The biggest issue before the board Tuesday night was examining recommendations for moving Rockford elementary schools from choice to attendance zones. But before they ever got to that, a large group of protesters took the floor.
A couple dozen community members marched from the Booker Washington Center to the administration building, to ask for Principal Kenneth Jackson's reinstatement at Jefferson High School. He's working in the district's central office while he renews his Illinois principal's license.
An investigation is also still underway into grade changes he made last year with the former superintendent's support. About 20 people stood up to talk about positive things they say he's done at Jefferson. They want him to lead the school in a position that does not require certification, like the position Rockford's interim superintendent's husband holds at East High School.
"If that means him being chief operating officer than so be it.. that opportunity has been extended to others. Why not to him when he's made such a difference in the community," sais one march organizer.
Board members did not discuss Jackson during the meeting. They did talk about elementary school zones.
After months of research, the elementary zones committee presented its recommendations to the full board. The tentative plan is to place elementary schools in clusters that feed into higher grades to provide stability and a neighborhood feel. Middle and high schools moved to zones this year. There are no maps yet establishing specific boundaries. Another major issue still ahead is how to ensure diversity and socio-economic equality between all schools.
"We certainly did not take socio-economic issues or diversity issues into account at all when we drew the zone that we came up with. This was done because it's such a huge issue, we just couldn't get it done in just seven weeks," says committee member Jay Ware.
One option is to pair schools in some fashion across the city to increase diversity.
One of the major reasons for elementary restructuring is our current outdated system leaves some schools overcrowded, others underpopulated. The new plan suggests shifting around the use of several schools. For instance, Page Park would move to general education from special ed. Bloom would turn into a language immersion school and Washington would no longer be an elementary. Those shifts are causing controversy as well.
The process is far from over. Several public forums are expected over the coming months. The zoning plan could either phase in over six years or go into place all at once possibly as soon as next school year. The zoning committee did not discuss costs but the district's financial officer says the proposal might require 69 added teachers.