The fate of Bessie Rhodes school has been decided

Wating for the board's decision

Evanston/Skokie District 65 Board members surprised no one Monday night approving a staff recommendation that will see Bessie Rhodes become entirely dedicated to Spanish-English bilingual instruction.

The 7-0 vote in favor of the plan has many parents of Bessie Rhodes students fuming.


Lauren Grodnicki.

Lauren Grodnicki accused the board of rushing the plan through with no regard for the current school population. “The board showed a complete lack of consideration,” said Grodnicki, adding, “This is a train wreck of a board, we’re gone." Grodnicki says they plan to change school districts.

Mother of two second graders, Olga Boraski, said she was heartbroken by the decision. “My main concern is teacher retention, we love the teachers, they are amazing, and two teachers will be let go every year, where does that leave my children, why would we stay? "


Kuan and Donna Su

Kuan Su,  the father of two at Bessie Rhodes says the plan to keep Mandarin instruction is not enough to convince him and his wife to keep their children at the school. 

He worries morale at the school is about to plummet and teachers will scatter as soon as they can find a more secure job.“ We are greatly disappointed in the board.  If they have been working on this plan for four years, why did we just find out about it on Nov. 1?"  Su adds, " The board keeps saying they hear us, but they aren't listening." 


Fuschia Winston-Rodriguez

A number of residents, however, applauded the board's decision. Fuschia Winston-Rodriguez said, “Our community needs additional services, there’s a large number of people who want their kids in TWI as English speakers and a large amount of people who need their kids in TWI as Spanish speakers."

Jonathan Nieuwsma also spoke out in support of expanding TWI, saying it’s been a great opportunity for his children. 


Candance Chow.

Board member Candance Chow acknowledged the concerns of Bessie Rhodes parents but said,  “We need to expand the program and anyway we do that there’s going to be some disruption and discomfort and that's hard.”

She added, “As a board, we look at what we need to be doing for students as a whole, and we know there’s been an unmet need for our native Spanish speakers, but this program also provides amazing enrichment and biliteracy opportunities for all students.”

 
Suni Kartha.

Board President Suni Kartha said she hopes parents that are planning to pull their kids out of Bessie Rhodes in light of this decision give it some time. “Every family is going to make a decision that's right  their student, I just hope they make those decisions with full and complete information, and not just at an emotional level.” 

The plan will see two TWI kindergarten classes added to Bessie Rhodes this fall and two new strands added every year, with the end result being a school that is entirely made up of TWI classes.

Immersion will be complete by the year 2026/27. The first year cost is estimated at $85,000.

Topic: 

Comments

School Board Matters

One may agree or disagree with this decision, but the most obvious conclusion is that the "School Board Matters."

Run for the School Board, support a candidate, get informed and get involved.

A Matter of Fact

One must wonder what will be the fate of King Arts School. The scope of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was that the content of character is as important as education. The character of the school board has spoken without a doubt there is no question that the majority ruled. The respect shown by certain people who admired HIS dream for ALL people, near and far, had a qualified equitable right to a better life and education. The dream has not been forgotten but the scope has. For a student to become eligible would be determined by the luck of the draw. In other words THE LOTTERY. The Illinois Lottery was formulated and expected to fund education, did that happen? What would the long term 8 years look like on a prorated basis. Surely the Board has the figures and the taxpayers best interest to be informed as not to rush into judgement for a plan to meet expenses.

A Bessie Rhodes Parent's disappointment

Speaking on behalf of my wife and myself, as Bessie Rhodes parents of a kindergartner with a Pre-K student on the way, we are extremely disappointed in the School Board's approach to making this decision, and saddened by the decision that was made. Many concerned parents spent hours upon hours in the last 35 days preparing coherent, cogent, well-prepared arguments, alternatives, presentations, and inquiries, only to have them fall on deaf ears and be subjected to more pro-TWI rhetoric - when the counterargument against full TWI conversion at Bessie Rhodes was never against the TWI program in general nor the need to serve Spanish-speaking English Language Learners in District 65. ~30 days notice for a change of this magnitude was not nearly enough, and while every effort was made by the Board and district staff to give the impression that this was an inclusive process, the reality is that it was not. The aftermath of this shortsighted and pushed-through decision is that a wonderfully diverse, inclusive educational community will be in turmoil for 9 years as now-required massive staffing changes tear this community apart, a school that has already been plagued by repeated past interruptions that have not even had a chance to have those machinations fully implemented yet. Our child's INCREDIBLE Kindergarten teacher with 17 years experience at Bessie Rhodes will be displaced by next year, and our children would be asked to have two completely different educational experiences at this school, were we to stay. We will not subject our children to this continued distracting interference in the BR learning environment, and what is basically an unproven educational experiment that will take nearly a decade of large yearly staffing and culture disruptions before the school is even fully integrated with this new direction. We left Chicago and came to Evanston to give our children a better chance at a nurturing, supportive, safe, consistent educational journey. We fell in love with Bessie Rhodes in the eight months or so we were given to become a part of this incredibly diverse and supportive educational ecosystem. The D65 School Board has voted to tear apart that special community in a process that paid only lip service to actually working with parents, BR staff, and the greater Skokie/Evanston public to find an inclusive way forward that was best for all. If there is a positive to be found, Spanish-speaking English Language Learners and those English-first students and families who want to take part in the TWI program have two new options to do so. Sadly, this comes at the price of disrupting arguably the most diverse student population in the district, just as it equally disrupts the very faculty and staff who built a truly special educational family at Bessie Rhodes, that will now be in a state of wholesale restaffing and flux for most of the next decade. We will not be taking part in that experiment, and we wish the best for those who choose to.

The Fate of Bessie Rhodes

Add us to the list of infuriated parents that such a great school will no longer exist in this school district. We came to Bessie Rhodes to get away from the damaging effects the TWI program was having at our local school (Dawes). This progressive dream is more like a nightmare for most of the parents at this fine school, good luck to the district in retaining students. Not everything Progressive is progress.

Relief that finally there's a dedicated TWI school

My child attended BR for several years & I know that this school has struggled to find a clear identity for years. Ultimately, I think this identity will work fine - even though change is hard for anyone. This is a school that is not linked to the house you buy or place you rent - so changes to it do not force families living near the school to either accept the change or, if they don't like the change, feel compelled to move away or pay money for a private school. Relieved that the D65 board made a sensible decision.

For those of us who don't know

To help some of us understand, what busing is done in Evanston for K-6, 7-8 or 9, ETHS. I do see buses in the neighbor hoods but looks like not more than K-6.
If not done, was it found too expensive ? parents/children objected [commute time, did not like schools] ?
Can parents pick the schools they want even not magnet [other?].


Do you rely on Evanston Now for local news? Support independent journalism by becoming an Evanston Now member. Contribute monthly or just once.

Become a member