Archive for the ‘Schools’ Category

Let me give you another blog you should be checking out.  It is called Revitalize South Bend (*insertpumpfist*).

It’s creator:  The most excellent Beth Harsch.

Listen to its purpose and intent:

As a resident of South Bend, I refuse to believe we’re a ”Dying City,” as a recent article in Newsweek claims. Nor do I care to give credence to Princeton who lists South Bend among the ”College Towns not so Great.”

I believe what many residents of South Bend believe… that this is a generous, caring, innovative community.

My desire is to highlight those people (and groups) in our community who will not let some Newsweek article define them. This is for, and about, those generous, caring and innovative people doing transformational work that improves life in South Bend.

Won’t you join me as we share ideas and resources that can benefit others in our community?

Add it to your blog roll, check out its contents frequently, and COMMENT and engage in the conversation!!

And while you are there should especially check out today’s blog post!!

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See Part 1 here and Part 2 here

“A popular government without popular information or the means of acquiring it is but a prologue to Farce or Tragedy or perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance, and a people who mean to be their own Governors must arm themselves with the power knowledge gives.”  James Madison 1788

I want to go back to the mayor’s address to the school board and suggest one more thing the mayor should do:  PUSH FOR A PARTIALLY-APPOINTED SCHOOL BOARD!!!  I know this is controversial, but I’ve lost my hope and trust in the voting electorate to select school board members who are qualified (or even smart).

Recent turmoil on the school board bears that out.  For further proof…note Roseland’s town council.  I believe in Democracy, but in local elections for school board candidates, the voting public has no clue what the candidate stands for or if they are even qualified to lead the city’s school system.  Whenever forums are offered to meet the candidate about a dozen people or less show up.  The candidates don’t have the finances for commercial spots, mass mailings, or other means to get their message out.

David Snyder

So…a voter enters the booth and chooses a name that rings most familiar (and hopefully the name isn’t familiar because of the charges that were filed against them) or one that sounds nice.  “Spivey…that sounds nice.”  “Stephanie Spivey…oooo…two ‘s’ words.  I like it.  I’ll vote for her!

And then…we get what we get.  Except, it usually means inept leadership.

If the city’s well-being is intertwined with the school system’s well-being (which I believe that it is) then the Mayor has a huge stake in what happens within our school system.  All of his attempts at city growth will be undermined by a defunct school system.  There should be at least 2-3 school board members who are directly appointed by, and are accountable to, the mayor.  I know this places a lot of trust and control in the hands of the mayor.  But he has a vested interest and his voice (via his appointees) are critical.  Further, it expedites communication between the mayor’s office and the school board.  And I don’t mean just communication that occurs at their Monday night board meetings, but probably more important, the communication that goes on outside of it.

See Part 1 here.

One way the city government can help our neighborhood schools is to do something about the condition of the neighborhoods that surrounds the schools.  Specifically, something about the blight and abandoned

properties that many schools on the South Side are right in the middle of.

Has anyone seen the neighborhood that surrounds Riley High School (especially facing opposite the main entrance)?  Has anyone seen the street that is directly in front of of the Riley Early College Program now meeting at the old Studebaker Primary Center (on Dubail Street)?  And now the school corporation is considering the Studebaker school building for the New High Tech School!!!  The entire block across from the school is abandoned with several scarred from arson on two of the properties (it used to be three but the city did demolish).

And where are these schools located?  In some of the most run-down and neglected neighborhoods on the South Side.

I don’t know what Code Enforcement or the city can do, but what does it communicate to our students, and to their families – to have schools in whose surroundings are so miserable?

To see Part 3 go here.

[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.

I feel sorry for the Kindergarten aides in the South Bend School Corporation.  I think they have a very difficult job and are underpaid.  I also think they are absolutely critical and necessary to the classroom.  But the South Bend School Corporation needs to cut $10 million.  So, what do they do…they release all the Kindergarten aides (in what meeting and who decides?), then have a public school board meeting, and change their mind.  This happens every other month.  Last night was round three of the exact same pattern.  Who can live in that stress and worry?!!  Good grief!!!

But…the school system has to cut $10 MILLION!!!

Now let me get this straight…the school system needs to cut 10,000,000 (count all the zeros) and you are going to do it off of the salaries of the Kindergarten aides!?!!  How much are they making...$250,000 a year?!  Really?  10 million and the most urgent and dispensable category is in the Kindergarten classroom!?!  You are trying to tell me that Kindergarten aides are bankrupting our school corporation (even in part)!!!!?  Come on !!!

I’ll tell you where to cut…

Cut out of the $15.2 million transportation budget!!!  Yes…that’s right.  $15.2 million (it looks like this $15,200,000) spent on busing kids from every point in our city to a different school in another part of the city!!  It is BEYOND absurd.

I’m sure it was well-intentioned and considered a great idea…but these “magnet” and “traditional” schools (at every level) that now have kids from every part of the city being bused in is outrageous.  Kids are out on the street as early as 6:20 am catching a bus to take them to the other side of town.  I’m for school choice.  If you want your kid to go to Kennedy, I’m great with that.  Then the parent can be responsible to drive their kid to Kennedy.  But for the school corporation to bear the responsibly to bus that kid to Kennedy (not to mention after school activities and the activity buses necessary for that as well) is a cost that we can clearly no longer afford.

Bring back neighborhood schools!!!

You need to cut $10 million…leave the teacher’s aides alone and pick up a transportation budget and start your cutting there!

[This humble opinion offered to you by Sam I Am.  But…I’m also looking for some pushback so come on…bring it! 🙂 ]

“Our present system penalizes experimentation and failure and doesn’t expect mastery.  This paradigm expects experimentation and failure and expects mastery.”  – Salman Khan

I’ve never been a fan of the ISTEP test.  I hate that the entire educational agenda and process (for teachers and students) now revolves around this one standardized test.  It forces every kid into a paradigm with no regard to learning styles, personalities, strengths, weaknesses, etc.  It denies teachers who have a passion and skill in a particular area to forgo their talent in preference to a stupid standardized test.

I found this yesterday.  It is about the Khan Academy.  I wondered what it would look like if the South Bend Community School Corporation abandoned their present model and adopted this as a new paradigm of learning and education.

I also found in the resources practical help for any student struggling in a host of areas of school (especially math).  Maybe you have a kid who needs some help.

If you have time to watch it (and I do because I’m on vacation 🙂 ), I highly recommend it.

Check out their website for over 2600 videos on various subjects:  www.khanacademy.org

Just wanted to post a quick THANK YOU to the Living Stones Church for your participation and generosity over the past few weeks.  It has been busy I know.  And I appreciate in the midst of all of the personal obligations you have to attend to during this time of year, that you were involved and engaged with a lot of ministry here at Living Stones.

Two weeks ago Friday – Element (our Junior High Ministry for 5-8th graders) gathered together and baked a bunch of cookies for the Ridgedale Rehabilitation Center.  On Thursday of last week, they went and sang songs, played games, and handed out the cookies and goodies to the residents of the Nursing Home.

Two weeks ago Saturday, we, once again, participated in the Candlelight Walk on Erskine Blvd.  It was a great event and our I Love South Side team did a great job of coordinating and making everything smooth from our end – from the nativity scene, to the fire pits, to the luminaries, to the cookies and hot chocolate, to the farm animals and carriage ride!!  Thank you thank you thank you.

This past week we executed Give 2011!!  We wanted to put together gift boxes for every student at Monroe Primary Center (containing hat, gloves, toys, etc.); and then a goodie bag (containing cookies, candy, small toys, etc.) for every student at Lincoln Primary Center.  That is 1000 students total!  So, we packed Santa Claus (thank you Bob Wiley) up and sent him off with Living Stoner “elves” to distribute the goodies on Monday & Tuesday.  It was a phenomenal event and much thanks goes to everyone who participated – from donations, to wrapping party, to delivery!!  In addition, as part of Give 2011, we wanted to raise money to renovate our youth space (called the Pit).  You gave beyond what we even requested!!!!  Thank you thank you thank you.

As I said Sunday, the truth is, I can’t think of a SINGLE time that when asked to do something for the sake of the community, that the Living Stones Church hasn’t risen to the occasion in generosity and participation.  I’m very proud.

So…thank you so much!  May God bless you for your generous hearts and spirits.