When we think about educating our community’s children, we expect schools to offer the best education possible with the resources we can provide. The imperative is that our school administrators spend the finite tax dollars wisely.
Granite City schools are faced with a shrinking enrollment, down by 862 students in eight years. State dollars are projected to drop nearly $1 million from five years ago based on that eroding enrollment. The district has 45 vacant classrooms.
Something has to give, and on Tuesday night the school board adopted Superintendent Jim Greenwald’s proposal to group all students into “attendance centers” instead of neighborhood schools with multiple grade levels. Previously only students in fifth grade and above were grouped, but the proposal puts youngsters down to pre-kindergarten in attendance centers. Two schools, Worthen and Lake elementary, will be shuttered.
Parents at Tuesday’s school board meeting were not close to being on board with the proposal, and it is understandable. What we had here was failure to communicate.
This proposal has been around since April, but Greenwald had a less-than-vague answer when parents asked how much money it would save compared to the renovations needed at remaining school buildings. He offered no clue, other than to say it should save money through attrition. His presentation to the board made the issues clear, but not the impact of his proposed solution.
The school district web site had a general message from Greenwald posted just before Christmas on the issue, but there was no FAQ or other effort to explain to taxpayers why this change would work better or be cheaper. There were no town hall meetings. Greenwald’s presentation was immediately followed by a vote.
Then there is the fact that the board meets at 5 p.m. — not a convenient time for most working parents. When government bodies meet during the day or at odd hours, it says to the public that public participation is not valued and is essentially discouraged.
Parents and taxpayers were left feeling disenfranchised. As a result, the school district will likely suffer the next time school leaders find themselves needing to rally public support.
It was all avoidable.