HIGHLAND PARK – Boundaries took on a double meaning at the November 7 North Shore School District 112 Board of Education meeting when the board discussed new neighborhood borders and several parents strongly expressed their preferences for where they do not want their children to attend school.
“We have families telling us they do not want this population of kids with their kids, and we even have somebody sitting in the audience now who met with us and said it’s time to start diluting the ‘at-risk’ kids,” said Co-Interim Superintendent Ed Rafferty. “There are deep-seated feelings of resentment. It’s shocking and embarrassing that a community that prides itself on being so inclusive and liberal is one of the most exclusive.”
The “at-risk” kids the parents were referring to are students at Oak Terrace Elementary School in Highwood and Northwood Junior High School in Highland Park. Those two schools performed lower on the annual PARCC test than all other North Shore elementary and middle schools, DailyNorthShore reported on November 5.
Rafferty said it’s the district’s responsibility to do a better job of teaching. He also said that, unfortunately, student achievement was not monitored. “We slipped it under the rug,” he said.
He said many administrators have left District 112 because of the amount of “name calling and backstabbing” that occurs across the school community. “It’s embarrassing and it should not matter who you are, what you come to school with, and what school a child attends in the district,” said Rafferty.
During the final public comments portion of the meeting, one resident said she no longer was interested in speaking because Rafferty called her out, while others emphasized that they wanted the “same quality of education” across the district.
When the board was having difficulty reaching consensus on the boundaries during the meeting, Rafferty explained that a lot of work went into recommendations, which were built on the parameters that the board agreed to. He said the board must first reach consensus on the parameters.
“The problem is people here do not want change, they do not want to move, but they want relief for what they perceive as the ‘at-risk’ kids, which is really an embarrassment,” he said.
Board member Bennett Lasko said, “We live in a segregated community. All of our property values are better if we have really good schools. We’ve been stuck for years and have to focus on all of the work that needs to be done so we don’t continue to be stuck.”
Board member Adam Kornblatt recommended having a comprehensive redraw of boundaries for a long-term plan. He added, “I’ve heard that people don’t want to go to Northwood, which I find to be a serious problem and embarrassment for our community,”
Rafferty said that even after the district has studied these issues for 10 years, no matter what plan the board comes up with, people will still be adamant about not mixing their side of town with another side, and there is no long-term plan that will satisfy the community.
Board member Dan Jenks suggested implementing simple boundary changes given the unknowns, which include:
- what will happen after the plans are presented to close Green Bay and relocate the Early Childhood Center and Administration offices at the end of the 2018-19 school year
- whether dual language will be offered at both middle schools in the future
- reconfiguration issues involving Northwood
Jenks proposed moving the students from Lincoln Elementary School to Indian Trail Elementary School and Elm Place Middle School to Edgewood Middle School. Both Lincoln and Elm Place will close at the end of the 2017-18 school year. He said the board should revisit the boundaries next year, when it has more information, as well as grandfathering in a requirement that no student be moved twice.
According to the district, the recommendations for boundary changes are based on school closings as well as the implementation of full-day kindergarten, special education program placement and dual language programs, among other factors.
The boundary recommendation that the board discussed on November 7 would take effect at the start of the 2018-2019 school year as a part of the board-approved Strategic Vision. Click here to review the school boundary presentation.
The proposed boundary changes would include:
- All Lincoln students would attend Indian Trail and could request a transfer to Ravinia or Braeside based on availability.
- All Elm Place students would attend Edgewood and could request a transfer to Northwood based on availability.
- All Ravinia students would remain at Ravinia.
- Military East students would attend Sherwood with the rest of their monolingual Red Oak peers.
The board will reach a final decision on boundaries November 28.
Here are maps of the proposed neighborhood borders: