Community concerned about proposal to restructure primary schools
A special school board meeting Tuesday in the East Valley School District became so heated the board moved to another part of the administration building to continue its business.
Superintendent John Glenewinkel said the board had two items on its agenda – to consider extending Glenewinkel’s contract and to consider directing Glenewinkel to move forward with plans to change elementary and middle schools to all pre-kindergarten through eighth grade.
“They extended my contract,” Glenewinkel said. His contract is now good through 2014.
The second item on the agenda has been the subject of controversy in the district for months. It is a departure from proposals the board has discussed to have some schools serve students in pre-kindergarten through eighth grade and some schools to serve students in pre-kindergarten through third grade and other schools to serve fourth-grade through eighth-grade students.
Glenewinkel said the board had been listening to input from staff members and community members to abandon this plan and make the district all pre-kindergarten through eighth grade.
“There was quite a bit of opposition here,” he said of the restructuring plan in general.
Glenewinkel also said that community members attended the meeting and were very passionate and very vocal about their concerns.
“(Board chairman) Roger Trainor felt they couldn’t conduct the business of the meeting,” Glenewinkel said.
Trainor recessed the meeting to clear the room, but community members stayed in the board room to continue the discussion. The board adjourned and reconvened in another part of the building.
Retired sixth-grade teacher Art Tupper said he has been gathering support in opposition of the plan. He came to the meeting Tuesday to speak. He wanted to tell the board that he feels this plan is causing unrest for students, parents and the community.
He said he’s lived in the district since 1946 and sent his children and his grandchildren to East Valley. He and his wife, Joan, said they remember when the buildings in the district were built. Although he doesn’t have children in the district now, he said he has a stake in what the district is doing because he cares about children’s education.
He worries about the conditions of the buildings in the district.
“Trent needs minor repairs but Otis Orchards, Trentwood and East Farms all need major repairs. That can’t be done if this bond fails,” Tupper said. He feels that the plan to restructure the district will convince voters to reject the bond.
While the board was continuing its meeting away from the crowd, Tupper said one attendee pledged $5,000 to help fight the plan.
He said he hopes to use these funds to put up yard signs and billboards to campaign against it.
He added that as a former elementary school teacher in Spokane, he feels that exposing younger students to middle school students will expose them to drugs and alcohol.
“They are not the kind of young minds that really understand what that middle school is all about. But in fairness to the middle school students, they need that middle school experience before high school because they need to learn and grow and prosper,” Tupper said.
“I’ll sit down and I’ll work with them (the board) within this structure. I’ll work with the people in the community to get our schools to where they need to be,” Tupper said.
Glenewinkel said the board directed him to move forward with planning changes to the district, and he said he will now explore two plans: how to make these changes with a bond to the voters, which could cost taxpayers around $33 million if it passes, and how to make these changes without a bond.
“The plan would be fully articulated by 2015,” Glenewinkel said. “At that point all of our buildings would be PK to eight.”
The bond would need a supermajority – 60 percent – to pass.
He said that if a bond, which could be on the ballot as early as April, is rejected by voters, the timeline would change, but he intends to move forward with restructuring the district in any case.
“No schools will be closed next year,” he said. “Next year is a pure planning year.”
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