PEORIA -- Teachers, parents, students and citizens are planning to rally beginning at 5:15 p.m. on Monday, April 6 in front of the Peoria School District 150 administration building, 3202 N. Wisconsin.
The issue: no school closings.
Everyone who cares about the children in the district and its schools as well as the city and its neighborhoods is urged to attend.
Superintendent Ken Hinton announced last week his recommendation that two grade schools, Kingman and Tyng, close next year to save money.
He earlier announced the closure of Woodruff High School and the reorganization of Peoria High School, then backed off after public protests. Woodruff supporters still feel threatened, however, and are part of the protest group.
This large group of teachers and others met on April 5 to plan the April 6 rally and action at the school board meeting, which begins around 6:30 p.m.
One of the leaders, Terry Knapp, former president of the teacher's union, said there are other ways to save money. The district could end its contract with the Edison Schools, which will receive $880,000 this year, and has received $16 million over the last decade from the district, he said.
Hinton once worked for Edison, and two of the administrators he has hired have also worked for Edison, he said.
More savings would come from moving administrators out of Blaine-Sumner School which the district closed a few years ago then remodeled and air conditioned. They could go back into empty space in the administration building, Knapp said.
A teacher at Kingman School said the district meanwhile is paying for painting and plastering the school, under way now.
Another teacher said Hinton arrived at a faculty meeting there at 8:15 a.m. on April 1, told stories about his own life until 8:25 a.m., then said "any questions." When someone asked if Kingman would be closed, he said yes, then the meeting ended as the students arrive at 8:30 a.m.
"That's the way he operates," others said.
The closing announcements came just before the district's spring break, which began April 4 and lasts until April 14, a move many believe is designed to diffuse opposition.
The school board is supposed to vote on the closings on April 20.
Members of the group plan to call for the resignation of Hinton and of board president Dr. David Gorenz. Hinton is scheduled to retire in 2010, when his pension will be $150,000 a year, Knapp said.
Beth Akeson, Peoria City Council candidate for the 3rd District seat, a district that includes Kingman School, attended the meeting. She was active in the grass roots effort last year to stop Hinton's Wacky Wednesday plan, to dismiss certain grade schools early every Wednesday for teacher planning.
Public protest succeeded in mitigating that plan to only a few early dismissals instead of weekly dismisals.
Akeson opposes school closings. She said, "if Peoria does not maintain neighborhood schools, (it) will not be a city on the path to success. The city has a responsibility to make the neighborhoods flourish."
Closing Kingman will require all the children to be bussed elsewhere, and will harm the neighborhood, she said. None will be able to walk to school.
The group also has generated a petition against closing a high school, and is passing it around town.
It plans to meet again at 6 p.m. on April 19.
-- Elaine Hopkins
UPDATE 4/6/09: Here is the petition being passed by those opposed to school closings:
We the undersigned taxpayers in Peoria School District 150 feel that closing one of its four high schools will lead to problems that will be far more costly than the savings that would be realized from eliminating a high school. We sincerely ask that all possibilities for cuts be considered and pursued before a decision is made to close a high school. We believe that the following repercussions will be a direct result of merging two high schools into one:
• Decrease in student achievement that will prevent District 150 from reaching its goal to meet Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP).
• Decrease in safety that will prevent the district’s goal of ensuring safe and positive school environments
• Decrease in property values in areas far removed from the vicinity of a high school
• Decrease in school and community involvement, loyalty, and traditions--especially since the athletic and other competitive teams of one school will be completely eliminated
• Decrease, possibly even a loss, of alumni support and scholarships, etc.
• Decrease in the number of teachers, thus preventing the retention of a highly-qualified staff
• Increase in class sizes, which will negatively impact student achievement
• Increase in the dropout rate due to larger school enrollments, etc.
• Increase in busing, which will have academic and financial repercussions
• Increase in segregation due to further urban flight and a demographic shift due to proposed boundary changes—possibly illegal action.
• Increase in crime due to an increased dropout rate, etc.
To register your opposition to the closing of a high school, please call or e-mail:
Peoria Public Schools, District 150 @ (309) 672-6512 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Superintendent Ken Hinton @ (309) 672-6768 or email@example.com
David Gorenz @ (309) 688-2824 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Martha Ross @ (309) 674-2574 or email@example.com
Mary Spangler @ (309) 691-1752 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Debbie Wolfmeyer @ (309) 681-9567 or email@example.com
Linda Butler @ (309) 688-7912 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Rachel Parker @ (309) 688-5990 or email@example.com
Jim Stowell @ (309) 453-4616 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Please remind these decision-makers that ignoring the opposition to closing a school will not make it possible for them to ignore all the problems that the closing of a school will create.
And here is a supporting statement:
Safety and Student Achievement – Main Concerns
District 150’s more recent decisions to close White and Blaine-Sumner have not resulted in satisfactory transitions or improved conditions. Both discipline and student achievement have been negatively impacted by combining White and Lincoln students and combining Blaine Sumner and Trewyn students.
The community and District 150’s desire for a safe learning environment is evident in the Peoria Public Schools Strategic Plan adopted July 21, 2003, and updated in 2007. According to the plan, one of the district’s five goals is, “We will ensure safe and positive school environments.” In fact, the first core belief of the Mission Statement reads, “All people deserve to be safe and feel safe.”
A large number of taxpayers, educators, parents, and students do not believe that the district can achieve its own goals by combining Woodruff and Peoria High Schools. They believe strongly that discipline and the overall school environment will be affected in negative ways if this merger takes place.
Will closing a high school promote any of the following district’s five goals—all of which need remediation right now? The truth is that the board and the superintendent need to be pink-slipped based on their dismal performance.
District Goals as posted on the website:
1 - All schools will show an incremental percentage increase on ISAT reading and
math to meet Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) or Safe Harbor.
2 - We will move from Watch to Warning financial status in fiscal year 2007 and
work toward Review status by 2009.
3 - We will hire and retain highly qualified staff.
4 - We will ensure safe and positive school environments.
5 - We will promote a culture that ensures customer service at all levels.
District Mission Statement as posted on the website:
The mission of Peoria Public Schools, the cornerstone of academic excellence and the unifying force of our diverse community, is to ensure that each student reaches his or her full academic and personal potential and is a well-balanced citizen through an educational approach characterized by: continuously redefining teaching and learning; optimizing technology to transform the system; providing safe and nurturing environments; engaging and enabling families; effecting community partnerships; embracing and honoring all aspects of diversity; guaranteeing professional staff who are committed to students. -30-