But in the Old Adobe Union School District, where Bernard Eldredge and Old Adobe elementary schools have been designated as the candidates for possible closure beginning next school year due to a projected $1.7 million deficit, a generally respectful spirit seems to prevail.
"Both schools have lots of wonderful, unique things about them: There is not one better than the other, said Michelle Novotny, the mother of two students at Bernard Eldredge, at the Old Adobe school board meeting on March 11. "I am sure that there are a long list of amazing things going on at Old Adobe. I imagine the parents at Old Adobe are just as sick (about this) as we are at Bernard Eldredge."
"I think that the meeting really opened up some nice dialogue in the community for the future of our school district," said Superintendent Diane Zimmerman. "It wasn't an easy dialogue: It was a tough dialogue that raised questions about what Old Adobe, as a district, should be."
Old Adobe school board meeting
Dozens of parents, teachers, staff members and community leaders conveyed their feelings about a school closure at the meeting, and rather than directly elevating the virtues of one school over the other, they almost invariably lauded one (or both) of the schools, and emphasized the importance of keeping it open.
Many Old Adobe Elementary School supporters praised it as a caring, nurturing, diverse environment with many successful students.
"It's the yummiest school out there. It's loving, and so special," said Kathie Shinnick, the parent of an Old Adobe student.
Bernard Eldredge supporters raved about its new Spanish-English Dual Immersion program, as well as the school's diversity, family atmosphere, central location and proximity to the Lucchesi Park Clubhouse of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Marin and Southern Sonoma Counties.
"Bernard Eldredge is a place where a child's imagination can flourish, a place where my children have friends not just like them, but from other cultures and backgrounds," Novotny said.
Given the strong emotional attachment people have to the schools, more of a confrontational attitude toward board members might have been expected, but generally, a good deal of empathy for their dilemma was conveyed at the meeting.
"I think that it's fair to say that we work really hard to build a strong community, and that people here generally understand that it's the financial problems that we're facing have been caused by the state, not by us," Zimmerman said.