The Evanston/Skokie District 65 School Board is close to making final decisions on restoring some or all of the fine arts and physical education teachers to next year’s budget and whether to move a small class of emotionally disabled students from Lincolnwood Elementary to Kingsley Elementary in the fall.

The two items were on the agenda for discussion at Monday’s board meeting that did not end until nearly 1 a.m. Tuesday.

After hearing numerous complaints from parents about an administration proposal to reduce the number of fine arts and physical education teachers while maintaining about the same number of hours of instruction by reducing teacher planning time and moving instructors strategically among the district’s schools, some board members have advocated restoring at least some of the positions.

In a memo to the board from the district’s comptroller, Kathy Zalewski, a revised budget projection for the coming fiscal year showed that positions could be restored at the four Title I schools by reducing the budget surplus from $208,000 to $154,000.

Title I schools are those with a high percentage of students from low-income families. In District 65, these schools are Dawes, Oakton, Walker, and Washington. Final vote on the budget before presenting it to the public for a required public hearing is scheduled for the board’s next meeting on August 20.

On the disabilities issue, advocates for disabled students urged the board  to reverse the administration’s plan to move the emotionally disabled class, which consists of five students, from Lincolnwood, which is short on classroom space,  to Kingsley on the grounds that it would be emotionally destabilizing for this vulnerable student group to change schools.

Superintendent Hardy Murphy insists, however, that the move would be educationally best for the students. Barring a last-minute decision at the August 20 meeting, the administration is proceeding with plans to move the program to Kingsley for the 2012-2013 school year.

Charles Bartling

A resident of Evanston since 1975, Chuck Bartling holds a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University and has extensive experience as a reporter and editor for daily newspapers, radio...

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  1. Murphy doesn’t even listen to the board

    The board requested at the June 11 finance committee meeting that the administration show them an alternative that restored fine arts staffing (music, art, and drama) to the 2011-12 levels for the four Title I schools.

    The administration showed restoration of only the art teacher at the K-5 schools, ignoring Chute, music, and drama.

    The board by straw poll indicated general agreement with the approach requested the prior week but was not entirely clear on the difference between what had been requested and what the administration actually presented.

    If they try to fix it at an August 20 meeting, it will be a challenge to hire teachers so close to the start of school.  That may have been the administration's intent.

  2. Murphy is misguided

    Murphy only does what is suggested by his administrative team. He asks questions, they provide answers and that is how I see it getting done.

    People who have never been in a classroom, let alone visited a school are making these decisions. They look at schools as numbers, not as children and people. They don't know what it means to have a teacher travel to 2-3 schools several times a week, they don't know what it means to kids to stay in the same school, all they do is look at numbers. No feelings, no thinking about kids, just pure math.

    Let's see how they would like it to be moved around like pawns in a game…..I say get rid of Murphy and his crew.

    1. I can’t help but wonder

      who will be the district 65 scapegoat after Hardy Murphy retires.

      1. Scapegoat? No, D65 taxpayers are getting played

        Hardy Murphy has been in control of District 65 for more than 11 years.  During those 11 years, his compensation has skyrocketed — he makes almost $280,000 per year when you include his housing allowance and annuity.  That's on par with the head of the Chicago public schools who must manage a much larger district with hundreds of schools, including high schools.

        As I recall, Superintendent Murphy has a contract for at least another three years.  Given his pay and our financial situation, we cannot afford to cash out his contract.  And you can be certain that on some Sunday this summer, Superintendent Murphy will be sliding another request for his contract extension into the Board's Monday agenda, leaving no parents in town or aware that our pockets are being picked again.

        Superintendent Murphy's stewardship of our children's education has not warranted this level of pay and the contract security that has been handed to him.  The educational results of District 65 on every level are mediocre to slightly above average at best. 

        Decision making at District 65 is, to put it bluntly, goofy.  Look at the latest suggested changes in the math program in middle school.  Is anyone complaining about the program?  No and it seems that the program is working well.  Yet the administration wants to pitch the current program.  Why change it?  The answer from the head of the math program:  the administration don't like the skin tones of the kids who are performing well on the standardized tests to get the scores needed to advance into higher-level math classes.  Huh?  If that's what is happening, why doesn't District 65 consider what it needs to do in earlier grades so that more minority students can meet the testing standards to advance into a higher-level math class.  Nope, the answer for D65 is just chuck it.  Goofy.  Dumbing down the curriculum is not good for any student.

        Bottom line:  I should wish to be such a "scapegoat."  District 65 taxpayers are paying him to produce a platinum product and our children are getting the equivalent of lead as their education at District 65.  From what I can tell, Superintendent Murphy has played District 65 and its taxpayers like a fiddle. 

        I can't wait until the D65 School Board tells Superintendent Murphy — no more contract extensions for you.  You don't deserve it.  Now let's see what you can produce in the years that you already have under contract then we'll talk.  And if he doesn't like it, the door is right where it has always been.

      2. Time for Dr. Murphy to go

        Dr. Murphy has had more than ample time and ample resources to lead District 65.

        The results demonstrate his poor leadership and management performance.

        It's time for him to go.

        – The ACC program is not delivering on his "hoped" for results.

        – Growing discontent with the TWI program is just another example of poor leadership for which he is responsible.

        – Recent proposal to middle school math program is nonsensical

        – Special needs kids require parents to threaten the district before appropriate resources are provided

        Dr. Murphy has been superintendent for over 11 years. The community has given him almost $15,000 per child to educate our youth. What more does he need?

        He has hired weak people who aren't capable or willing to challenge him, many talented administrators and principals have left the system. There is growing discontent amongst the teachers – just talk with them.

        Managing towards mediocrity is Dr. Murphy's unsung motto, just get students to meet state standards on the ISATs, students performing above standards will do "just fine" in the words of an unnamed school board member.

        The focus on the "Achievement Gap" exemplifies his approach, but lacks a thoughtful and intelligent analysis to understand why it exists and what PROVEN methods exist to increase academic achievement for ALL students. Instead he uses a "divide and conquer" approach which is very divisive.

        Has anyone else noticed that D65 and D202 students will be OUT OF SCHOOL for 3 months? School got out in early June and resumes September 4th 2012. That's 25% of the year!

        Do you think that some kids are moving forward academically and others stagnate or move backwards?

        Does this impact the "Achievement Gap"?

        Students in Evanston face many challenges and need a Superintendent who can be a "problem solver" not a "problem creator" – Our students deserve better.

        No, he's not a scapegoat – he's the Superintendent who is accountable for District 65..

        Dr. Murphy squandered his opportunity.

        It's time for him to go.


      3. maybe we won’t need one

        maybe we won't need a scapegoat because things will improve.  

        I would agree with Thomas Paine that it is "time" for Dr. Murphy to go but think it is "past time."  

        Can there be a public no confidence vote?  

        1. Public no confidence vote possible

          Yes, a non-binding referendum on Murphy could be put on the ballot.  Someone would need to gather signatures of around 2500 registered voters (8% of voter turnout in the last gubenatorial election) who reside in the District 65 boundaries in order for it to actually get on the ballot.

      4. Discontent

        There will always be someone who is unhappy. 

        In my opinion, the past decade has been pretty successful for district 65.  Balanced budgets, progress in the acheivement gap, the courage to try new programs, improved special services, longer school day.  All of the teachers I speak to are happy.  Frankly, those who don't want to move forward with inclusion, differentiated instruction and more teaching hours should consider new careers because this is the future in education. 

        If you think that all of the district's problems will magically disappear when there is a new superintendent you are setting yourselves up for disappointment.

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