Evanston/Skokie School District 65 board candidate Richard Rykhus formally launched his campaign this evening with a rally for supporters at Tommy Nevin’s Pub downtown.

Rykhus with campaign supporter Rachael Gross.

Evanston/Skokie School District 65 board candidate Richard Rykhus formally launched his campaign this evening with a rally for supporters at Tommy Nevin’s Pub downtown.

Rykhus with campaign supporter Rachael Gross.

In an interview with Evanston Now, Rykhus said he believes board member Tracy Quattrocki was asking the right questions when, at a board meeting Monday night she challenged the level of success the district is achieving in preparing students to be ready for college and careers.

The key issue, Rykhus said, is to clarify the district’s priorities and determine how best to measure success.

Rykhus said he also believes that the school board has erred by focusing too quickly on building a new school in the 5th Ward as the best solution to problems of overcrowding at some existing schools.

Rykhus said he believes the board needs to give equal attention to other options — including using temporary classrooms and expanding existing schools. 

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. Temporary classrooms are a terrible idea

    When I was in public schools in a different state, we had "temporary classrooms."  They had been there longer than anyone could remember.  While it might make  sense to buy prefabricated buildings, at least get ones that are meant to last, because once they are there, it becomes politically and financially impossible to replace them.  If they get temporary classrooms, in a few years the school system will ask for money to build permanent ones, and will be met with endless complaints from sources like Evanston Now claiming that there’s nothing wrong with the existing classrooms. 

    1. What he actually said

      Rykhus is not saying that D65 SHOULD use temporary classrooms, he’s saying that all the options should be considered. Why is D65 having a "new school committee" to discuss building a school in the 5th ward and not a "school overcrowding" committee to discuss all the options? The issue is not whether or not there should be a 5th ward school. the issue is whether there is overcrowding in the schools and whether or not their should be a school built to alleviate the problem. Temporary classrooms are only one possible option.

  2. Classrooms in trailers

    Raise your hand if you want your kid in a temporary classroom.  Remember the trailers at WIllard?

    Adding classrooms doesn’t address the other needs in existing buildings … art classrooms, gym to accomodate new students, lunchroom capacity, etc.

    Even if you disagree, please don’t pretend that this hasn’t been discussed many, many times by the board.

  3. Building additions to the schools is a great idea

    I can’t speak for Rykus but I don’t think he was only talking about trailers of prefab buildings.

    He was also talking about additions to the buildings. And there seems to be plenty of room for that.

    And of course, it would be a lot less expensive to build an addition rather than spending tens of millions just to build a new school that right now the numbers don’t justify one in the 5th Ward.

      1. Data from D65 Report

        I assume the numbers provided by John Kasarda, the consultant hired by D65. His numbers show that in the next five years D65 will have more students, yes, but only as many as it had 10 years ago. Where’s the need for a new school?

        Clearly, the administration and some members of the school board (esp. Jerome Summers who seems to see himself as representing primarily the 5th ward, not the entire community) have an agenda.

        It should be noted that Mr. Rykhus is not the first person to propose the consideration of portable classrooms, they were among the strategies offered by the administration in the Enrollment Management Strategies Report on February 16, 2010.

        1. Interpretation

          Yes, our classes are smaller than they were 10 years ago but you’d be hard pressed to find anyone – parent, teacher, administrator – that agrees we should go back to 30 + students in a class. 

          1. Nobody is asking for 30 children to a classroom–is 15 too few

            If you look at the opening of schools report there are grades in several schools with an average class size of 15, 16 or 17 students.  Oakton, for example, routinely has the smallest class sizes compared to other schools.  Better management of magnet school admissions is all that is needed.

            If you press the adminstration to explain why they need more classrooms with fewer student what they say is that the classrooms are "out of date" and not 21st century classrooms.   This is just a flimsy rationale for building a school in the 5th ward, which will have little or no impact on achievement, but will make some local activists happy.

  4. I attended the kick-off event

    I attended the kick-off event last night for Richard Rykhus.

    It would be useful to review the full context of what Richard said about new schools or school additions. He said the school district and residents need to look at the issues of equality, capacity, achievement and finances together when trying to devise expansion strategies at our schools.

    He is not advocating one solution over another — just that all options should be on the table before we head off in one direction. That means he endorsed neither temporary classrooms, school additions, etc.

    If we make a decision before studying all our choices, it won’t be a decision based on sound research.

  5. Just Do the Job

    What I hear Rykhus saying is that he will actually do the job of a board member – look at data, look at options, make well-supported decisions.  Something  that is sorely lacking on the board, currently. At the last meeting,  Kim Weaver refused to even discuss whether the District should use a measure of student achievement everyone knows is inflated and misleading, because, she “doesn’t want to talk about it anymore”.  We had Superintendent Hardy Murphy, who was so opposed to examining this issue, which bears directly on his own performance, that he chose to personally attack the integrity of the board member requesting the agenda item.  Unfortunately, Dr. Murphy shows no sign he will retire, soon, and Ms. Weaver is not up for reelection. However, board President, Keith Terry IS up for re-election. Keith Terry unfailingly defends this superintendent, who has all the leadership skills of a despotic dictator. Mr. Terry continues to approve Dr. Murpy’s annual requests for contract extensions, which maintain a rolling five-year commitment for taxpayers, with no associated performance requirements. Rykhus has vowed to end the annual extensions for Dr. Murphy. If you expect your board to be more than a toadying rubber-stamp committee for the superintendent, vote for Rykhus.  
    1. Anyone looking for a nugget

      Anyone looking for a nugget of wisdom towards helping to better D65’s schools (let’s agree that "fix" doesn’t work for any camp), need only follow Dr. Murphy’s fiery temper and race-tinged diatribes against those seeking to employ common sense and real evidence. From the sounds of it, Rykhus is lining himself up in Murphy’s crosshairs (sorry for the Palin lingo), but if he joins Tracy Q in that respect, we, as Evanstonians, are that much closer to a school board that actually works. Keith Terry has proven time and time again to be nothing more than a mouthpiece for Murphy and Kim Weaver doesn’t even do enough to fill that role. Jerome Summers’ plight for a 5th Ward school may very well be virtuous and close to his heart; at least he stands for something. I guess the choice, then, is ours: turn out and vote or stay at home and continue to lament the misguided, self-serving board that we currently endure. It’s been attributed to many, but the quote is so true, regardless of the source: "The true definition of insanity is trying the same thing again and again and expecting different results."

  6. Open Discussion is exactly what Richard Rykhus is advocating

     The series of posts above discussing pros and cons of dealing with a cyclical increase in students is exactly the kind of discussion Richard is advocating. Let the community stakeholders review all the options for ensuring we have great classrooms and learning environments for our students while managing an ever more difficult fiscal situation.  Unfortunately the Board governance is so weak that Board members now aren’t even allowed to ask for discussions let alone have them.  We need more Board members who believe they represent the community like Tracy Q does. I think Richard Rykhus and Eileen Budde will add that balance and community voice to the Board so that there will be three voices asking probing questions and expecting excellence.  Voting out Mr Terry and electing a Board president who has actually read the Board Governance charter or maybe even Robert’s Rules of Order would go a long way towards making the D65 board a functioning oversight body that our  community can be proud of.

    1. Where have you been?

      These are the issues the board has been discussing for years.  It’s time to take the next step and explore the option of a new school.

      As far as tracy q representing Evanstonians, I dare say she represents those who are upper middle class and not so interested in the rest of us.

      1. So kind of you to speak for all of us…

        … but I and numerous people I know support Ms. Quattrocki and what she is trying to do on the D65 Board, and guess what?: We are not upper middle class (I just happen to be a 5th ward resident) and don’t consider ourselves to be "not interested in the rest of you". 

        Sadly, your response sounds very reminiscent of our Superintendant, who is all too willing to attack the messenger in  an attempt to suppress open and intelligent discussion.

        1. I’m glad she works for you

          but on the issues important to me and many people I know, she seems completely uninformed and very disinterested in learning about them. 

      2. Give Tracy a call

         She will respond to you with the same open mind and thoughtful questions she does with any community member. I’m a divorced mom with a special needs child. When Tracy ran she had no understanding of the needs of my child or others students with disabilities. But she returned my phone call and listened carefully to me. And though I don’t always agree with her nor she with me, she behaves responsively as if her obligation is to the community and students first, Board and administration second. The only other Board member who consistently responds to my emails or calls is Jerome Summers. The rest of them act as if they have little obligation to engage with the community. 

        Maybe you have spoken to Tracy or sent her an email, but if you haven’t you should give her the chance to be responsive to you before judging her.

        1. for the record

          I have spoken with almost every board member over the past four years except Ms Q who did not have the time.  Same story from another friend.  Maybe you had some sort of "in" that we didn’t?

          In my experience Jerome Summers is indeed very engaged and interested in reaching out.  Katie Bailey and Keith Terry were also eager to hear my perspective. 

      3. Rich vs Poor, White vs Black – Enough!

        With the poor example of our Superintendent, I can hardly blame you for attempting to use race or class divisions to attack your "opponents", instead of using information to support your positions.  But I think that’s foolishness.

        I’ve never seen a community that embraces diversity more than Evanston.  That’s why I’m here, and there are many more like me.  I’m far from rich, but I think it’s disgraceful that so many families feel they need to put their high-achieving kids in private schools to be challenged (yes, of course I’d like to have that problem, myself!).

        It’s also sad and intolerable that so many kids come out of this school system unprepared for college. If a Fifth Ward school makes good financial sense, I’m all for it. Claims that "so and so doesn’t care about my kids" are false and hollow.

        This is a great community, so lets not create divisions where they don’t exist. Superintendent Murphy should be ashamed of himself for fueling this garbage by claiming  racial "stereotyping" by a board member. Evanston is better than that. This man needs to go. If we can’t rely on our own Superintendent to stand above the fray and keep us working together, who will?

        1. Contradiction?

          How can you be against using race and class when you come out and state:

          I’m far from rich, but I think it’s disgraceful that so many families feel they need to put their high-achieving kids in private schools to be challenged (yes, of course I’d like to have that problem, myself!).

          What is so disgraceful about this?  Sounds like another slung attack on the wealthy.  And what business, frankly is it of yours?  Anyones for that matter?

          And, you answerd your own quesiton for why families send their kids to private schools, and who cares if they are wealthy or not:

          It’s also sad and intolerable that so many kids come out of this school system unprepared for college

          Something must have been good here in Evanston.  My dad went to Nichols, ETHS, then off to Ripon, Wharton MBA and NU Doctrate.

          Me personally, in all honesty, I went to NSCDS (grade 4 thru 12).  My brother went to GBS.  We both did fantastic.

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