How sad it is to watch as people with good intentions do bad things to others. That’s what has happened in Peoria as a group of people successfully worked to bring a charter school to District 150 while quietly applauding the closure of Woodruff High School. Those people should be ashamed, including the elected members of the school board. Shame on the Caterpillar executives, past and present, the Peoria Area Chamber of Commerce, and others who first met and planned privately, and then gleefully celebrated in front of the TV cameras over a charter school as Woodruff students, their parents and teachers wondered where they’ll be next school year. Gone from the northside of Peoria, the former Averyville area, its grade school and high school, apparently with the blessing of its city council representative as well. But then, this area consists primarily of low income people and supporters of the charter school are upper income so they don’t give a damn.
Meanwhile, here are some of the things being discussed around town:
• The vote to close Woodruff High School affecting 970 students with claims of saving $1.7 million.
• Additional busing costs for Woodruff students to Manual, Central and Richwoods have not been revealed.
• Costs for increased security at Manual, Central and Richwoods have not been revealed as worries increase over gang violence.
• Class sizes next year at Manual, Central and Richwoods have not been disclosed.
• Board votes to approve a charter school though the district has forecast a deficit of $16 million.
• The charter school will have an initial enrollment of less than 200 students at an estimated first year cost of $1.7 million.
• Caterpillar pledged $500,000 if charter school supporters could raise an equal amount. They didn’t, falling far short. Will “Cat” still give $500,000?
• What’s the actual difference between what it would’ve cost to keep Woodruff open versus the annual costs for operating a charter school with 220 students?
• Why is the Peoria Area Chamber of Commerce, consisting of some people who live outside Peoria, involved in District 150 affairs?
• Where are those who threatened lawsuits against District 150?
The Chamber of Commerce, under the leadership of Roberta Parks, has become quite a political group. Its political action committee is chaired by a non-Peoria resident, John Bearce, who lives in Washington. That committee has been endorsing candidates for Peoria public office, including the race for Peoria’s school board. John, who I consider a friend, claims transparency and promised to send me a list of the committee. I have yet to receive it so we can learn how many who live outside District 150 voted to endorse the “Chamber’s candidate.” With due respect to John and others on the committee who don’t live in District 150, the right thing to do would’ve been to abstain from voting.
CHARTER SCHOOLS RECEIVE MIXED INDEPENDENT REVIEWS
Charter school supporters apparently withheld important negative information from District 150 board members and Peoria taxpayers. Independent reviews are available about charter schools in other cities. The reviews, at best, are mixed.
Renaissance 2010 is a charter school program in Chicago. According to a study by the Chicago Tribune and reported by Stephanie Banchero, “Renaissance 2010 (charter schools) has done little to improve the educational performance of the city’s school system.” She cites the newspaper’s analysis of state test data. Her report adds, “Scores from elementary schools created under Renaissance 2010 are nearly identical to the city (public school) average, and scores at the remade high schools are below the already abysmal city average.”
Banchero made an additional point in her story that District 150 board members Laura Petelle, Debbie Wolfmeyer, Linda Butler and Dr. David Gorenz should take note. When the Chicago school system closed schools (like Woodruff), “The migration of teenagers across racial, cultural and gang boundaries burdened a high school system already struggling to educate students. Violence escalated.” If that isn’t a red flag for Peoria I don’t know what is, but then, what do taxpayers know.
In another assessment of charter schools, the Center for Research on Education Outcomes at Stanford University, questioned the benefits supporters in Peoria claim. Walt Gardner, writing for the Christian Science Monitor, says the center’s report “casts doubt on whether the academic performance of students in charter schools is any better overall than that of their peers in public schools.”
PJS columnist Pam Adams gave an excellent synopsis of “pie-in-the-sky” school choices that have come and gone in District 150. Many were developed with the same fanfare now being trumpeted by yet another group of educational specialists, most whom have never taught in a grade or high school. I loved Pam’s closing line: “We’re always gambling on the best way to improve public education.” I might add the gambling is always with our tax money.
LICKISS BEST FOR SCHOOL BOARD
I said it last month and we’ll say it again this month. The best choice for District 3, Peoria School Board, is former Peoria County Board member Jeff Lickiss. I make no secret; I’ve always liked Jeff’s dedication to public service and his fierce desire to do the right thing. He listens to all viewpoints but is his own man. He’s not another clone for the Chamber of Commerce or the small group of self-appointed education experts who are working to take away teaching decisions from teachers in order to hire out-of-town corporations. I believe in Jeff enough to be a volunteer in his campaign.
Sheriff Mike McCoy should win re-election. His opponent, who once served on the 150 school board, used poor judgment in selecting his campaign slogan, “Real Integrity.”
Is that like saying, “Real Pregnancy?”
There are two contests for Peoria County Board. Former board chairman Dave Williams wants to return, so he’s challenging the First District incumbent, Bonnie Hester. In a close one, Williams will win the Democrat nomination.
In another Democrat primary battle, District 150 board member Rachael Parker is challenging incumbent Bud Sous for the District 5 seat. It seems very strange that Parker would seek another elected office after serving such a short time on the school board. I’m told by one source she doesn’t like all the pressure she’s been getting for her board votes. Too bad because she will lose and have to make more stressful school decisions.
Thanks to PJS columnist Steve Tarter, we learned the latest radio ratings and JMP, managers of such stations as WMBD and WSWT, mopped up the local competition. What was really comical, according to the ratings, the now defunct WOAM beat out WIRL, owned by JMP, and two other stations owned by the folks at Independence Media. Remember, JMP manager Mike Wild, fired the popular Dan Dermody on WIRL, replacing him with some young girl. The decision didn’t help 1290 ratings. It’s at the bottom.
WOAM, which is once again off the air, was narrowly beat out by another JMP station, WDQX. To bolster that station, Mike Wild is moving Luciano and Markley from their afternoon slot to a morning gig on the FM station. Taking a page from the “Breakfast with Royce and Roger” successful format, the newspaper writer said they were going to mix music with chatter. After a couple of years on radio, the newspaper columnist is now a broadcast executive. Word is they’re going to try once again for a trip to Las Vegas.
Speaking of radio, what a fitting tribute Bradley University and the community paid to Dave Snell, the voice of the Braves. First it was the Bradley luncheon, attended by close to 400 people, and then his Hall of Fame induction that night at the Bradley game. Dave is one of the nice guys in our town. Another is the coordinator for the monthly Bradley luncheons, Ken “Moose” Goldin. Ken has a great sense of humor and is almost as witty as Royce Elliott. Almost.
No one roots louder or more vocally for the Braves than Mark Scott. We’re told some of the referees are not happy with his on-court antics. At a recent game, a referee reportedly warned Scott if he set foot on the playing court during the game he would be ejected from Civic Center. He didn’t take the public dressing down too well, but some say it was over-due. If I sat at courtside I would probably be as bad. Then again, maybe not.
Elsewhere in the world of sports, look for Jim Thome to sign with the Minnesota Twins. I got that word from a very reliable family member while having lunch at the Spotted Cow. Guess who.
Have you been to Sheridan Village lately? The folks there are really renovating the shopping center. When finished it should be a real retail draw once again.
When did “Grizzly” Adams become Peoria mayor? I have no idea where Jim Ardis is, but his replacement looks like a cabinet appointee by Alaska’s Sarah Palin.
The Greater Peoria Sports Hall of Fame will hold its 29th annual Induction Banquet, Sunday March 14, beginning at 11:30 a.m. Among those being honored for induction are football members of the 1974 Central and 1975, 1976, and 1977 teams. Tickets are $30.00. Reservations can be made by calling 682-4255.
WORDS OF WISDOM
“The democracy will cease to exist when you take away from those who are willing to work and give to those who would not.” ——-Thomas Jefferson