Ah yes, the Summit held for three sessions at Lincoln School. At first the school board wanted to charge $15 per person but the media scotched that idea. 175 people attended the first session with slightly less participants the next two evenings. I was there all three nights and felt as some of the media did that we may be moving in the direction new Superintendent Kay Royster wanted #150 to move. Out of the summit came 50 ideas with the top 9 as follows: Increased parental involvement; reading at grade level; class size; race and diversity; Marketing District #150; vocational training; educational equality for all students; discipline and Edison Schools. Money and adequate facilities were ranked by the attendees as 14th and 16th.
So then a few months later District #150 assembled 40 people to meet behind closed doors as the JSEB says at "the bargain price of $60,000. Didn't the Summit do the same think last summer?" Royster with all her great sounding ideas (think Obama) is long gone and the district not much better off than most of us can see. Summit's, closed door meetings, consultants by the dozens and new facilities moved from 16th place of need by the community to #1 by the board and administration.
Let's look at the top nine goals determined at the Summit and see how far we've come in 6 years.
Parental involvement - less today than then. Actually many of the teachers do not want the parents to come to school, visit their classes and observe the general chaos that goes on. I know, I visit. Some teachers won't even look at me let alone introduce me or ask me to address the class. On the other hand, how can child bearers and sometimes unkown "fathers" be held accountable? No one ever taught them how to be a parent. Not at home or in #150.
Reading at grade level. How about two levels back for most kids from the third grade on or earlier?
Class size - #150 is consolidating meaning less and less kids are coming to school or classes will be larger.
Race and diversity - This community is more separated today than in 2002. Diversity when forced has less affect. Consider some of the colleges that accept students who are bound to fail but at least these institutes of higher learning have met their "quotas" of minorities.
Marketing: My idea as quoted in the Peoria Times-Observer on 6/12/02 "District #150 has not sent enough missionaries out in the field to spread the good word", Widmer said.
Vocational training - mainly all talk for 16 years with maybe 600 students taking a few courses and that includes computer usage. Plus the few kids Caterpillar works with for their hopefully own employ later.
Educational equality for all students - meaning what? The students have only so many good teachers to teach them. Many teachers should not be teaching so how can you have equality? Again, I know, I visit and watch and listen. But all kids in any classroom have an opportunity to learn even from the worst teachers.
Discipline - Once past third grade discipline is next to impossible because the "window" was broken a long time ago and parents and administrators and experts sad "kid will be kids, let them be themselves; don't harm their self-esteem". Now windows are broken with abandon and it is too late for many of these kids. Now the schools are filled with these kids (they later fill our judicial, juvenile courts; our jails and prisons).
Edison - Loucks Edison was an impressive school when I visited it about 4-5years ago when they had a white principal and assistant principal. When the principal (and several good teachers left the following year)left and went to Dunlap, Loucks went downhill to the point of the use of a bullhorn to try to maintain order in the cafeteria. I know first hand that Nicole Wood and her staff do an excellent job at Northmoor as does Valda Shipp at Franklin. Same for Rolling Acres.
There are other good principals like Mrs. Jankovetz at Columbia, The principal at Whittier (now at Manual), Kellar, Hines, Woodruff, Richwoods (now retired), Peoria High, Charter Oaks and many other schools. The biggest breakdown is at the top as it usually is when entities are in trouble. But as I said in my comments on C.J. Summer's site,unless the whole public school system is overhauled someone will be writing these same words 50 years from now.
I have never intended to lump all administrators, board members, teachers, principals, coaches, janitors, cafeteria workers, bus drivers, substitute teachers and parents together. Peoria has some great people among all these categories. But the community has failed to have the right leadership in the right places at the right time. This community, a long time in denial, has never accepted a thoughtful contrarian view. The leaders only want to work with their peers who all think alike.
The community has a great race and culture divides within the races. I reject saying that the community is racist, black or white. Most black people go one way and their kids follow. Most white people go one way and their kids follow. An article I read today said that college students meet to support Obama and the white kids sit at one table and the black kids at another, When they agree to support Obama; most college kids are liberal and are dreamers because they are being taught by liberal professors, the blacks leave together and go one way and the whites leave together and go a different way. That sums up Peoria. Last night I went to a fundraiser for Percy Baker attended by approximately 100 people. Ten white people and 90 blacks. Last week I went to a community development question and comment session. 90 white people and 2-3 black people. I don't know what the mix was at Peoria Promise last night, a reported 500 or more in attendance. (Poor planning to have the events on the same date and hour); Percy deserved a better turnout.
I see Peoria and this country 50 years or sooner divided in enclaves far more divisive than we are now. It may even be too late for common sense to enter the equation as many black kids are determined they are NOT going to follow the successes of white people or even the successes of blacks like Thomas Sowell, William Raspberry, Ward Connerly, Cosby, Tiger Woods and Juan Williams to name a handful.
Peoria has rightfully gained a reputation of a lot of talk and little of the right kind of action. Usually the ideas don't fit our pocketbooks or are shoved on people who would rather see the money spent on the necessities of life rather than on tax spending enhancements.
I and many other believe we know most of the answers and I've posted many of them on this site and in approximately 25 letters to the editors I've written in the past 20 years.
The "fire in my belly" is burning out. My days in public service will probably end by my decision in early 2009. The days when I feel like blogging are less and less. It's time for me to relax and enjoy more of life. I've done a lot and a majority of people support my actions. Many other do not. Not a great problem for me but maybe they should look honestly in the mirror.