During the Fourth of July weekend, makeshift signs have appeared on the temporary construction fence surrounding the Waldo Rohnert campus. One of these signs shown on a Facebook post read: “American Dream Live By A High School?”
Cotati-Rohnert Park Unified School District Trustee Tim Nonn, having read this and subsequent posts, decided to find out first hand how neighbors felt about the elementary school being transformed into a campus for Technology High School. A career organizer in the United States and in third world countries, Nonn knew that this issue needed to be taken to the people.
He spent the final days of the holiday weekend walking the neighborhood, knocking on doors and talking to residents about their concerns. He worried that he might not be received in a friendly way but, instead, found a very welcoming neighborhood.
Nonn reported, “Today, I walked the neighborhood around the new Tech High campus to listen to people’s concerns. I was amazed to hear that there is an overwhelming sense of welcoming the students among the neighbors close to our new high school campus.” Nonn was amazed because he learned that some unknown person had been putting up signs on the construction fence expressing negativity about locating Tech High at Waldo.
Nonn learned that the sign shown on Facebook was not the only one. “After talking to neighbors around the school, it appears there is only one man putting up the signs. The rest of the neighborhood is very supportive of the students.”
Nonn said that he walked for several hours and talked with dozens of neighbors. He found that “there was 100 percent support for the students. He spoke with a broad cross-section of people of all ages and different backgrounds. He said, “Some expressed concerns about traffic and other issues, but they told me they will wait and see what happens. They promised to contact me if there are any problems.”
One thing resoundingly expressed by most of these neighbors was the school district’s failure two years ago to notify residents that it was going to make this extreme change. No one found out about this decision, not even some board members including Nonn, until after the district made the decision. Nonn believes that the lesson here is to hold community meetings before such large decisions are made.
Nonn also worries about the Tech High community, including the staff and the students. He wants them to be assured that they are going to be welcomed by the neighborhood. He appreciates the community’s support of our schools. “I am very grateful that we live in a wonderful community that recognizes the importance of schools and supports our students.”
The neighbors have many questions such as: “Will there be a fence around the school? “What will the traffic look like?” “How will the parking lot behind my backyard have an impact on my family and me?”
Everyone seemed to understand that having Tech High students attending a school in the neighborhood was a very good thing.
Some people continue to complain that the former superintendent could have moved Tech High to the Richard Crane campus, left Waldo as an elementary school and saved millions of dollars. Nonn wants to deal with what is in front of him; he knows that the past cannot be changed. He would rather learn from past mistakes rather than focus on why they should not have been made.
Nonn said, “The neighbors living around the Waldo campus where Tech High will soon be housed taught me an important lesson. Our neighborhoods are an important part of our schools. We need to improve communications between our neighbors and the district by listening. I think that Trustee Chrissa Gillies’ idea of holding town hall meetings when we are making important decisions like building a new school should be seriously considered by the board and the superintendent.”
Nonn’s walk through the neighborhood dispelled many concerns registered on the Facebook post. The man who has posted the negative signs should show as much courage and compassion and assert his views directly. The Waldo Rohnert neighborhood, as it has been these past five decades, is friendly and welcoming to the students of our community.