Monday, July 23, 2007

Conversation Recap for July 22, 2007

Today’s topic is delayed a week. Next week, environmental justice.

We began discussing the developing plans for the Fall Festival. The theme is Social Justice, and so far planning has covered the following topics.

• October 13, a Saturday, in the afternoon
• a name still in the works
• a mission statement (important for soliciting money)
• structure: a 3-4 hour event that keeps audience attention, keep it focused.

The plan is to have both music and art, booths, dancing and food. One discussion topic has been whether the program will be sufficiently representative of communities around Tacoma.

• located here at Evergreen (discussions have been started with Dr. Young). this has several advantages, including right size, sound system, location location.
• Money is, of course, a topic. How to organize (go for 501(3)c?), the costs of the site, and fundraising topics have been discussed. We discussed issues that arise over using another organization’s 501(3)c status.

The UPS student group, Students for a Democratic Society, has been working with the planning group, and has offered help and resources.

Conversation members are invited to make contributions to any of the above topics. This is not just about bands and music. The objective is to have an event that pursues the Conversation’s mission. We desire the event to be transformational for people who attend.

We also discussed the possibility of supporting existing scholarships as part of the funding structure of the events.

Dalton told us about the National Exchange Club, which has a national project for the prevention of child abuse. It is a topic that is often difficult to discuss, people have different views on what constitutes child abuse. But in light of recent events in Tacoma, it is clearly is something we can be discussing. See their website at

Today we heard Steve Philbrook's story.

In the subsequent discussion we marveled at the twists lives take—the question, Why do people do the work they do and live where they do?, is always interesting. We also talked about the commitment underlying long-term relationships.

We discussed the current selection process for an interim Superintendent of Tacoma Schools, and for a permanent replacement. The Conversation may want to go on record to encourage taking a core mission keeping kids in school. A couple of people mentioned the retention rate for 9th graders at Foss High School (half of them not completing high school). We know who we are losing. There are tensions for the district. If more of the kids we are losing stay in school, WASL scores will drop. The incentives are perverse.

As several Conversation members noted, there is a distinct lack of public outrage about this. It is not apparently a big issue for the school board.

As recent hearings before a Senate subcommittee on education pointed out, the school problems we have hear are national in scope, and are a piece of the picture of inequality in the USA. Communities with few jobs for kids, deteriorating tax bases for cities, and so on, are part of a national crisis seldom noted in our politics and media. We should not be simple about this—the many pieces of the puzzle will include grassroots efforts, parental responsibility, more focused school district policies, and also shifts in national politics. The complexity of the problem is a reason why we should be attentive to the small steps possible to work on what is going on right here. After-school programs are part of it, for example.

Some Conversation members resisted the notion of framing the problem as complex. It might come down to inequality of wealth.

There are policies followed by our school district that produce identifiable outcomes. We can see the consequences of refusing to confront class divisions and racism. One way of taking a small step is to continue asking the school district administration for data about what is actually happening. For example, what about those ninth graders? What are the demographics of the ninth graders who do not graduate from high school? What are the demographics of students in various programs?

The Mimms Academy is working on supporting kids to stay in school, See their website at