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An Open Letter to the Geneva Board of Education

Enrollment bubble backlash.

To: The Board

From : Concerned parents district wide

Tonight the Board meets to discuss the "enrollment bubble" for kindergarteners within District 304.  Parents received a letter in June, detailing the Board's preliminary ideas for dealing  with this enrollment problem.

Several of the solutions the Board has put forth have left quite a bad taste in the mouths of parents across the district.  Moving children willy nilly across neighborhood and boundary lines to slap a short term band aid on a long term problem, or, to leave elementary aged children in classrooms with 26 or 27 students and one teacher seem the height of mismanagement and folly.  This problem has been discussed ad nauseum here on the Patch, but I will address a few of the primary pushbacks I have seen repeated here and elsewhere.

1.  Elementary school is an entirely different experience than it was 15, 20 or more years ago.  It is not a "milk and cookies" experience, nor is it a Romper Room style sing along.  In today's educational climate, children at this age are expected to reach further and higher at earlier ages in order to meet the almighty test score benchmark.  Schools receive their funding directly proportional to the results of these scores.  Leaving the debate aside for the moment - whether this is an acceptable way to educate our kids - the fact remains that this is the game we must play.  Children in District 304 learn to read and compute much, much earlier than their parents or grandparents did.  If we do not build these foundational skills appropriately in early grades, they will spend the rest of their school career catching up. 

2.  This cannot be done in a classroom with 26, 27 or more children.  This is not an opinion, this is a fact.  Studies have proven this. The plural of anecdote is not data, whether you heard of a school that was successful with this many children in a classroom makes them an anomaly, not a norm. 

3.  It is also disruptive to the educational experience to be removed from one school and bussed to another for a year in order to alleviate overcrowding.  More than half of educational success is grounded in "non tangible" aspects.  Many of these children you are proposing to bus have either attended school at their home school already, or have siblings who have and still do.  Nothing in life is guaranteed, certainly, but moving some children from some schools for one year is disruptive, counterproductive and does not solve your issue, only delays the inevitable.

4. The economy is not what it once was, and not what it was in 2007.  Taxes are high.  This is the price most of us are willing to pay to live here and educate our children.  First, because we are concerned with the education our children receive.  Many of us moved here to this district for this reason.  Second, because make no mistake, one reason that Geneva hasn't felt the economic downturn as strongly as neighboring communities is because the quality of education available here is appealing and continues to be appealing to homebuyers. Mess up the schools and this area becomes just one more river town or suburb trying to hold on.  Less homebuyers, more taxes for the rest of us. Our debt level does not get smaller with fewer people paying the bill. 

5.  I realize that the Board has been under fire in recent months from a vocal minority.  In this blogger's opinion, the fact that we are even discussing this plan at all speaks to the fact that the Board has been heavily intimidated.  It is the job of the Board to safeguard public funds, certainly, no one is suggesting that as we face economic uncertainty and debt that changes may not need to be made.  However, these changes cannot and should not be made willy nilly, nor should they be made on the backs of Geneva's schoolchildren.  In addition, I have not seen any documentation about how the bussing plan would even save any money versus hiring teachers and aides anyway.  One school (Fabyan) does not have any other enrollment problems other than first grade, to my knowledge.  Redrawing boundary lines (again) versus hiring an aide?  Why is this even a discussion?

The Board's primary and most important charge has been and will continue to be educating the children of district 304. Do not allow intimidation and panic thinking to sway you from your charge.  Allowing your policies to be swayed away from the best educational interests of the children sets a very dangerous precedent.  Do not give in. 

Remember.  Geneva 304: Tradition of Excellence...Forming the Future...By Putting Students First!

The meetings are tonight, July 7 and again Monday, July 23 at 7 p.m. at the Coultrap Building, 1113 Peyton St..

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Bob McQuillan July 13, 2012 at 02:56 AM
As far as the next election, yes I will support those candidates that promise to be independent thinkers, go through the budget looking for excessive spending and serve the best interests of the taxpayers. You can support whoever you want to support. As far as people checking out of the process, I believe just the opposite. My goal is to get 40% of the register voters to vote next Spring. That way we can be assured that a small minority doesn't not control the elected offices.
John R July 14, 2012 at 02:20 PM
Lou, Welcome to the Patch. Your response to me appears to be your very first post but you seem familiar. If you don't mind I'd like to touch on a few of your points. Just to be clear I've never tried to portray the TaxFacts group as a vocal minority. I actually applaud thier activism. It's not easy to get involved and to mix it up on issues of such importance. What type of support they have and numbers will reveal itself come the April 2013 School Board elections. I'm pretty sure they have developed a stong following and have a fairly extensive email list. I suspect that a lot of the Kane County Tea Party folks are sympathetic. The Illinois Policy Institute recently bestowed an Award on Mr. McQuillan so they have taken note of TaxFacts. Bruno Behrend is a senior fellow in education policy for the Heartland Institute and he spoke at the recent TaxFacts forum. TaxFacts are well organized, resourced and advised. They aren't just some yahoo or google group. Make no mistake the end game is to gain control of the School Board. Which is fine that's what community activism is all about. Getting people elected who will implement policy which you desire. I just don't support some of the ideas and tactics which I've seen and heard both at Board meetings and here on the Patch. We do have a property tax problem but in my opinion we're not going to solve it by stripping down this School District. You don't throw out the baby with the bath water. JR
John R July 14, 2012 at 03:00 PM
Lou (cont) It's a shame all this energy isn't focused on solving the funding. I think 88% of the district's funding comes from property taxes. The state currently owes Dist 304 something like fourteen million dollars. My numbers here might be off but the bottom line is the State ain't paying. If we really want to maintain a high caliber school district and stabilize our property tax bills then I feel like we should be focused on funding. Instead there is this push to fixate on the dist. We can probably never impact the budget, to a large enough extent, which would significantly reduce our property tax burden. Unless of course we make a lot of choices which would impact the quality of educaion which ultimately may take a tool on the quality of our community. You should go to some School Board meetings. These are good people on our Board. Very highly qualified. I beleive they are all registered Republicans. They are fiscal conservative budget hawks if you will. Talk to them after the meetings or ask questions during the comment sections. They are very accessable and open to idea's and input. I don't think Bob is evil and I don't think he is a bad person. I just don't like some of his behaviors and he and I probable have some fundamental differences. I'm sure he and I have many things in common. But the direction of the School Dist isn't one of them. Which is ok. It's easy to take over a school board it's hard to fix the funding. Rice
Noel G. Rooks July 14, 2012 at 06:12 PM
Thanks John.
Bob McQuillan July 14, 2012 at 07:15 PM
John I'm not sure where your $14 million dollar figure is coming from. The state has been paying their bills about 4-6 months late. The state does owe Geneva just under $20 million from a special building fund grant that was approved back in 2004. I believe it was for the middle school. The district has submitted another grant application for a second $20 million but it has not been approved. I spoke with both Chris Lauzen & Kay Hatcher about this outstanding grant money. Chris Lauzen followed up and the state, just this year, was paying approved grants from 2003-04. If there is money left in the grant program, Geneva is supposed to be paid this coming year (2013) the first $20 million. We will probably never see the second $20 million. I disagree that this board are "conservative budget hawks" because they have amassed over $40 million in reserves. They can prove they are budget hawks by not raising the tax levy for 2013. That will be decided by the end of September when they approve the 2012-13 school year budget. A hard salary freeze for teachers and changes in the transportation department would more than have a huge impact on the expenses of the district. Those are just two areas that would impact the budget. As far as my behavior, please try dealing with 7 people that won't listen to logic. They have known for almost 4 years that the real estate market was going to cause major problems with property taxes. They refused to listen until just the last year.

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