Brian Dey wants Racine Unified community members to consider and provide feedback on his alternative redistricting plan before they express themselves at the Board of Education meeting on Thursday.
He emailed a copy of his plan to all current board members, some members of district administration and to various media outlets, including Patch. And he is especially interested in how his fellow residents compare his plan to the district plan presented at and at last month.
A candidate for the school board, Dey crafted and distributed a plan earlier this year, but came to believe it was too ambitious. He revamped his idea a bit and broke it into two phases to go into effect over the course of two school years. The plan is attached to this story in a PDF file, or you may read it on Dey's website.
Residents are invited to the Board of Education meeting at 5:30 on Thursday at the Racine Unified Administration Building, 3109 Mt. Pleasant Steet. Public comments on redistricting will be invited, but the board will not take action.
"(The original) scenario was district wide and involved major programming changes that might be too aggressive with the given timetable," he wrote on his candidate website. "You will find that consideration of the parents and staff has been taken into consideration, as well as financial ramifications that were not taken into consideration in the scenario provided by the district."
Dey's efforts, he said, are to keep kids in the district, improve the learning environment for everyone, and be smart about money at the same time.
"We have to get away from thinking that not every kid can learn," he told Patch. "But if we're going to move children, let's just do it so we can really measure the impact. If we just do a little here and there we have no guarantee it will continue and we've lost time we don't have."
The most signficant shifts come predominantly at the elementary level but don't involve closing any schools. Instead, Dey focused on re-establishing neighborhood schools and expanding successful magnet programs for more students.
Highlights of this first phase include:
- Changing the focus at Goodland so that is the magnet elementary school instead of Red Apple;
- Moving 235 students from Olympia Brown to Wind Point and moving non-neighborhood kids from Wind Point back to their neighborhood schools;
- Drawing contiguous boundaries for Red Apple, Olympia Brown, North Park, Jerstad, Roosevelt and Wind Point; and
- Expanding the magnet program at the REAL School for middle and high school students.
Dey pointed out that most families who shift their students out of RUSD typically do so in middle and high school. Since the REAL School has a waiting list of almost 400, expanding the student body from 250 to 400 means funding stays here. Also, he points out that the Goodland campus is more suited to a magnet school curriculum and most Red Apple students come from the southern parts of the district.
What all this means, he wrote, is that Unified would keep more state education aid in-district while also utilizing fewer transportation dollars. Additionally, since a good number of Wind Point students come from the Shelbourne Court neighborhood and it's difficult for parents to get to school since public transportation isn't available, moving these children to Jerstad puts them within walking distance of home. Not only does the district, again, save money on transportation, but if parents can more easily get to their child's school, there is also the chance parent participation could increase as well.
Slated for implementation during the 2013-14 school year, the second part of Dey's plan includes only three components:
- Moving sixth grade back to the elementary level;
- Moving ninth grade back to middle school; and
- Redistricting all elementary schools as neighborhood schools with the exception of the magnet programs.
"Moving ninth grade back to middle school makes sense on so many levels," he said. "Most of those kids just aren't ready for how big and busy high school can be. Taking a grade out of those buildings, which are overcrowded, will help reduce the population and that can only help."
As for moving sixth grade back to the elementary level, Dey said there are savings to be had on a number of levels.
"Moving sixth grade from the middle schools saves money on teachers because instead of seven or eight, we'd use the elementary model of just one classroom," he said. "If elementary buildings get overcrowded, the cost of a new elementary school is far less than a new middle or high school."
It also helps improve the scores of eighth grade students, Dey added, because students will have another year to grow and prepare for a middle school curriculum.
Does it violate desegregation laws?
In our conversation with Dey, he pointed out that most districts go through redistricting every three to five years. In response to worries that neighborhood schools will re-segregate the district, Dey said that simply isn't true.
"Neighborhood schools will keep populations level and diversity intact," he said. "Racine, Kenosha and Milwaukee all have diverse student populations from all areas of their districts. We aren't like other parts of the state that are more homogenous."
But Gretchen Warner, a member of the school board who is up for re-election next month, said while she has not had a chance to read Dey's proposal in-depth, she believes some of his ideas about neighborhood schools may violate federal desegregation laws.
Dey wrote in the conclusion of his plan that his ideas stem directly from what he's heard from parents and residents with an eye on keeping kids in Racine Unified.
"Careful consideration was given to community and parental values by addressing class sizes, safety, easier transitions, better student achievement and fiscal diligence," Dey wrote.
Editor's Note: Patch has contacted or attempted to contact the rest of the Board of Education as well as the candidates to get their input about Dey's proposal. We will update the story as those comments come in.