It was not unanimity's night.
On Wednesday, June 6th, at its last – and arguably, longest – meeting of the school year, the Winnetka School Board made the first of many tough choices.
In a "we're not calling it a vote" vote, the Board went cautiously thumbs-up for K-4 – the version of its Education Master Facility Plan that keeps Kindergarten through fourth grades in neighborhood schools, moves fifth and sixth grades to Washburne, and shutters Skokie School (for now).
Ouch. The Core Team – at least the majority, cue video – had just raised its hand for K-3. The one that does a lot of that, plus groups classes by learning styles, disrupts the least number of families, and delivers the most enrollment flex. Biggest bang. Biggest bucks. They said.
Top Line Gut Check
'Go big, go bold!' only goes so far when you're working with other people's money. Taxpayer hats on, the Board went with possible over preferable.
Hulsizer: Claimed K-5 an “economic windfall,” then dismissed it as “not defensible.” Decided it’s not all about economics, and wanted to know what he’s getting for his money. Eventually chose K-4 as in “the least amount of friction.” Called it a “cultural and economic decision.”
Cirulis: Joined Hulsizer between the rock and hard place. Felt that redistricting was a “real problem for the culture and eventually real estate values.” Liked K-3’s “wiggle room,” but went with K-4 for its balance between “tumult,” educational outcomes, and fiscal responsiveness. Not confident at this time…
Roberts: On Board’s Financial Committee, respected the work, struggled with the numbers. What-if'd 'no new taxes,' and when that turned rhetorical, decided still too many unknowns, wanted to keep all options on the table, and went for K-5. For now.
Pehlke: As Board Liaison to the Core Team, spent the most time with them, appreciated “philosophically the benefits of keeping grades 4,5, & 6 together,” still, wanted to keep K-4 on the table.
Livingston: Supported the Core Team, swayed by educators liking K-3, claimed that “the community doesn’t like change," and went with K-4 because it’s what they know. Felt K-5 was a “colossal waste of money,” and probably wouldn’t vote for it in a referendum.
Conine: Not feeling it yet. Felt not enough info to decide, so abstained. Wanted to know what the real pain was, how much modernization increases property taxes, and what residents think.
Hertel: Board Prez thinks “K-5 makes no sense on so many levels,” ticked off options, landed on K-4, urged the Board to figure out what success looks like, and promised that if the numbers don’t work, the other options may reboot and repeat.
Oh, and One More Thing...
The Board also told the Core Team, 'see ya in August with numbers for light, medium, and heavy levels of modernization.' Cost estimator - maybe make that plural - keep in touch. Now it gets interesting.
Our Eyes are On...
- Fifth grade. Will it get its own school-within-a-school? Be grouped with 6th grade as it is now?
- Those numbers for levels of “modernization?” Tight enough by August to take to the bank?
- Outreach. Ah, outreach. Poll? Survey? Engagement sessions with give and take? Before or after the Board’s decision?
- Some Board members still desperate for metrics. Will cost-per-square-foot be one of them?
- Still looking for that ROI. If it's the wrong question, what's the right one?
- Three of the seven Community Members on the Core Team don’t want K-5 to go away. Will it?
It's Board Out for summer. Here are your beachy reads...
- The Core Team's Summary to the Board
- June 6th PowerPoint presentation
- Summary of Research on Transitions
- What classrooms in utopia look like
- A best-seller from our last Spot Check - Enrollment Balancing Project
- Something veeery interesting. How Washburne kids do at New Trier - compared to kids from other feeder schools. Surprise!
- Knock yourself out. Here's almost every last thing the Board or Core Team's ever published.
Now you know what they know.
Then pencil-in the next School Board Meeting: Tuesday, August 21st, 7:15 pm, Hubbard Woods School.
The board gets it. They know going to referendum with just a quarter of the community isn't going to cut it. They also know this town has a history of doing just that. They don't want to be that guy. They’re going to ask you again what you think of the plan. Make sure you know what they’re really talking about. Contact the School Board for anything else you need to know.