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January 27, 2008

On Madison Boundary Changes

Dear Board,

As the opening of a new school is coming close, I was surprised to some extent that the plans were changed with such a short amount of time left before the new year.

So...........I dug up my West Side Long Term Planning Binder and reviewed all the data presented to us, as a member of that committee, and remembered the HOURS we spent debating and reviewing the pros and cons of each plan. I believe this is a very hard process and I am sad it is being altered at this late date.

I think one thing many of us felt on the Long Range Planning Committee was even with the new school and addition to Leopold we did not devise a Long Term Plan. My #1 suggestion to the board would be to revisit the plan of "making the map look better" and balancing the income levels but TO MAKE IT A LONG TERM plan and say in 6 years this is what we are going to do. (and stick to it) I think when you spring it on families that in a few months Johnny has to switch schools, we parents are too invested and comfortable with the school and protest the change. But if a 6 Year Plan was in place with some options to start at the new school, grandfather for a couple of years the protest would be great but families would have lots of time to accept the change and deal with it. It would also be a LONG TERM PLAN.

As far as the new plans I have to LAUGH at the school pairing idea. This was the number one presentation from Mary and the administration. They clearly loved the idea of pairing and attempted to pair Chavez/Leopold, Crestwood and Stephens, Crestwood/Falk, Chavez/Lincoln, Thoreau/Lincoln...................
Each time the committee shot it down. We did not, from a community few point find it appealing. Notice of the 12 or so plans we came up with not one pairing survived. I know it is more convenient for downtown and their numbers but let me tell you our thoughts at the time.

  1. Pairing two schools has worked for Marquette/Lapham and Franklin/Randall primarily because they are similar in their make-up of families and because they are neighborhood schools (0 bus). While Stephens and Crestwood are similar in make-up they happen to be two of the most "bused" schools in the district. Crestwood is at 7 buses and Stephens I believe has 8 or so. That means if Johnny is in 1st grade and Sally is in fifth, they could both take two buses to and from school, or there will have to be two different buses come pick up these two siblings. Either way it is different than the Johnny walk to school and then takes a bus to the "other" school, and it seems like it would increase the transportation cost. But at least these schools are close in proximity.

  2. Pairing will reduce parental participation. At the middle school (as PTO president) I find people feel it takes a year to learn the ropes, and many do not want to get involved because the investment of time is so reduced. 6 years at Crestwood getting to know a principal, staff, etc is different than 3 at Crestwood and 3 at Stephens. We also use the older students for reading buddies, snow suit helpers, etc.... I love having my kids at one school not 2 and since I have more than two kids 3. Three principals, 3 rules, 3 different PTO's, 3 different places to drive. I currently have this situation (high school, jr. high, elementary) and it's not fun.

  3. Pairing schools to solve the high low income numbers did not work at Midvale/Lincoln. It was an interesting experiment but in 1991 Lincoln had a low income of 51% and in 2005 they were at 69% combined currently it is 64%, and Midvale in 1991 was 42% and 2005 it was at 64%. I know many claim this was for odd reasons but the pairing of Falk/Crestwood to solve the low income I predict would have the same impact and we would loss families as we did in Midvale. These schools are too different. Falk has 0 or one bus. Most families walk to school. You would then bus them to school. Crestwood families would again have to take two buses I suppose to get to Falk. Also as with the problem of moving low income families to a school far away, you cause this same transportation problems. These kids may not be able to get to school if they miss the bus, etc due to parental lack of transportation. Pairing two school so far from each other makes little sense too me for this reason.

  4. Pairing two school such as Falk/Crestwood from two different Middle School boundaries also creates problems with where they go after elementary. Do you separate kids that go to elementary together?
    I hope the district is prepared to lend Jefferson an enormous amount of resources if the pair go to Jefferson. Since Crestwood and Stephens will increase their high needs students from Allied, the Wexford community already attends Jefferson and then add many high needs from Falk, I expect Jefferson would require greater resources. If you send them to Toki, my children who currently walk to school would take a bus to school.
These were just a view of the complaints, concerns I can remember, or I took from my notes. I know NONE of these issues are simple. To be frank moving high income families to a low income schools creates problems and can cause the district to lose families. Moving low income to high income schools causes problems with transportation for those kids and families. Once families are invested in a school far away or close they tend to like that school best, which speaks volumes to the individual schools and their staff and principals. I felt the original plan had the best balance of moving families to fill schools and balance some of the stress at Falk. For whatever reason that was changed. But to me the plan to move Spring Harbor to Crestwood makes the most sense and then do a 6 YEAR plan to address the low income needs and take that $90,000 to bus kids to and from Falk and put it into extra staff support where it is needed at Falk. We can't solve the changing demographics overnight. I truly understand the difficultly involved in changing boundaries and do not take your job lightly, but as an enormous amount of hours were spent on this issue by many members of the community I felt you should also not take our input too lightly.

Thanks for your attention,
Mary Kay Battaglia
mom at Crestwood, Jefferson, and Memorial (3 schools is too much!!!)

Posted by Mary Battaglia at January 27, 2008 6:09 PM
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