Last night members of the newly formed District 150 Watch Coalition met to brainstorm more acceptable options for saving $650K than reducing our children's grade school education by 8 months and cutting in half their fine arts instruction. The task: 1. find $650K in the $165,000,000 (yes, that is million) school budget 2. Discover ways in which teachers can have more common prep time and 3. List the concerns and issues that have naturally arisen as a consequence of this vote.
To briefly re-cap for any new readers, last Monday night the D150 Board of Education voted to cut 45 minutes from the school day for most primary school children as well as reduce by approx. 1/2 their fine arts teachers. Compared to Dunlap, the District 150 child will lose a cumulative 7 MONTHS of educational time from first through 4th grade, and compared to Edison Schools - even more. A tragic turn of events for a district that is already struggling with academic achievement.
Ideas were plentiful and our Black Belt Sigma trained Facilitator and Whittier parent did a wonderful job keeping us on task. After a two hour brainstorming session, we came up with well over 1.5 million dollars in alternate budget cuts that did not harm one hair on our children's or their educator's head. We also proposed original and creative solutions for increasing teachers common prep time. More details will be forthcoming at a later time.
Our next step, is to take our dog and pony show to Mr. Hinton, for "negotiation", as arranged by City and Board of Education Liaison Bill Collier-despite the fact that Mr. Hinton has publicly stated he has no intentions of entertaining them. Therefore, contingency plans are underway.
I have yet to talk to a single parent in District 150 who is pleased over these recent developments. Several families have already signed on with private schools. Of course, there are others who shrug their shoulders, agree it is misguided, and will leave it to others to right the wrong. It is this attitude that has the potential to be the demise of our public schools.
The responsibility to speak out on behalf of the children of Peoria lies with several entities.
1. The board of Education -It is their obligation to act in the best interests of the students and the district - not the administration. The excess fat in the budget for multiple superintendents and their generous benefits is shameful. For them to fall under the Hinton spell and agree to continue to fund the bloated administration at the expense of the children makes me want to vomit. I will ask each and every one of them at the next board meeting how many doors they have knocked on and how many parents they have called to solicit guidance and feedback on what the PARENTS whom they serve and NOT the administration feels is in the best interests of their children. Ms. Spangler has announced she will not run for another term. I ask her - is this the legacy you want for your service and sacrifice of the last 5 years? I have no doubt that every board member must truly love children to run for such a thankless and unpaid job. But I'm sorry to inform you- I think the Hinton Admin. is making fools of you. Please turn on your common sense and look into your heart. It is not too late for you to re-consider your vote. We are all human and make mistakes. The rescission of this vote would not show weakness but strength. Ask around. You would be a hero. Trust me on this one.
2. Our City Leaders - Yes, I am talking to YOU Mr. Mayor and Council. The impact of this change in school scheduling will impact every facet of our community. Law enforcement, urban sprawl, demographics, social programs. Do not turn a blind eye to the decisions the School District is making. Do not buy into their argument that they are short of funds. Earth to Peoria: The District has plenty of money. Over $11K per student to be exact. Insist they spend it responsibly and on behalf of ALL the children.
3. The press and News Media - Today's Journal Star reported comments by Mr. Hinton that basically marginalized parent efforts and opinions. In fairness, the reporter did try to reach me at home yesterday evening... but does anyone ever answer their home phone anymore? Regardless, I wasn't available. I was busy trying to save our children's education. However, wouldn't it be a wonderful service to the community and extremely newsworthy if a reporter, much like a blogger, approached parents standing at bus stops with their kids and asked them what they thought about the schedule change? I would venture to say that with the limited amount of coverage the vote got as a result of it's fast-track treatment, there are still some parents unaware of the magnitude of this vote. Here's a challenge for you - I'll bet ya dinner at Seven's on Prospect that 10 - 1 are vehemently opposed.
4. Parents- It is very tempting to do nothing when the School Board makes an obvious blunder. Many parents have the resources to move their children to private schools. But where does that leave the families that do not have those resources? A stand can be made on behalf of those students through a simple letter to Board members, or a single phone call. Pledge allegiance to your district and its children by taking a stand, no matter how large or small, and let the Board of Education hear your voice. This was a BAD decision.
There are so many people that have the power and the ability to be a Hero to our districts children. Be a hero. Stand up for the families that feel they have no voice. Stand up for the children whose parents will not stand up for them. These are our schools, this is our town. It is time to take back our school district!
Call me at 309-645-8608 to get involved. I look forward to seeing your faces at the next school board meeting.