Readers React to District 112 Budget Cuts

Opinions fly about dual language classes and class sizes. What's your take?

Last week, the including teachers and teacher's assistants, in order to trim $2.65 million from its 2013 budget.

"The choices are difficult, the decisions are hard," District 112 Superintendent David Behlow said shortly before the vote. "We look at every child as a child, not as a number."

, filling the article with over 50 comments by Sunday night. Many were concerned with the consequences of making cuts to the district's dual language programs. The district set aside $270,000 to fill the gap left by the removal of 16 of the dual-language and bilingual program’s teaching-assistant positions. 

Want District 112 news in your inbox? Subscribe to Patch's newsletter.

"I understand that cuts have to be made and it is unfortunate that the District couldn't figure out how to keep language in all the elementary schools," wrote . "Other nearby districts, including Lake Forest for example, have figured this out and do offer non-DL elementary school programs. Until District 112 can do this, I don't think we can consider our schools to be truly 'world class' as defined in the District's mission statement."

Onetime Park District board candidate sympathized with Jenks' concerns, but suggested cuts needed to be made somewhere and the dual language programs might be the right place to start.

"There is simply not enough money to fund all programs and thus decisions need to be made as to what to cut," Barbieri wrote. "Most parents, if faced with a menu of items that had to be cut as a financial reality, would find dual language rising to the top as it is a nice extra but certainly not a must have."

Barbieri pointed out that since the board decided to keep the fourth grade class size at Braeside at 16 or 17 rather than 25, cuts needed to be made elsewhere.

suggested that if dual language classes get removed entirely, "the PTA/PTOs should find a way to offer them as an After School Club."

Other readers suggested consolidating some of the schools or increasing class sizes as a way for the district to save money.

"A capable teacher can cope with a classroom of almost any size," wrote a reader named Molly, qualifying that by also writing, "Some continuity would benefit the entire population."

What do you think? Read the and the here, then leave your own below. And don't forget to take Patch's poll about District 112 spending. Polling will remain open until Friday at 9 a.m. and results will be posted later that day.

Editor's note: Have an opinion on District 112's budget or anything else education-themed? Patch is looking for Highland Park residents interested in blogging about school issues. If you're interested, please email jacob@patch.com or call 847-204-1636.

For more news and updates from Highland Park Patch, "like" us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter.

Samantha Stolberg April 10, 2012 at 05:39 PM
"Yes, many families have left RO but not because of DL." No one said that people left BECAUSE of DL. People have left BECAUSE of too many programs with too much mobility (even DL has attrition) with unique needs and a complete disregard for the needs of the neighborhood population. BTW You're the biggest champion for the DL Program, yet you never had any intentions on sending your kids to Northwood DL because of the social implications and you'd drop out in a heartbeat if it was consolidated into another building. You've said that. Where's your commitment to the program? Please.
Larry Jones April 10, 2012 at 05:46 PM
JR:I hope you are a intellegent person, to make a racial remark like you just made makes me wonder if you are. No where in any of these conversations has anyone shown hate or dislike for any person of any race. You remind me of Al Sharpton and Jessie Jackson bringing race into every argument.
Walter (Tripp) Hainsfurther April 10, 2012 at 07:47 PM
Bob: I believe that current educational reserach supports a "smaller is better" approach with regards to class size. I also believe this is a collectively bargined issue between the district and it's teachers. I think that the unspoken issue is the differences in class size between schools and grades. One of the reasons that grade centered schools have some popularity (like in Glencoe) is that you can maximize class size and make the most efficient use of staff.
W.S. April 10, 2012 at 10:50 PM
"I also believe this is a collectively bargined issue between the district and it's teachers." This is not the case. The class sizes are strictly board guidelines and are not tied to the contract.
Dan Jenks April 10, 2012 at 11:17 PM
Bob: I agree with Tripp's point about current research and, from personal observation, I think smaller is better in general. I would note that District 112's policy is to gradually allow class sizes to get larger as kids move up in grades - which seems reasonable. Last year, my daughter had a class in 8th grade that had 30 students - which I think worked okay, but wouldn't work okay in the context of a 1st grade class. The other reason for smaller classes is that it allows for more "differentiated learning" - i.e, trying to break the class into smaller groups (or even individuals) that can move at their own pace as much as possible. Differentiated learning is the holy grail - something that District 112 is striving for but hasn't quite accomplished yet.
Bob Levi April 11, 2012 at 03:44 PM
Yesterday I talked to someone about class size and they told me that small classes support team efforts. Isn't that what team sports are supposed to do? One concern found in the business world with new hires is they don't know how to think independently. I strongly believe that education should provide kids with the tools to grow later in life outside of the classroom. Education should start at home with the parents. With the need for both parents having to work just to make ends meet, I think there might be a tendency to leave their kid's education entirely up to the school. It's a cpmplex issue that probably doesn't have an easy answer. Thanks for the inputs.
David Greenberg April 12, 2012 at 01:34 AM
"Small classes support team efforts" - huh? That just sounds strange to me. I'd think that "Large Classes support team efforts" would be correct because you'd have more kids that could break into more teams, and those teams could compete against each other (or cooperate with each other as the case may be). With a smaller class, that might not be the case. I agree - kids should have the tools to grow later in life outside of the classroom. Large groups occur outside of the classroom. "Matrixed organizations" occur outside of the classroom. "Committees" and "Teams" occur outside of the classroom. So does "independent research and thought". All of these things are important, but I'm not convinced that smaller is always better. Certainly, the optimal size will depend upon the grade level. As kids grow in knowledge and grade level, so should the class size. The kids should learn how to do the research, and the work independently or in a team - but utilize the teacher as a resource when necessary. This is not the traditional route, and not appropriate for all grade levels or perhaps even some classes, but if we applied it appropriately, it could help to achieve the dual goals of providing a good education at a lower taxpayer burden. But we need to at least talk about it. From what I've seen, many persons treat "class size" as a holy war - which prevents thoughtful discourse.
A April 13, 2012 at 01:28 PM
To quote Albert Einstein: "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different results." This district has routinely lacked the balls to cut the cord on several things. From consolidating DL into a World Language stand-alone school, redrawing boundaries to rebalance neighborhood populations to closing schools if needed in order to do so. I have watched school board after school board blow hot air around, set up committees, create division between school parents and the bottom line stands: This district has been fiscally irresponsible for years. By allowing the DL program to exist in 3 buildings, by purchasing $2 mil worth of smart boards (for example), by constantly shifting Special Ed programs, by buckling on class size issues, by busing students across town instead of doing what has always been necessary, but divisive: close schools, shift boundaries, end of story. We are bleeding out money and education is unequal in buildings as well as socialization opportunities for lasting relationships. Low income, special ed #'s are increasing and we subsidize low income students and children from Fort Sheridan. Anyone at this point suggesting these facts have anything to do with race, ethnicity or military students themselves have no place at the table. It is these people who have continuously shifted necessary conversations away from reality and created in-fighting between community members so that nothing ever gets done here. Stop.
Larry Jones April 13, 2012 at 03:45 PM
A: No one could have said it any better. You have in one long paragraph perfectly explained what the problem is. So what is the solution? Do families now just continue to move out of the Red Oak district and do new prosperctictive homeowners continue to avoid Red Oak????.
J.B. April 13, 2012 at 04:52 PM
Amy, do you happen to know families from Red Oak with kids in the monolingual classes, who upgraded to a bigger house, or built a new house in the same Red Oak area where they were living before? Look at the names in the Buzz Book no further than 2nd and 3rd grade and think! I know quite a few, without mentioning families like ours, that chose Red Oak School on purpose.
Walter (Tripp) Hainsfurther April 13, 2012 at 07:13 PM
Lee, what would you say if I told you that one solution would be to close Red Oak or Sherwood b/c they serve the same basic area. Then close Green Bay Road b/c those programs could be accomodated elsewhere. The District should also consider closing Lincoln becasue of it's age and constructing a new school on Ft Sheridan.
Samantha Stolberg April 14, 2012 at 02:49 AM
Walter - I partially agree with you regarding Red Oak and Sherwood, but my big concern would be what would happen to the land that is no longer a school and what kind of traffic would alternative uses bring to a very small residential neighborhood. Also, Red Oak continues to Edgewood while Sherwood goes to Elm Place - how do you untangle that one?
Larry Jones April 14, 2012 at 03:10 AM
Tripp: I totally agree with Samantha
Walter (Tripp) Hainsfurther April 14, 2012 at 08:59 PM
Whatever school(s) are closed questions like Samantha has posed will exist. That's one of the reasons it will be, in my opinion, politically infeasable to do so. I was simply responding with a potential solution. There are many of them. However, if a school was to close it is likely to occur in the southern part of town, as that is where the excess capacity is. And I believe that the pair of Red Oak and Sherwood offer a real challenge because of their physical proximetry. No other schools have that and no other school is as empty of neighborhood students as Red Oak. I will admit that is not the answer those parents will want to hear. Just because a school is closed doesn't mean you sell the land. Even if you do, then it is zoned for a use and, in all liklihood, any propsed development would go through a hearing process. In terms of middle school attendance, until about 15 years ago, Sherwood students went to Edgewood. It was only because the Board decided all middle schools should look identical that this was changed.
Ernest April 16, 2012 at 03:30 PM
Since, with the exception of the ESL students, parents CHOOSE to enter their children in the DL program maybe they should pay for the additional resources, teachers, books, etc instead of asking everyone else to pay what one reader characterized as a "treasure". And while the Board agonizes over this issue, why don't they just redraw the lines for balanced classroom sizes, and let the military families attend the school closest to them which is Oak Terrace. They are here, and need to be treated just as we would any permanent resident's children.
Larry Jones April 16, 2012 at 04:05 PM
Ernest: Excellent idea except the board refuses to do this. Maybe the answer is to vote the board out at the next election and get someone in there who actually understands the problem. What do you think about that idea????
Lisa W. April 16, 2012 at 04:37 PM
Lee - Please clarify what the board refuses to do. Are you referring to DL parents paying an extra fee to enroll their children in the program or redraw school boundary lines? Can you also clarify what reasons, if any, the board gave for their refusal. If you are referring to the military children being serviced at Oak Terrace you might want to to know that Oak Terrace is filled to capacity with almost 500 children and could no longer service the military community (which we did very capably and happily for many years until base closures decreased the population to such a great extent that Oak Terrace started to house the Head Start pre-school program and thus could not house the military students when the base population expanded again.) At this time even though the pre-school students attend the Green Bay Road location, Oak Terrace is at capacity. To make room for the military students, students would need to moved from Oak Terrace. Many of these students are from the Oak Terrace neighborhood so they would have to move from their home school. How does this solve the problem?
Larry Jones April 16, 2012 at 04:48 PM
Lisa: Expand the borders of those that would attend Red Oak South to the Police Station.
Lisa W. April 16, 2012 at 05:58 PM
Lee - Where do those children go now? What has been the objection to that plan?
Larry Jones April 16, 2012 at 07:56 PM
They are the neighborhood children that i want my grandkids to be friends with in kindergarten and first grade instead of kids bussed in that they will not see again until HS. Where do they go, other schools than Red Oak
Larry Jones April 19, 2012 at 10:02 PM
Pedro Very simple answer to you and it has nothing to do with DL kids. Let neighborhood kids go to school in their own neighborhoods and quit bussing all over HP and Highwood
JR April 19, 2012 at 10:22 PM
Samantha, I am glad we can agree that DL is not the reason people are leaving RO. However, you are once again mistaken. My decisions for each of my children are based on each ones needs. For my sixth grader, originally we were told he would be going to EP and planned to send him there. Then, the program changed ( and when he began, there was no junior high DL option) and we were in limbo for years. Durung that time, he decided to go to EW. For my fourth grader, I am actually pushing NW and hope he goes there (although he wants EW). I think it would be a better place and better program for him now that we know more about it. Also, in terms of consolidation, if it were to happen today, I would 100 percent consider it for my k. She is thriving in the program and I think it would be great for her. My older two were already too immersed in RO that I did not like the idea of switching their school when that was never our original plan and not something they ever expected to happen. So, yes I do support DL but you have to understand that every year, there has been talk of changes even since before my sixth grader entered k. So it is hard to not know your child's future each year and be supportive of all changes when it's not what originally was presented to you when you began.
J.B. April 19, 2012 at 11:47 PM
Then kids living West of the Police Station in Highland Park should Not go to Deerfield schools, but to Sherwood or Red Oak.
J.B. April 20, 2012 at 12:18 PM
Can anyone explain why the kids South of the Police Station, who live in WALKING distance from Sherwood and Red Oak, on streets such as half of Winthrop, Devonshire Ct, Windsor, etc. in Highland Park. are being bussed to Deerfield schools?
Kathy April 20, 2012 at 02:34 PM
J.B.- that part of Highland Park was annexed to D109 about 15 years ago. I'm not sure why, but I can find out. It was the beginning of the decline of enrollment at Red Oak. Keep in mind that Red Oak was not intended to be an elementary school, it was a middle school when it was built.
Kathy April 20, 2012 at 02:34 PM
J.B.- that part of Highland Park was annexed to D109 about 15 years ago. I'm not sure why, but I can find out. It was the beginning of the decline of enrollment at Red Oak. Keep in mind that Red Oak was not intended to be an elementary school, it was a middle school when it was built.
Kathy April 20, 2012 at 02:39 PM
I think that we need to follow basic expectations for civil discourse and allow for all opinions in without exclusion. No one should be asked to "butt out." Name calling is not appropriate either. Please remember that this is a very public forum and how you conduct yourself is visible to everyone. I think that offering possible solutions to the budget issues is where the focus should remain.
Larry Jones April 20, 2012 at 03:45 PM
J.B That is the crux of the problem. We want the kids who live in the neighborhood to go to the schools in their neigborhoods so they can grow up with each other and develop meaningful long term relationships. This cant happen when kids are bussed in one year and gone the next. I cant see where anyone would have a problem with this
Walter (Tripp) Hainsfurther April 20, 2012 at 04:26 PM
Lee: The problem is that there is not enough neighborhood population to justify operating Red Oak and Sherwood with the same grade configurations. Bussing children fron, say High Ridge, just creates the same issue as bussing any child. The northern schools are near capacity. It just isn't that simple.
Amy April 21, 2012 at 10:37 PM
AJ - please clarify something for me. Why do your children go to Oak Terrace rather than Sherwood when you live in the Indian Trail area? And, why do Denise Tiemeyer's children go to Oak Terrace instead of Red Oak when they live in the Braeside area? Wouldn't it be nice if we all had the choice to arbitrarily decide which schools our kids should attend?


More »
Got a question? Something on your mind? Talk to your community, directly.
Note Article
Just a short thought to get the word out quickly about anything in your neighborhood.
Share something with your neighbors.What's on your mind?What's on your mind?Make an announcement, speak your mind, or sell somethingPost something