On Aug. 17, the District 65 School Board signed off on a process to “determine the purpose and instructional programs of the District’s magnet schools,” which is one of the goals of the five-year strategic plan approved by the Board in March. A committee will be formed to study the issues and to make recommendations to the Board in February, so if there are any implications for the 2010-11 budget, they could be taken into account.

 

The plan is start the ball rolling in September.

 

The Committee’s Charge

 

Assistant Superintendent Susan Schultz suggested that the goals of the Committee should be:

  • “From a historical perspective, review the role of the magnet schools in District 65;”
  • “Review the current vision, mission and instructional focus of the magnet schools;”
  • “Complete a literature review on the structure and function of successful magnet schools;”
  • “Obtain input from stakeholders on the future development of the magnet schools;”
  • Develop a plan and recommendation which includes budget implications and a timeline for implementation.”

 

Board member Katie Bailey said, “I think the approach is great.” She suggested, though, that the Committee consider the “policy implications” of its recommendations, in addition to the “budget implications.”

 

Board member Tracy Quattrocki said she thought the Board should consider setting some parameters to help ensure that the recommendations made by the Committee were not “unrealistic” or “at odds with the neighborhood schools.” She expressed two concerns. First she said, “We have been using the magnet schools for enrollment concerns and overcrowding at the schools. If the Committee comes up with a magnet school that has a mission for the arts or technology, how does that square with using it primarily as an enrollment model?”

 

Second, Ms. Quattrocki said, “We talk over and over again about equity issues in the District. When you talk about budgeting for the magnet schools, how does that come into play? Are we implying that we’re going to set aside more funds for the magnet schools for this mission? That’s something we need to resolve before we set the committee on its way, I believe,” she said. 

 

Ms. Bailey replied, “We need the magnet schools to manage enrollment;” but she added that the magnet schools also needed to offer something to attract parents to enroll their children in the magnet schools, so the schools could continue to be used to manage enrollment and overcrowding at the other schools. She said the Committee needed the latitude to come back with recommendations about what it wants the magnet schools to be, and to present cost estimates. It then “becomes a Board decision,” she said.

 

Board president Keith Terry said, “I think we need to be realistic about what we need to do in this District in the magnet schools, and we need to hear what the Committee recommends.”

 

Ms. Shultz said the Committee could look at the whole issue of managing student enrollment; and when looking at budget implications, it could make recommendations that were cost neutral and make other recommendations that had incremental costs.

 

Dr. Murphy said the facilitator for the Committee, together with the administrative members of the Committee, could help ensure that the vision crafted by the Committee was one that “can be realized” and that “the Board can support.”

 

Mr. Terry said the Committee should also look at the criteria used by the District in selecting students for the magnet schools. Dr. Murphy said, “Typical magnet schools often have aptitude as well as interest” considered in the selection criteria. He said, “Maybe you have a little bit of all of that involved – if in fact they are going to become truly magnets.”

 

Board member Andy Pigozzi floated the idea that the Committee could consider converting one of the magnet schools into a charter school.

 

Formation of the Committee

 

Ms. Schultz suggested that the Committee include: parents, teachers and administrators from each magnet school; a parent representative from an attendance area elementary school and middle school; and the superintendent and one assistant superintendent. She said the Committee should be limited to about 20-24 persons, and they should meet twice a month.

 

Ms. Schultz also suggested that interested parents and teachers should be asked to submit an application, and members of the Committee would be selected by principals in collaboration with central office administrators and PTA presidents. This was the approach used in selecting the Differentiation/Enrichment Committee, she said.

 

Dr. Murphy said the goal was to have “a representative sample of people from different walks of life and with different viewpoints about this.”

 

Ms. Bailey suggested adding a teacher and principal from a non-magnet school, and gathering input from parents whose children do not attend the magnet schools. “If you want to understand the magnet school perspective of the community, it’s important to hear it from people more than just the magnet schools,” she said. Dr. Murphy said that could be done.

 

Ms. Schultz said the Committee’s meetings would be open to the public, and that agendas and minutes of the meetings would be posted on the District’s web site.