Fairfield Ledger

Mt. Pleasant News   Wash Journal
Neighbors Growing Together | Oct 24, 2017

Committee to recommend grade alike to school board

By Nicole Major, Ledger staff writer | Feb 16, 2017
Photo by: Nicole Major Fairfield Community School District curriculum director Marci Dunlap, right, speaks from the heart about her love for the Fairfield Community School District. “This is my district, and I’m not going anywhere,” she said.

The Libertyville reorganization committee met for the last time Wednesday night at the Administration/Curriculum/Technology building. The several hour-long impassioned meeting led to a final decision to recommend grade alike as the best option for the district moving forward after the Libertyville Elementary School closing.

After a committee vote, grade alike prevailed over four other proposed options, although only by a slim one-point margin — ranking 845.03 to the second best idea, which ranked 863.66. The lower the number, the least amount of perceived negative impact it might have on students.

The prosed objective of Libertyville students being assigned to Washington Elementary with three additional sections came in at a very close second.

With grade alike, both Washington and Libertyville students would transition.

Pre-kindergarten through first grade students would attend Washington, while second-fourth graders would go to Pence Elementary School.

“Parents don’t want it; they have already had their school taken away from them,” said Washington Elementary School teacher Mindy Hoskins about grade alike. She later added that the majority of Libertyville parents recently surveyed were in favor of their children transitioning to Washington Elementary School.

Hoskins said she felt like the transition wasn’t equal to all students because Libertyville and Washington students would be the ones moving the most.

“I’m for grade alike. It would make a lots of changes for me, but I’m trying to keep ‘me’ out of it,” said Patti Johnston, who teaches Title I reading in the district and has experience at multiple elementary buildings.

Johnston expressed her feelings prior to the vote.

Although Johnston said she realized that grade alike would be a major transition, she hoped it would be the only one.

“I’m looking at it long-term,” she said.

Johnston said with grade alike, she felt there would be more opportunities for collaboration between teachers who taught the same grades.

“From 8-4 [we’re] working with kids; it’s hard to even meet with somebody next door,” she said.

Hoskins and Johnston joined district curriculum director Marci Dunlap to tally the committee’s votes.

After the vote, several other committee members expressed opinions. Some recommend submitting both ideas to the board as a split decision because the results were 8-7.

Fairfield Middle School assistant principal Matt Jones said the purpose of the vote was to be able to make a recommendation to the school board, and although the vote results were close, one idea came in over the other one.

“It is what it is,” he said.

“It’s going back to the board as a split decision,” said committee member Paul Miller, adding that the 8:7 vote should mean the committee would submit both recommendations to the board.

Committee Member Rustin Lippincott asked the committee if any of them felt that they would change their mind if they had the night to think about it.

He rationalized that it was the only way to know if the vote would change by a higher margin of difference.

None of the committee members expressed that they would change their vote later.

Hoskins said she worried that parents would distrust the school district if their opinions were not heard.

“We’re not listening to what they want,” she said, asking the committee if the district could afford to do that.

Miller also chimed in about open enrollment to better performing districts.

He said it wasn’t about “Trojan pride,” but about what is best for the children.

“We can’t make this decision based on fear,” Dunlap said, adding that people were going to be upset, but that they had to think about what would be best for the children not just in the fall, but five years from now.

After more discussion, the committee decided to recommend grade alike  along with its data to the school board for Monday’s meeting.

“I would like to thank all the committee members for their time, passion and investment in the district and for our students,” Noll said today.

“With individuals of this calibur on the committee that represent the larger community, we will always be a vibrant district with students in the forefront.”

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