The lone dissenter on the Evanston/Skokie District 65 new school committee won approval Tuesday night to have his dissent added to the committee’s final report.
Committee member Drew Stover, a resident of Evanston’s 3rd Ward, has consistently voted against opening a new school in the 5th Ward.
And when the committee held its final meeting to approve its report to the District 65 Board, Stover presented a one-page dissent which he asked to be appended to the report.
After a brief discussion that involved some committee members taking issue with his conclusions, Superintendent Hardy Murphy argued strongly that Stover’s request be approved.
Murphy contended that while he, personally, disagreed with Stover, he felt it important that the report reflect dissenting views. The majority of the committee agreed and voted to include the dissent in the report.
Stover contends that the space needs of the district will not be addressed by a new school and that the increase in operating costs is not offset by the limited needs that are addressed. “A new school does nothing to alleviate the urgent needs at Lincoln and Nichols,” he wrote, “and may have only a limited effect even on Haven.”
He also challenged the committee’s interpretation of survey results of parents in the proposed attendance area for the new school, which essentially includes the 5th Ward neighborhood that was part of the former Foster School attendance area.
While the report projects a positive response from the survey toward the proposed school, Stover noted that the survey also reveals that parents are satisfied with the schools their children currently attend and that they are concerned that the demographic makeup of the new school would not be diverse.
In their discussion Tuesday night, other committee members contended that such parental comments from the survey were to be expected and that virtually all the students in the attendance area would probably elect to attend the new school even though they would be given the choice to remain at their present schools, based upon the district’s experience in recent years when previously closed schools were reopened.
After the discussion, a handful of minor editorial changes were approved, but the basic recommendations previously decided upon remain.
It would be an attendance area school, located in the 5th Ward, serving 500 to 600 students in grades kindergarten through 8th, with a provision that present students could choose to remain in their present schools.
The committee voted 13 to 1 to send its modified report to the board. The dissenting vote was cast by Stover.
Committee co-chair Katie Bailey, who is also president of the District 65 Board, promised that the report would be received by the full board for discussion “early on the agenda” at its September 12 meeting.
Kudos to Dissent
While I actually support the building of a new school, I disagree with a lot of this committee's work. I would think that a lot of "present students" would choose to stay at their current school if they have a choice and if their parents are happy with the school, rather than change to the new school. Most kids and parents don't like to change schools. Would kids entering grade 6 also get to go to the old middle school with all their friends from 5th grade? Or would they have to go to the new school? Seems to me that a clean break is needed to make the whole thing work. Otherwise you'll be operating a new school at less than its capacity, increasing operating costs overall for years to come.
Also, there was no recent year when a previously closed school was reopened that kids had the option to stay at their old school. The redistricting that occurred when Kingsley reopened was so traumatic that no school board or superintendent ever wants to go there again. Kids didn't have a choice to stay at their old school. Who re-wrote that history? This committee seems out of touch, to say the least.
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