Issues

I wrote the paragraphs below in October. Since then I’ve been reading, observing, and thinking even more. Please see my recent blog post, “More than Covid: my fundamental priorities for District 214,” for a more recent summation of my concerns as well as the comments below which I leave here for completeness’ sake.

School re-opening

Yes, I fully support schools re-opening, especially as there appears to be increasing evidence that re-opening can be done safely, following appropriate safety protocols and with consistent mask-wearing to prevent outbreaks. 

What’s more, I oppose the manner in which the school board and the administration have handled the situation thus far, changing plans at the very last minute, adopting metrics without sound reasoning, and keeping families and residents almost wholly in the dark as to the current situation and future plans.  As I write (Oct. 2), parents are left unsure as to whether the board and the administration are trustworthy, even with respect to current contingent plans to return rotationally in mid-October.

Administration and board accountability

The school board voted 6-1 to delay school re-opening essentially after the decision had already been made by the school administration.  What’s more, they cast their vote without any but vague assurances that kids would be brought back to school as soon as it was possible.  Metrics have changed, “stages” have changed.  The school board appears indifferent.

It turns out, this is par for the course, and the school board has, for years and years, simply approved administration plans unanimously.* It is simply not credible that the administration can be so in-tune with the wishes of district residents that all such proposals are worthy of unanimous approval.

Meeting individual students’ needs rather than focusing on “winning” at metrics

Two anecdotes:

In my “biography” I mention a son in the robotics program.  Yes, the Wildstangs robotics team has such a legacy of winning that they are in the FIRST Robotics Hall of Fame, and guaranteed a spot in the annual world championships.  This was, in part, the result of sponsorship by Motorola, both in terms of finances and mentorship by Motorola engineers.  

But that’s in the past.  When Motorola was no longer able to support the team, the district stepped in — but expanded it from a Rolling Meadows/Wheeling team to a team for the entire district.  The team size grew — grew so much that there simply wasn’t a way for all participants to be engaged in the team.  The district still gets to boast of an award-winning robotics team.  But individual students would be better served by smaller teams even if they earned fewer awards.

Separately, six years ago, my oldest son started his freshman year.  He had studied German at a “Saturday German school” and I had found an online program that would enable him to continue to do so, in a curriculum intended for distance-learning high school students, in cases where their high schools did not offer German as a language option.

I inquired into enrolling my son, and enlisting the school’s co-operation so that he could count this towards school credit.  I was told that because German was offered at Buffalo Grove and that, in principle, they would let me drive him their each day for him to take the class there, they would not work with us to enable online German.  Again, it wouldn’t make a difference on their “kids taking a foreign language” metric if he studied German instead of Spanish, so there was no interest in working with us.

Finally, with both my older sons, we have struggled with whether AP classes were the right placement for them, and we learned that the school district’s desire to boost their counts of “number of students in AP classes” appeared to be overriding questions of what class is the best placement for individual students.

I am sure other families can recount similar experiences, in which bureaucracy and the desire for recognition as a “great school district” gets in the way of meeting individual students’ needs.

* This is from memory as I can’t find my notes, but in reviewing past minutes, it took a good five years of history to find a non-unanimous vote.  I intend to quantify this at a later point.