D65 Board to weigh capacity proposals at 3 schools

The Evanston/Skokie District 65 School Board will continue tonight to deal with over-capacity issues at some of its schools as a result of the rejection by voters in March of a proposal to fund construction of a new elementary school in the 5th Ward.

Tonight, the Board agenda includes a discussion of space management at Lincolnwood Elementary and Havens and Nichols middle schools.
The administration is proposing the addition of two classrooms at Lincolnwood by moving an emotionally disabled (ED) class from Lincolnwood to Kingsley and by converting an existing office/conference space to a classroom.
At Haven Middle School, the proposal  is to add a four-classroom addition, convert an existing space or move drama to the auditorium, create a secure entrance, and expand the cafeteria.
At Nichols Middle School, a six-classroom addition is proposed, plus an expansion of the cafeteria, creation of a secure entrance, and renovation of the library.
The improvements at these three schools would cost an estimated $26 million through the 2016-2017 school year, which would use up practically all of the district’s funding capacity, according to administration projections.

 

Comments

Where's the love for Lincolnwood?

Lincolnwood parents are up in arms and dozens are expected to attend and speak at tonight's school board meeting.
For too long D65 leaders have ignored the large class sizes at Lincolnwood combined with the district's emotionally disabled (ED) students who enter the overcrowded mainstream classes. Too many parents have seen their kids come home upset, crying and complaining about the unruly undisciplined classrooms.
Each year, parents complained and each year administrators and some board members ignored them. All of the board members have been flooded with emails in the past two weeks. Every parent I talked to said only three (Budde, Quattrocki and Rykus) bothered to even respond.
In the past few years D65 spent $7.2 million for two additions at Dewey, a $4.2 million addition for Willard and a whopping $8 million last fall for Lincoln that includes an art studio and a music studio. And school administrators simply want to transfer the E.D. program to Kinglsey and maybe build a two-class addition at a cost of $845,000?
Meanwhile, Oakton enjoys an average class size of 14-15 students and Walker has extra classroom space but there's no consideration of putting the E.D. program there. Why is that?
Lincolnwood parents who have third graders know that in the last four years that grade had one-three students below the cap. Those kids did not get the optimium and deserved education during those four years.
Parents of fourth graders got angry when they heard there was a proposal to eliminate one of three fifth grade classes this September. Parents of kindergarteners have been upset this year because of discipline problems and one of the teachers had some of the E.D. students but no aide (the same thing happened in last year's kindergarten class).
It is said that the Lincolnwood PTA consistently raises more money than other district PTAs. Interestingly, one of the Lincolnwood PTA presidents at an awards luncheon two weeks ago announced that her kids will no longer attend Lincolnwood.
Things are bad at Lincolnwood. They're bad simply because of failed leadership. Now the parents are angry enough to take action. The solution is multi-purposed - free up classroom space this year, add a fourth class for incoming fourth graders and approve a multi-million addition. Anything less is not addressing the problem.
There is also another issue - inclusion. It is not working at Lincolnwood and probably in other schools as well. The inclusion program is something most school districts don't do, probably for good reason. D65 has JEH, Park and Rice to house the special needs kids.
It's about time D65 starts looking out for all students.
It's time for new leadership.
 

I was totally with you

I was totally with you in all of your comments until the end.  I'm shocked in reading your thoughts regarding inclusion. 
Yes, inclusion is not working well at Lincolnwood, but that is not b/c it shouldn't be happening.  When classrooms don't have enough staff/resources and are too large, nothing will work well.
The self contained programs that the district offers are there to meet the needs of those students who's needs can not be met in the mainstream classroom, not to make things better for other students.  Students with special needs are also part of our student population.
There are definitely significant problems going on at Lincolnwood, and they need to be addressed, but Im saddened that the experiences people are having at Lincolnwood are such that it would push a parent to make such comments about such vulnerable students.
I hope that as a community, we can come together to try to get change in our school so that we are working with each other rather than against.

ED program and inclusion

As the Director of Evanston Citizens for Appropriate Special Education (CASE) I am saddened by the attitude that kids with disabilities cause problems that negatively impact the education of other kids.
This is not the fault of the children with special needs. This is an issue of staffing and resources -- decisions that are made by the Administration. We are an inclusive community.
Our schools need to work to develop compassion for kids who have emotional problems, to advocate for out teachers so they get the resources and support they need, and ensure that all children are welcome and valued in our schools.
On a personal note, I am offended by your comment that  "D65 has JEH, Park and Rice to house the special needs kids."  What?  I am at a loss for words.

Lincolnwood ED Program

Cari
I appreciate all of your hard work for CASE.  I agree that the issues we all face in the schools are issues related to staffing and resources. However, I, as do many others at Lincolnwood take extreme offense to the comments you made and continue to make about Lincolnwood not being a welcoming community towards children with special needs.  It seemed your remarks at the board meeting were in response to an online posting that was from ONE anonymous person claiming to be a Lincolnwood parent.  When does the comment of one person suddenly become the feelings of an entire community?  I am not sure who made that posting, but I am sure that those comments in NO way reflect our community as a whole.  Making blanket statements and generalizations like this are offensive and unproductive.
I am a parent of a current third and fifth grader and former 3 year PTA President.  I’ve been active in seeking a solution for overcrowding at Lincolnwood for years. When the initial conversations with the current third grade parents began regarding the overcrowding for our particular grade we discussed the spatial capacity of Lincolnwood from many angles; was there going to be four kindergarten classes next year? Was there going to be three 5th grade classes next year? What were the administration space needs of our building? What were the space needs for the ED program?  We spent time assessing the needs of Lincolnwood to see how we could get some much needed relief for students and teachers that were in difficult classes with 26-27 kids and have been for the last four years.  The idea of moving the ED program was NEVER a consideration. At the end of our meetings we agreed that we were going to request and additional classroom from the district and would even welcome a mobile classroom for our grade.   We submitted a letter to the school board and Dr. Murphy with this request.  Lincolnwood parents never suggested that the ED program leave our school, we only asked the district to provide adequate space needs for our needs.
The District 65 May 21st School Board meeting packet of materials, agenda, recommendations, proposals etc. were not written by the Lincolnwood parents.  The Lincolnwood parents were not involved in writing, making solutions and specifically and most importantly not involved in recommending moving the ED program to Kingsley.  If you read the articles in the paper, it was the administration, who in my estimation thought long and hard about their recommendation.
I think we all want the same thing.  We want the ED program and the General Education program at Lincolnwood, as well as all schools, to be properly staffed and have adequate resources and space.  Let’s work together and refrain from attacks that are unproductive and simply not true.  If you have specific recommendations on how the ED program can be improved I have no doubt Lincolnwood would be more than happy to hear them and work with the district to see if the district can implement any improvements.
 

Special Ed in D65

I don't know Cari, but I did hear her comments at the board meeting. I didn't come away from them with the idea that ALL Linclonwood parents were anti the E.D. program being at the school. I felt like she used the unfortunate post to illustrate that this attitude is out there and that it often seems like the district supports this line of thinking. I've worked with Special Needs kids in the district & saw first hand how classes would be bumped from year to year, from building to building, without what seemed much thought. It was often because parents complained about having Special Ed classes in "their" school.  It was clear the kids were considered outsiders and the district never did much to show they felt otherwise. Parents and the kids alike felt it. It didn't help that as the parent of a Special Needs kid, they had to constantly fight to get what was needed for their children. It was tiring to watch the amount of advocacy that was often required to even get the basics met for their child. These experiences were 10+ years ago. Now I'm a parent in D65 and not much has seemed to change with Special Education. Now there is Inclusion and the district still hasn't learned that without proper funding and attention, it does not work and harmful to ALL children. There are plenty of school districts to look to where it works beautifully, but D65 didn't do it's homework, rushed to implement it & continues to cut back on aides and other critical services. I think this is the place Cari's comments came from. 

Lincolnwood ED Program--Get Facts Straight

Cari
I appreciate all of your hard work for CASE.  I agree that the issues we all face in the schools are issues related to staffing and resources. However, I, as do many others at Lincolnwood take extreme offense to the comments you made and continue to make about Lincolnwood not being a welcoming community towards children with special needs.  It seemed your remarks at the board meeting were in response to an online posting that was from ONE anonymous person claiming to be a Lincolnwood parent.  When does the comment of one person suddenly become the feelings of an entire community?  I am not sure who made that posting, but I am sure that those comments in NO way reflect our community as a whole.  Making blanket statements and generalizations like this are offensive and unproductive.
I am a parent of a current third and fifth grader and former 3 year PTA President.  I’ve been active in seeking a solution for overcrowding at Lincolnwood for years. When the initial conversations with the current third grade parents began regarding the overcrowding for our particular grade we discussed the spatial capacity of Lincolnwood from many angles; was there going to be four kindergarten classes next year? Was there going to be three 5th grade classes next year? What were the administration space needs of our building? What were the space needs for the ED program?  We spent time assessing the needs of Lincolnwood to see how we could get some much needed relief for students and teachers that were in difficult classes with 26-27 kids and have been for the last four years.  The idea of moving the ED program was NEVER a consideration. At the end of our meetings we agreed that we were going to request and additional classroom from the district and would even welcome a mobile classroom for our grade.   We submitted a letter to the school board and Dr. Murphy with this request.  Lincolnwood parents never suggested that the ED program leave our school, we only asked the district to provide adequate space needs for our needs.
The District 65 May 21st School Board meeting packet of materials, agenda, recommendations, proposals etc. were not written by the Lincolnwood parents.  The Lincolnwood parents were not involved in writing, making solutions and specifically and most importantly not involved in recommending moving the ED program to Kingsley.  If you read the articles in the paper, it was the administration, who in my estimation thought long and hard about their recommendation.
I think we all want the same thing.  We want the ED program and the General Education program at Lincolnwood, as well as all schools, to be properly staffed and have adequate resources and space.  Let’s work together and refrain from attacks that are unproductive and simply not true.  If you have specific recommendations on how the ED program can be improved I have no doubt Lincolnwood would be more than happy to hear them and work with the district to see if the district can implement any improvements.
Ann Tarpey
 

Lincolnwood

Lincolnwood PTA should have lobbied for the referendum.  It's tough when you're last on the list and the money is gone.  But getting two new classrooms isn't bad, plus there's always an option for limited redistricting down the road as well.  Also, there's plenty of room at King Literary and Fine Arts School.

Lincolnwood

Lincolnwood kids can permissive transfer to Oakton, Walker, or King, where there's space.  There's no cost to the district if that happens.  If you want your kids to have small class sizes, and they don't exist at your attendance area school, then you can look around at the options, not lobby for millions to be spent on an addition after the referendum failed.

Unbelievable

As the parent of a child in special services, I am offended by your comment "D65 has JEH, Park and Rice to house the special needs kids."  I am also shocked by your ignorance "The inclusion program is something most school districts don't do, probably for good reason."
By law special educations are entitled to receive their education in the least restrictive environment.  While D65 has moved to an inclusion model, they are well behind other districts in doing so.  Inclusion is working in many classrooms throughout the district and where it is not working, it needs to be strengthened by staff and parents alike.  Inclusion works when the community embraces it.  

Could have been different, Lincolnwood

Had the referendum passed, overcrowding at Lincolnwood would have been eliminated by the new school. 
 Plus the DSEB funds would be available to update and improve Lincolnwood, just like the schools mentioned above.  As it stands now, those limited DSEB funds are being proposed for necessary additions at Haven and Nichols instead.  Had the referendum passed, Haven and Nichols would have received not only the additions being proposed tonight, but also state of the art science labs.

Enter the phase of dysfunction

And so it begins, ... or maybe continues.  Some contituents and probably board members are mad about not getting their way, and so they will not support anything to meet needs of people who they decide to blame.
I hope I am wrong.

Time to move on...

..."Had the referendum passed"...and the Cubs would win the 2012 World Series. The proposed referendum would not solve all the problems we're trying to address in our schools, it's not that easy. In fact, building a new school would increase our taxes(further pushing out the middle class in Evanston), lead to significant resource reallocations and reductions at other schools (look at the issues the board is facing today-cutting Arts personnel) and create a segregated school.
The proposed plan was" linked" for obvious reasons and not withstanding all the "public" support, campaigning, political grandstanding, the voters voted, and the message was clear.
It's time to move on and address the issues that need to be addressed that will serve the best interests of all kids.
Remember, the schools SHOULD serve in the interest of our kids, and not exist to serve the adminstration, staff or a few vocal community members.

Blame game

I lost count of how many times Jerome Summers at Monday's meeting blamed parents in the crowd for not passing the new school referendum. 
According to Summers, the overcrowding issues at Lincolnwood and art teacher layoffs are the fault of those who voted no on the new school referendum. Summers has no solution other to now propose a charter school in the Fifth Ward. Summers is suppose to represent the interests of ALL Evanstonians.
The only solution Summers has for ANY D65 problem is to build a school in the Fifth Ward.
Summers is up fo re-election next April. I already know who NOT to vote for.
I am so angry and disgusted at Summers (as well as Bailey, Weaver, Pigozzi maybe Quattrocki) that I will actively campaign, donate money and vote for fresh-faced, sensible and qualified school board candidates. It's high time for change on our school boards.
Sweep em out.

inclusion is required by law, and does work when supported

The comment above about inclusion not working at Lincolnwood is right- ti's not working- but that doesn't mean it can't.
 Hardy Murphy has used the guise of inclusion to save money.   He has  shifted many children with special needs from Park, which is expensive due to all the extra teacher suppport, into mainstream schools(good), and then gradually reduced supports to these students(bad).   When inclusion is done well, it does not save money, as kids still need extra help- just distributed in different places/ways.. Ask any parent with a student with special needs in D65, and my guess is that a majority of highly involved parents will say that they have had to fight every step of the way to get their child the support they need.  
THis does not mean inclusion can't work.  It absolutely can and does work when supported by the right staff.  Inclusion is also in the best interest of kids.  Children with special needs are not half people.  They deserve the very best education, just like every other child.   
Not only is inclusion in kids best interest, it is also required by law.  If D65 pushed all children with special needs back to Park or separate classrooms, they would be in direct violation of the INdividuals with Disabilities Act, and the state regulators would force a return to the current system-
WIth all this being said, if there is only one adult in a classroom, it is difficult to meet the needs of many children of various abilities.  .   Cutting support aides and special education staff  to balance the budget should not even be an option, as these cuts affect all children.  
 The board needs to ask the community for an operating budget to keep the aides, art teachers, psychologists, and speech pathologists.   
I voted against the referendum because there was no talk of how a new school would be staffed.  I would vote yes to a referendum to keep the teachers in the classrooms-
 

Things are bad at Lincolnwood

Things are bad at Lincolnwood! The school board needs to take a close look at the lack of leadership at Lincolnwood and make some changes ASAP.  The Lincolnwood community needs to come together to demand leadership for our school.

Overcrowding at Lincolnwood is the issue

There are parents who feel D65's inclusion is not working. Just read the parent comments in this story.
http://evanstonnow.com/story/education/bill-smith/2012-02-22/48132/budget-forecast-frightens-special-ed-parents
Parents and teachers in 2009 had serious doubts about the inclusion model and they felt it was being rushed into place. Was it?
http://www.dailynorthwestern.com/city/questions-loom-as-d65-moves-forward-with-inclusion-1.1917329
Don't lose sight of the primary issue tonight for Lincolnwood parents. The issue is years of large classroom sizes at Lincolnwood.

Thank goodness

Well, I am happy to read so many comments about parents who are concerned about what is happening at Lincolnwood School. I thought I was alone.  My child is in one of the kindergarten classes at Lincolnwood School that had problems this year.  It has been a rude awakening and disappointing welcome to Lincolnwood School, Dist 65 and the Public School system in general.  How sad for the students (ALL STUDENTS) and for the teachers who were not given the proper support and help that they deserved and that we pay such high taxes for!  For us, it's pretty much of a lost year and we have to hope first grade will be better.  We struggle with the choice of saying "forget you' D65 and sending our child to a private school where administration (including the asst supt) is not so laissez-faire (or just in over their heads?).  But then D65 would love that wouldn't they?  You still get our money by taxing us for your pensions but you don't get our kids to teach.  Perhaps that is the goal??  You want our money - but you don't want to do what it takes to earn it.
I have much empathy for the children that have special needs and need some individual attention, the children that do not have special needs but also need to learn basic things, and especially for the teachers who must feel like they are just trying to keep their heads above water each day.  It's sad that the school board and administration just do not care.  Build a new school?  Seriously?  So we have another that is mismanaged?  D65 does not deserve a new school until you can prove that you can effectively mange those that you have now.  That is the reason I rejected the referendum - I don't trust you OR your budget estimates because you have grossly underestimated what it takes to manage the schools that you have now.
When is the first meeting of parents united to better Lincolnwood School?  And I agree with another commenter - our PTA raises A LOT of money - where is it going? 

Financial outlook changed quickly after vote

I agree with many of your comments. It is a shame that the money we spend can't go towards great instruction and proper environments for our children. Right before the referendum vote, the school board was talking about how their budget looked great, and now they are painting a very different and disturbing picture. What happened? I feel like there is not a lot of accountability when it comes to the administration. 

Lost years, cherry-picking and PTA funds

We also had a lost year due to a severely emotionally disabled student placed in a classroom with no  support from District 65. It happens more often than our administrators, principals and teachers care to admit. I don't know what the answer is, but I do know making a room full of children give up a good year of education isn't the right answer.
Still, you draw the wrong conclusion about administrators at private schools. They get to take the easy way out: they either reject admission applications or expel students who aren't well behaved, knowing full well these children have the fallback option of public school. Quality education is much easier when you can cherry-pick. This is what private school parents are paying for.  If you absolutely insist on cherry-picking, write the check.
It gets even more interesting in middle school, when adolescence kicks in and the private schools give their badly behaved students a one-way ticket back to D65 middle schools.
Where is your PTA money going? I struggled with this for a long time myself. Why are we raising money for schools that have fantastically high budgets we're already funding through taxes? I finally came to this conclusion: We rarely get to choose how District 65 spends our tax dollars. But our PTAs do get to choose how the money they raise is spent, or they should. If that's not happening at Lincolnwood, put your foot down.

Teacher support in District 65

When readers write that a teacher gets no support from the school district or the adminstration, I wonder what they are thinking about.  Teachers get a curriculum, materials to teach, time to plan, coaching, mentors, observations, feedback.
What else can the district provide? 

Let the money follow the student

If the money went with the child to the school the parents wanted for their child, many of the problems would be resolved.  The students could go to the area, private, public, Evanston, Chicago, etc. school they wanted and the money would be THERE not given to the schools by the number of children in the city or area.  Also if Chicago children wanted to come to Evanston schools [and we know many do come through false documentation] the Evanston schools would get the money.   Since the Board does not want to act responsibly in taking care of the facilities, teaching quality, etc. but only wants to take care of themselves and propose things like the referendum to please THEIR voters, turn the choice back to parents---it can't be worse.

Show me statistics of this improving a school district

There is absolutely ZERO documentation that this works, and a fair amount of documentation that school choice is in fact detrimental to the overall education of students.
What happens when "school choice" is implemented is that the parents who understand the value of education (and therefore have children more likely to succeed) aggregate in the "better" schools, leaving the children whose parents don't understand in the worst-performing schools with the least resources. Shuffling successful kids around only helps the successful kids: we need a system that helps ALL kids and doesn't simply throw away the children who, for whatever reason, are at the bottom.
Show me an "alternative" school whose kids are all succeeding like private school students and I'll be happy to revisit this discussion.  (Here's more information on Alternative schools in Chicago.)

To whom does the money belong?

The money comes from citizens to educate their children. Simple. In the pursuit of education, what should be the goal? To educate children to the extent of their ability. If some children succeed because their parents are involved and desire the best outcome, let them choose the school. Because some parents are not involved -- or care -- does not mean that we should pursue equal outcomes rather than pushing kids to excel to the best of their ability.
For those parents that do not care or know enough to be involved, then by all means get them involved, but don't deny kids.

This is the district payback

This is the district payback time for not voting in the new school. Push all the expenses onto the rich northwest Evanston parents.   There are extra aides and supports in all the other schools for under-performing students, low English, TWI.   Demand smaller class sizes and more aides and support for special ed students.  This is racism and classism.  Don't scapegoat inclusion and the special ed students.