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..