Parents of prospective kindergarten students in Evanston may want to rush to sign up their youngsters when registration opens next Tuesday, after the District 65 school board last night failed to resolve how to handle an expected upsurge in new students.

Residents crowd the school board meeting.

One option the board held open is freezing kids who register late out of their neighborhood school if it has reached its kindergarten enrollment limit. The youngsters would be offered slots at the district’s two magnet schools or other, less crowded, neighborhood schools instead.

“We’ve seen this train coming at us for a long time, we know all too well what it means,” board president Keith Terry said.

Faced with more students than classrooms, board members debated different scenarios ranging from enrollment caps to building a new 5th Ward school — which would require holding a tax hike referendum during strained financial times.

“I think that before we talk about that we need to look at the financial implications for building a new school,” trustee Bonnie Lockhart said; “I don’t think a new school is something we have as a reality.”

Other prospects include increasing class sizes by up to an additional three students.

A report presented to the board says the schools most likely to be affected by enrollment growth this fall include Dewey, Lincolnwood and Willard.

With a short-term solution needed to address new student enrollment this fall, officials decided that registrations will be date and time stamped this year, so that, if an enrollment cap is imposed, seats could be offered on a first-come, first-served basis.

New students moving to Evanston neighborhoods with the most popular schools in the summer months would be most affected by an enrollment cap, and would likely have to attend schools outside their neighborhood.

Board members expressed frustration over not being able to give new residents and real estate agents straight answers — that living in a certain neighborhood might no longer be a guarantee of attending the neighborhood’s school.

As one Willard parent asked, “What do you tell people moving to Evanston– that you don’t know where their children are going to school?”

Debate continued into the early hours of Wednesday morning. With an audience that had dwindled from over 150 to 30 and a board minus trustees Andrew Pigozzi and Kim Weaver — who left earlier in the evening — no decision was made.

“Where is the solution that everyone loves? There isn’t one,” Superintendent Dr. Hardy Murphy said.

The board is scheduled to continue the debate at its next meeting at 7 p.m. on March 2.

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18 Comments

  1. Enrollment solution
    Increase allowable classroom sizes but permit any child in a class over the guideline to transfer to a magnet or neighborhood school with smaller classes.

    Combine that with timely admission to magnet schools for those in the schools with large class projections.

    Give families the opportunity to choose what is best for their child instead of “big brother” district 65 moving programs and/or students.

  2. “Capping & Transfers” is offensive to say the least
    I watched the board meeting last night and as a parent of General Education students I was flat out offended. They claim all options are worth discussing and yet the mention of combining a TWI strand at another school was not even a subject that Dr. Murphy would discuss. Which only proves that they are NOT willing to look at all options. Yet the idea that a child moved into a neighborhood and wouldn’t be allowed to go to THEIR neighborhood school is the solution? How would they pay for ALL of the bus rerouting? What are the ramifications to the Evanston economy if they did that? Who would want to move into a neighborhood if they didn’t know what school their child was going to? The value of homes around several schools would instantly go down because you couldn’t use the NEIGHBORHOOD school in your listing? I was also offended by the Magnet school presentation. Yes the programs sounded fabulous but how could you possibly request the kind of funding you will need to add a Production studio to one school and the ability to hire new staff to teach Mandarin to students and Parents at another when we are being asked to accept 30 students in a class? Hardy Murphy is treating the General Education parents with NO respect. He should be ashamed of himself.

    1. Lab school benefits disabled kids
      King Lab provides a unique environment for its students as well as serving the district. King Lab is used to balance class sizes throughout the district.

      King Lab educates a higher percentage of kids with IEPs than any other school in the district. King Lab is the ONLY school that my significantly disabled child can attend – programs for him in neighborhood schools were eliminated around the time TWI showed up and demanded the classroom space.

      All of this outrage about a few kids POTENTIALLY being turned away from their neighborhood schools THIS YEAR ONLY when it’s been happening to disabled kids in this district for years and years. Where was the outrage then?

      I’m deeply offended that the only school available to serve my family is thrown under the bus by a new board member at the first opportunity.

      1. Please note that Latino
        Please note that Latino Spanish dominant students in the district were turned away from their neighborhood schools to attend bilinugal programs for years. Students living in the Oakton area were bused across town to Orrington. The problem here now is that it is happening to white affluent families who have the means to fight and stand up against the board.

        1. Demographics
          “The problem here now is that it is happening to white affluent families who have the means to fight and stand up against the board”

          FYI, special education students come in all races and from all economic backgrounds – and always have.

          1. Sorry … wasn’t talking about
            Sorry … wasn’t talking about special education students but the students that would be turned away from Willard if the caps on kindergarten passed.

          2. Oh, thanks for clarifying
            Interestingly, under the cap and transfer proposal most likely no existing Evanston students will be affected unless they delay registration. It will be those who buy houses over the summer and register late. So really the concern is over the feared decrease in property value. Also, there is the very real possiblity that projections are inaccurate and there will be no need to transfer anyone.

      2. The biggest outrage I have
        The biggest outrage I have heard of is class size. Why would you want your child in a crowded classroom where the teacher-no matter how great-can’t give each child the attention he/she needs? 27 students in a class with one teacher is too much. There are so many factors that get in the way of student success-let’s not make overcrowded classrooms another one of them.

        1. You’re talking about my kid
          My child was in a kindergarten classroom of 27 students. Fortunately, the teacher was fabulous but still, she had 27 students. It was challenging.

          The biggest insult: at Board meetings, D65 staff would repeatedly tell Board members that the “largest class” was 24 students in another school’s classroom. I had to start attending those meetings to correct the record. D65 personnel would not admit to the Board and the public that there were 27 students in any classroom and I repeated needed to state the truth to the Board — publicly and during the meeting.

          We got some relief from the large-class problem but not until first grade.

          So folks, if you get 27 students in a classroom, D65 personnel will smile, stick their fingers in their ears and claim that it just isn’t so. You must call them on the facts — publicly. Even when that happens, they will keep repeating the same falsehood and you will need to keep repeating the truth.

          Finally, they will have to admit the truth. But they won’t want to.

  3. We should come together!
    I have read several strands of comments on this article and the Magnet Schools article. It has become clear to me that Hardy Murphy has gotten EXACTLY what he wants. Everybody pointing fingers and arguing with each other instead pointing the finger at the gentleman who needs to be taken to task, Dr. Hardy Murphy. The way he treated parents of Park School at the board meeting was offensive. To dismiss their plea’s by talking about a mural on a snow plow at Haven? To not even question funding of the Magnets school new curriculum proposals after telling many schools there is no money for them? Dr. Murphy clearly has an agenda that he is sticking to no matter what any of us want. We are all fighting because we want we feel is best for our own children. We should come together as Gen Ed, TWI, Special education program and Magnet school parents and demand TOGETHER that Hardy listens to US & fixes what he broke.

    1. District 65 administration failed
      Once again, the district administration has failed. The district did not prepare for this overcrowding. This overcrowding didn’t occur overnight. The district is responsible for having projection enrollment plans. The district placed programs at these schools knowing that these schools had limited classroom space. The district has let the desirability of the magnets slip.
      To try to address this overcrowding one week before kindergarten registration is a joke. The administration should be held accountable for these failures.

    2. Bravo!
      You hit the nail on the head. Dr. Murphy has a history of creating divisions within the community to deflect attention from his agenda. In this instance, he deliberately pitted the neighborhood schools against the magnet schools. Why else would he have the enrollment cap discussion scheduled for the same night as the presentation by the Magnet School Committee? Clearly these two items are at odds. You can’t create a strong magnet school program if you are simultaneously using the magnet schools as a mechanism for siphoning off students from neighborhood schools.

      And now that the Magnet School committee has spent one school year making recommendations for changes, the Board has given the administration until December 2010 to figure how to implement changes with no increase in funding. So that’s another school year gone. The Supreme Court decision that removed race as a metric for selecting students for magnet schools was June 2007. The board and administration have known since then that they needed to reexamine purpose of the magnet schools, but they’ve delayed and delayed. Why are we letting them waste time and our children’s youth with their incompetence and delaying tactics?

    3. Hardy Murphy has supporters
      To get the superintendent to change you have to take out his support. Back in Fall 2007 the board voted to extend his contract for 5 years. Three of the existing seven board members were there and voted in favor of the extension (Terry, Lockhart and Summers). As long has he can get 4 votes for what he wants then he will do what he wants. Keith Terry and Bonnie Lockhart are up for re-election next year if they want to serve again.

      Watch the board and remember to vote in the Spring of 2011.

    4. Stop pointing fingers and go to the Board meetings
      I agree that Hardy Murphy’s entire game plan with parents is “divide and conquer.” He likes to start fires then run off while everyone else points fingers about who started the fire, who should put it out, how it should be put out, when it should be put out and at what cost.

      And for this less-than-sophisticated approach to educating our children, we pay Hardy Murphy almost $300,000 a year,

      Here’s some advice from another D65 parent who has been there and done that with the incompetent goofballs at D65 headquarters:

      1. Stop pointing fingers at other programs and schools. If you are a magnet school parent, do not view neighborhood school parents, including TWI parents, as the enemy. I was shocked to see postings about TWI in an article about the magnet schools’ options for the future.

      2. Go to the Board meetings. Virtually no parents attend unless Hardy Murphy has proposed another ridiculous plan, has pitted groups against each other and has stacked the deck with the Board members using phone calls before the Board meeting. By the time that Hardy Murphy proposes something publicly, he has already lined up the votes on the Board to get it approved.

      Parents need to go to every meeting and keep a watchful eye on the clever chess-like moves that Hardy Murphy uses to get the Board members to eat out of his hand.

      I used to go to Board nmeetings. I personally saw Hardy Murphy sneering at every parent who, during the public comment, asked any questions about anything. Then, at the end of the comments, he takes the opportunity to bash (oh so subtly) every parent question and proclaim them stupid or uninformed (again oh so subtly).

      If more parents went to these meetings, the meetings would return to what they are supposed to be — a public meeting in which our children’s interests come first and issues are discussed intelligently and decided. Now, the D65 Board meetings are a farce with Hardy Murphy playing the Board members like a fiddle.

      I gave up attending the meetings because there were almost no other parents in attendance. Sad but I now understand why others gave up. A handful of parents watching what’s happening lets Hardy Murphy know that he is totally in charge with no oversight. The Board is supposed to provide that oversight but ever since Jonathan Baum left the Board, no one asks the right questions any more.

      1. School Board and Real-World Contracts
        Given the pay level of the superintendent and the length of the contract given—-and I assume other world pay/contracts for other school official—-serious consideration needs to be given to a recall of Board members—or at least turning them out of office at the next election.
        Why we pay for so much administration when the population has hardly changed–and perhaps decreased when considering people with no children in the system—and test scores have not met standards, let alone a meaningful portion being able to function in the modern society, should baffle all.
        While the administration has come up with all kinds of politically correct things like dual language instruction—instead of getting students to function fully in English—-and culture based curriculum that will only lock the very students that need help in a second class education, they have not been able to see the real goal of a quality education through high standards and a faculty that is educationally [not “teacher courses” or “math for teachers”] prepared to teach to high standards.

        1. Assumptions
          You are assuming that there will be competent candidates running for school board. It is a thankless job and few are eager to run as we saw last election when most candidates threw their hats in at the last minute and none were very qualified – nor have they been very effective up until this point. It takes years to get the lay of the land before they can actually accomplish anything.

  4. Redraw the boundaries, rethink the magnet schools
    People who move into a school attendance area need to realize that it doesn’t buy their children a desk in a top-100 school. Sorry, but that’s not the way it works.

    It’s normal for school districts to redraw boundaries, open schools and close schools to reflect changing demographics. In fact, to NOT do this is ridiculous.

    To parents who are up in arms about not getting one of the kindergarden seats at Willard and other highly desirable schools: how about re-focusing your energies on making sure all the schools in Evanston are good?

    The magnet schools lost a coherent reason for existence a long time ago. The only thing they have going for them now is a K-8 instead of K-5 + middle school experience–and some families want this for their children.

    Why we are not putting TWI in one or both of the magnet schools is utterly beyond me. This program has been chopped up and stuffed into neighborhood schools, to the detriment of both the program and the neighborhood schools. Then a substantial number of the Spanish-dominant children reach middle school and they still need special support by Spanish-language specialists. Move this program to a K-8 school, and you could support these children through eighth grade. It makes much more sense to move TWI to a magnet school than it makes to start a new program at either school.

    1. Magnet school focus is different than TWI
      I understand the benefit on paper of putting TWI at a magnet school, but the magnet programs are fully fledged schools with an established community that already have a mission.

      My child attends King Lab, which has two focuses. One, it operates as an inclusion alternative for highly disabled students, a great asset for both those parents who want an inclusion model as well the other students. Two, it has an exceptional fine arts program that is taught at a high intellectual level, incorporated into every subject the students learn and IS CURRENTLY FUNDED ENTIRELY BY PTA AND PARENT FUNDRAISING. To throw that out and put the TWI programs there is a substantial change to what the existing families and faculty have worked years to build. In fact, it would require most of the faculty to be replaced, and mean that lots of families perfectly happy with the education model they have would be disenfranchised.

      Bessie Rhodes has a very similar situation.

      In addition, there are only 5 strands total at magnet schools – how many TWI strands are there currently? There wouldn’t be much left of the magnet schools once all of the TWI strands were relocated.

      TWI is an excellent program in which the school district took what could have been a problem (a rapidly growing ESL population), and turned it into an asset. Although I am constantly frustrated by poor school district administration, this is one their success stories. I am just not sure that it needs to disenfranchise those who appreciate the K-8 magnets for their successes.

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