South Side Schools Part 1

Posted: January 27, 2012 in government, Neighborhoods, Schools, South Bend

[This is a series of blogs dealing with issues pertaining to condition of neighborhoods on the South Side of South Bend.  You can read the first couple of posts here , here , & here.]

This past Monday evening the  South Bend School Board had their weekly meeting. During the meeting the newly elected Mayor, Pete Buttigieg, addressed the board.  In his address he expressed his desire to work with the school board noting how important a strong school system is to the health of a city.  He promised several things such as: 1) an open door for communication; 2) an advocate by virtue of his office; 3) pursuit of private financial investments; and 4) a call for community volunteers and mentors.

I’m glad the mayor addressed the school board.  And I couldn’t agree more in regards to the health of a city being largely dependent on the condition of its schools.  But as we talk about the south side of South Bend and schools (as has been popular on the blog this week) I believe the condition of our schools may be a contributing factor to the decline of our neighborhoods (and yes…I know the exact opposite can be said as well…the decline of our neighborhoods is a contributing factor to the condition of our schools…welcome to the chicken and the egg debate).

The one thing I hear consistently in regards to people’s decision to move to Michiana but choose a home in Mishawaka or Granger, is the condition of South Bend public schools  (even more than crime) .  I recently read a forum online of someone asking for advice because they were moving to the area.  Page after page was filled with people encouraging them NOT to move to South Bend but rather choose Lakeville, Mishawaka or Granger and the most often cited reason was the school system.

Several years ago I counted 18 kids that lived on my street (I live on a cul-de-sac on the South Side of South Bend).  18 kids…mostly girls! Out of those 18 kids (who are smart, well-behaved, come from stable homes, etc.), only 2 (my children) actually attended a South Bend public school (and even now I only have one in the South Bend public school).  The other 16 were attending private schools (mostly Catholic).  I couldn’t help but wonder if that was the norm on other streets as well.  It seems that anyone who can…sends their kids to another school system or a private school.

The flight out of South Bend public schools guts the neighborhood schools.  And specifically, it guts the schools of kids who are coming from stable homes with parents who are involved and who encourage their children academically.  When you take all of those kids out – how does it not devastate a school?  And now the State is offering vouchers to help in this flight (which…in a spirit of full-disclosure…we use for one of our kids).

AND another thing…I think the whole “magnet” / “traditional” school concept has not helped neighborhood schools.  I think it had the best intentions in the world.  But the end result is you have taken some of your most academically skilled kids who live on the South Side of South Bend and now bus them to Kennedy, LaSalle, etc.  The result:  the further gutting of our neighborhood schools.  I was talking to an ex-teacher at McKinley elementary the other day.  She said that is exactly what happened at McKinley.  After the magnet school came into existence McKinley now qualifies as a 100% free-lunch school and their ISTEP test scores plummeted.

I don’t know how you go back now.  But the end result and consequence has been weaker South Bend neighborhood schools – and especially around the South Side of South Bend.  Our South Side High School – who I love and graduated from (just a couple of years ago) – just barely avoided state takeover.  And when a parent has to decide where to send their kid to High School – a school that isn’t under threat of State takeover (whether it be private or in another school system) is a whole lot more attractive than one that is.

To see Part 2 go here.

  1. Jim says:

    I’m sure things have changed considerably since 1985 when I graduated from that south side high school. But I had involved parents who valued education and were in there 100% with me all the way. I got good enough grades to get into advanced classes and wound up with a public-school education good enough to get me into engineering school. I’ll take it on spec that things have gotten worse. But is it not still possible, with good parent support, to get a good education in South Bend schools today?

  2. heatherinIN says:

    Did you know that the magnets actively recruit students, too? We have families at McKinley who get calls from Kennedy to enroll their children there. We know this because many of them flat out say no. Yay for committed families (and a principal who believes that our quality of education is every bit as good as at Kennedy and ISTEP scores that went up anyway this past year, in spite of it all.)

    Math is not my strong point. Nevertheless, it seems obvious to me that if you take the top 5% of the schools to Kennedy, and then the next top 5% or so to the traditional and other magnets, that you have changed the bell curve at the other schools. (and those percentages are probably conservative, and heavily favor some home schools over others. It would be interesting to see the home school data for Kennedy…) Yet, those schools are still held to being able to meet that bell curve requirement, without adjusting the curve. I just dont get how the people in charge didn’t think about that aspect.

  3. the other ed says:

    I just read an article stating that sports programs in SBCSC may be considering a magnet program for sports.
    It is almost as if it is an “every man for himself” mentality. I suppose the real question is, how do we get the schools, as a whole, to remember all of the forgotten students in non-magnet schools.

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