Monday, May 23, 2011

"Our eyes are on you." [Testimony at tonight's Board of Ed meeting]

My name is David Kaplan and I am here tonight to ask you to table your vote on the selection of an Architect and Master Planner for a new middle school in the BCC Cluster. I would also like for you to re-open the site selection process. I hope you will honor my request to demonstrate that you believe that your constituents should have a voice – a chance for input – in the major decisions that affect our communities and children. Our eyes are on you. Since April 28, when with four hours notice you made a major change and declared that Rock Creek Hills Park would be the site of a middle school, you have made our community feel invisible.

We have so many stakeholders who want you to see us – to hear our voice. Our community includes the residents of Rock Creek Hills, the elderly who live in Kensington Park, and environmentalists. Our community includes the “early morning exercise group”, the sports teams that use the park every day after school, the soccer teams that utilize the two regulation size soccer fields from morning to night each weekend, the hockey players, and those who use the park to meet friends and to walk. It includes the “soccer moms”…who bring their families and friends to the park, who use the playground, the pavilion and the picnic tables. Our community is pro-education.

Our community includes the 350 friends of Rock Creek Hills Park facebook page, those who follow our blog (5000 reads over two weeks), those who believe in transparency and accountability. What do we all have in common?

The sense that we are invisible to you, that for some reason we do not deserve a voice in the middle school site selection.

Let me say that we appreciate the vote of Board Member Durso, the one board member who understood that residents deserve a voice. And we appreciate the 3 brave MCPS staff members who faced a community meeting of over 300 community members who met last week to try to understand what happened to us and our park. The lack of any board member attendance at the meeting just added to the general sense that we are invisible to you.

So I ask that you look at us – all of us– and let us know that we count – that we deserve a voice. That the process whereby a site selection committee included numerous representatives from Chevy Chase but none from Kensington or Silver Spring is, at its heart, flawed and non-representative. That most of the sites you looked at were not even viable. I was amazed to learn that there was no consideration of the impact on the senior citizens living in the assisted living facility that is co-located with the park. That there was no investigation performed on the limitations associated with use of federal Land and Water Conservation Funds prior to moving forward, no preliminary environmental and infrastructure assessment, nor a quick cut assessment of the challenges posed by nearly 1/3 of the site being significantly sloped and populated by 100+ year old trees that cannot be removed.

After tonight, after raising all these points, I have one question: Are we still invisible to you? Please show your constituents that we are not. Please postpone selection of the Architect/Master Planner this evening AND re-open the entire process. It is the right and democratic thing to do.

Thank you.

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