instead identify the common-ground solution in close consultation with the superintendent. The entire community deserves nothing less.

Cristobal Stewart is an 18-year member of the community, nine-year former Board of Education trustee of District 30 and the first man of color to serve as Board President for the Central High School District.