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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.

DJP July 11, 2012 at 04:06 AM
Whew! This was a lot to digest -- its conversations like these that give us aka the taxpayers of Geneva a migraine. I could barely get past the first paragraph i.e "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." Please get me a bucket so that I can toss "my cookies" at this condescending comment. How is it that the greatest generation (my grandfather's generation) who built this country, its infrastructure, it's manufacturing base, dug us out of the great depression, built damns, fought back fascism, nazism, & managed to do this with an average 8th grade education? So please spare us your theatrics. Education has not changed, aside from the technology however, it is quite evident the whining and complaining continue. This country is no longer a leader in the world and you cannot tell us that it's because you NEED more money! With all the funding that comes from local, county, state taxes including the federal level it is insulting that we spend on average 14K per student & still cannot get this right! In the private sector this is how we do it: We identify the problem, and solve it. END OF STORY!
Noel G. Rooks July 11, 2012 at 04:28 AM
This is, of course, the same private sector who gave us the financial meltdown of 08? Education has most certainly changed from Greatest Generation days, as you point out yourself, much of the world has changed, as we no longer have that manufacturing base to which you refer. Naziism, the Great Depression, fascism, all certainly beaten back, more or less. That and a lot of rhetoric and non sequiturs gets you a cup of overpriced coffee. The fact that those who lived through those times (which also include *my grandparents) only had an average eighth grade education is largely irrelevant- post hoc ergo propter hoc - to the current discussion, as this article was written as a reply based on what had already been said by others at board meetings and in Patch discussion. In other words, the comments which nauseate you are more or less indirect quotes from someone else. In addition, it's an ad hominem problem. Don't agree with me? Certainly fine to do so. However, we were generally having a respectful and enlightening discussion. The plural of anecdote is not data. What can you add to the discussion that solves the problem?
GBS July 11, 2012 at 04:41 AM
Noel, your verbosity is a poor camouflage for your lack of critical thinking skills.
Noel G. Rooks July 11, 2012 at 04:58 AM
Ad hominem. What's your solution?
GBS July 11, 2012 at 05:18 AM
"post hoc ergo propter hoc" "ad hominem"? Seriously, Noel, you write like an undergrad who has just completed "Philosophy 102 - Intro to logic". Brevity,man, brevity. I can't wade through your verbiage to even find your point!~
Noel G. Rooks July 11, 2012 at 05:46 AM
Well, first off, I'm female. Second, my point is thus - pointing out that our grandparent's generation fended off Nazis with 8th grade educations bears little to no relevance to what we're discussing. Thirdly, exposure to a little intro philosophy sprinkled around here can't possibly hurt. And as you point out, any second year undergrad should be able to recognize and define ad hominem arguments - belittling or attacking one's opponent in order to attempt to invalidate their claim or argument. Speak to the discussion, not the person. So, GBS, what's your plan?
John R July 11, 2012 at 11:57 AM
LOL Lamont! My wife and I were just talking about that the other day. It seems that responding to articles on the patch and developing Taxfacts is his primary focus. I'd like to post more often but man I just don't have the time. JR
GBS July 11, 2012 at 12:37 PM
"Post hoc ergo propter hoc" means "after the fact, therefore because of the fact." An example would be, if I replaced the headlamp on my car, and now the car doesn't start and I now (wrongly, of course) attribute the new headlight to causing the problem.
Noel G. Rooks July 11, 2012 at 02:39 PM
Yes. It is also used in the "cargo cult" sense. Wiki: "The term "cargo cult" has been used metaphorically to describe an attempt to recreate successful outcomes by replicating circumstances associated with those outcomes, although those circumstances are either unrelated to the causes of outcomes or insufficient to produce them by themselves. In the former case, this is an instance of the post hoc ergo propter hoc logical fallacy". Greatest Generation people were successful with an 8th grade education per R Barna. Was it their 8th grade education that made them successful? No, I would say that their success is related to other factors. In other words, if we attempt to put the same set of circumstances from GG days (8th grade education) to now, we would not get the same result.
GBS July 11, 2012 at 02:56 PM
Actually, Noel, if we're going to stay in the Philosophy 102 vein, what you have constructed is known as a "straw man argument". I don't think anyone is advocating terminating public education at the 8th grade level.
Noel G. Rooks July 11, 2012 at 03:23 PM
Directly quoting from R Barna: "How is it that the greatest generation (my grandfather's generation) who built this country, its infrastructure, it's manufacturing base, dug us out of the great depression, built damns, fought back fascism, nazism, & managed to do this with an average 8th grade education?" I am simply responding to the original premise, that GG was able to do all these things with an 8th grade education and that per R Barna, education has not changed since that time. So again. GBS, what is your solution to the problem?
GBS July 11, 2012 at 03:35 PM
State the problem clearly and I will be happy to offer my opinion regarding the best solution.
Noel G. Rooks July 11, 2012 at 04:10 PM
In other words, you would prefer to argue pointlessly than address the issue?
GBS July 11, 2012 at 04:56 PM
Are you not capable of clearly stating the problem?
Bob McQuillan July 12, 2012 at 02:15 AM
I sent one of my "bosses" your comment and here's his response I would tell Cranston you have my blessing and that he should mind his own business and stick to the subject. Brian John Rice My primary focus is for current residents of Geneva to be able to afford to continue living in their homes. If you have a problem with that then don't read my postings.
Kyle July 12, 2012 at 05:28 AM
Bob, I've never met you - but I truly appreciate the hours you put in to stay abreast of the data. I'd like to continue living here in Geneva and I believe without someone watching the henhouse (too bad local journalism is all but dead) I will be taxed out of my home in the next 5-7 years. I'm proud of Geneva schools. Families in this community place a high value on education and that's terrific. This board, however, scares they daylights out of me. Thanks again for doing the heavy lifting.
Kyle July 12, 2012 at 05:52 AM
Oh brother - when your kindergartners are in college (it will happen) and tuition is due at the same time as your whopping property tax bill, you'll realize what a trivial, inconsequential matter it was that you were worried about 26 kids in his kindergarten class.
Ad Hoc July 12, 2012 at 07:15 PM
Noel, Please keep trying to defend your "post hoc ergo propter hoc" verbiage! You are adding so much credibility to your original article. I think you need to use some more big words though.
John R July 12, 2012 at 07:41 PM
Noel, Thank you for taking the time and energy to write your open letter to the School Board. I echo your sentiments and the points you have made here on the patch. I am one of the concerned parents. Of course a group of unfamiliar anonymous posters are diligently working at attacking and tearing down you efforts. That seems to be their tactic. But your opinion is valid and your thoughts concise. Thank you, John Rice
John R July 12, 2012 at 08:07 PM
Bob, I can't help to read your post as you flood the patch with post after post after post after post etc.......on just about every topic. I'm willing to bet that if Rick pulled the numbers on posters that you have by far out posted all registered users. And that's including Jeff Ward. You've sort of ruined "the patch" experiance for me as it's clear you've taken a personal interest in me. Which frankly freaks me out a bit. But it has been effective in that my willingness to share and to express myself has been somewhat curtailed. JR
Ginger July 12, 2012 at 08:14 PM
Noel, if you want to become informed about the issues you write about - spend some time here: http://www.hks.harvard.edu/pepg/research.htm, the Harvard Program for Education Policy and Governance. Some of the 'facts' that you quote are actually not based on good research. It is not a foregone conclusion by any means that classroom size reduction results in higher levels of student achievement.
Bob McQuillan July 12, 2012 at 08:37 PM
John The only interest I have is in educating the taxpayers about how their taxes are developed and how they are spent. I have no personal interest in you at all so you can rest easy. I'm going to continue to do what I do because the majority of taxpayers are finally starting to listen. You might be able to print money to pay your taxes but most of us can't.
John R July 12, 2012 at 10:04 PM
That's a relief. Then I will reiterate an idea that I posted earlier that all the folks that lobbied the board, for the additional sections, should step up and support this Board. They have been under seige now for at least the last two years. They have know stuck their necks out and the least we can do is to have their backs. The TaxFacts end game is to gain control of the School Board. It's no secret that they will have canidates ready to run April, 2013. If they are successful, which is a very real possibility, then it's very likely that the "Mcquillan Plan" will be implemented. This plan calls for a five percent budget reduction for three consecutive years. That's eleven MILLION dollars. In my opinion this 5 5 5 plan could do serious damage, not only to Dist 304, but to our community as a whole. People move and start families in Geneva because of Dist 304. If this school district is torn apart by draconian cuts then it may very well take years to recover. The tsunami that they predicted did not materilize. Yes some families taxes went up and yes some went down. Just ask some of the serial posters what happend to their taxes. If they don't say then google them and look it up on the Kane County Assessors web site. I do applaud TaxFacts for their organization and tactics. It isn't pretty but how they have gone after the board and posters is effective. They actually may run unopposed in April as folks have checked out. Rice
Lou July 12, 2012 at 10:49 PM
John,it seems a lot of people - yourself included- are trying to portray Taxfacts as a small minority of loudmouths with evil Bob McQuillan rubbing his hands together waiting to control the school district. I gotta tell you - I give Taxfacts a lot of credit. I'm not on the mailing list, never met Bob, have never even gone to a school board meeting (shame on me, I know) but I do understand some basic accounting and I know that our high levels of debt are structured in such a way that we are all looking at bigtime tax increases just to maintain what we've already built - never mind adding staff. I also didn't realize the board's primary responsibility was to oversee the responsible use of our tax dollars. I always assumed they were teacher advocates, not taxpayer advocates (silly me). So thanks to Taxfacts, I understand the magnitude of the problem we face. When election time comes around - it's going to be very important to me to vote for someone with a plan to right our financial house. The irony of it, John, is that the actions of the board going back to the enrollmentgate scandal, have taken money AWAY from teachers and instructional programs. If you have young kids in the district - I'd think you'd appreciate somebody investigating where all the money is going, and advocating RESPONSIBLE use of the tax revenue.
Bob McQuillan July 13, 2012 at 02:54 AM
It is people like you that crack me up. You want to put the fear of god into everyone and you have no clue where or what could be cut. The 5-5-5 plan is the only reduction plan that ANYONE has proposed. I was clear in saying I don't know if the 5's are the right numbers but i do know that expenses, across the board must be cut in order to just pay for the increased debt. Look at the proposed education budget that was presented to the finance committee on Monday night. It calls for a 1.5% increase in the tax levy for next year. Yet the total expenses are projected to be flat. Revenues will increase $3 million dollars because of the 1.5% levy increase. That $3 million will go to the reserves which already have $18 million dollars. Here is a better plan - NO TAX LEVY in 2013 and spend down the reserves if need be. This gives the taxpayers a break because even without a levy increase everyone's taxes will increase because the debt repayment will increase. As to my personal taxes - yes they did decrease last year because I understand how the appeal process works and I filed an appeal. My land value was reduced because an increase was not justifiable. I don't mind paying my fair share of taxes but I refuse to pay more than is right.
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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