Zoned Schools

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It's a topic that initially brought on a desegregation lawsuit.

It's the third time that the Rockford Public School District may be totally re-vamped. The last time, the courts ordered the changes. Tuesday night Rockford Superintendent Dr. Dennis Thompson presented initial plans to change student assignment.

Sidella Highes was a plaintiff in the People Who Care Lawsuit. Hughes told the Dr. Thompson, "You have not shown that schools on the west side or quality of teachers are equal."

It's the same debate that launched a Desegregation lawsuit back in 1989. At that time the district was ordered to bridge the achievement gap between white and minority students. Fast forward 17 years and some at the Education Committee meeting fear the past will resurface. But instead of student performance the concern is equal resources at each school.

School Board Member Mike Williams stated, "Right now we can't say that this district can't say that we have equitable resources in every single school."

Dr. Dennis Thompson wants to start what he calls “zoned schools” which is similar to “neighborhood schools.” He presented six criteria that this new student assignment policy will follow. Thompson says the plan should be easy to understand, will provide parents with long-term predictability and be more cost effective. Right now the district spends about $2 million busing kids around to accommodate parent's requests.

Dr. Dennis Thompson told the audience that, "I really think our current system perpetuates the myth that there are few good elementary schools and few good middle schools and one good high school. We have to believe that every school in Rockford is going to be a quality school."

This is just the first discussion of many that will hopefully involve the entire community.

Education Committee meetings will be held outside the district so more people get a chance to participate. The goal is to have the board take a vote on zoned schools by the beginning of April. This new student assignment policy would kick-off the 2007-2008 school year.