B.O.L.D. decision, next steps for community

Information Graphic by Allie Langness

After a grueling process, the School Board voted on March 3, 2016 in favor of closing Marine, Withrow, and Oak Park Elementary schools. Previously, at the February 11, 2016 meeting, the board decided to delay the vote until March 3.

In preparation for the March 3 meeting, the school board initiated a survey which was to be completed by the Morris Leatherman Company. Seven hundred community members were chosen randomly and telephone interviews were conducted. Fifty seven percent of people surveyed either opposed or strongly opposed the B.O.L.D. proposal, while thirty six percent either supported or strongly supported it. Eight percent of people were unsure how they felt.

Many people were in attendance for the vote. It was clear that the community was divided on the decision. Community members had one last opportunity to voice their concerns and their opinions on the B.O.L.D. proposal. When someone made a comment about supporting the proposal, one section of the auditorium cheered. When someone made a comment about opposing the proposal, the rest of the auditorium cheered.

A lot of people are still left with lots of questions. The divide in the community is very large right now and that could mean big changes for our district and the relationships between families and administration. The school board members and members of the administration team are determined to close the gap that has been growing since the proposal was introduced in late December.

“We really want to work with the staff in each of our schools to find out what is important to them and what they think is special about them.”

— Superintendent Denise Pontrelli

Superintendent Denise Pontrelli said, “I think some people think this is a victory for administration and now these students are going to be forgotten and we are going to move on. That’s not how it is.”

For the next few months, administration teams will be discussing ways to make the changes less impactful on the students. Transition teams will be designed to ease families and students into their new schools. Boundary changes are the first priority and meetings to discuss this change are happening in the upcoming weeks.

“We really want to work with the staff in each of our schools to find out what is important to them and what they think is special about them. We want to find a way to welcome students into a new school because we really want it to be a place where all families are accepted and valued,” Pontrelli said.

At the meeting on March 3, Paula O’Loughlin, School Board member said, “For the first time as a parent, in 10 years in this district, I believe we are finally taking a systems-level approach to learning. It is my opinion that it’s untenable, unfair and unacceptable that these students aren’t getting what they need and our teachers and staff are not getting the support they need to serve our students.”

This process has not been easy for anyone in the community. For families in the community who are directly impacted, it has been an incredibly emotional process. For the school board members, it has been for many, the toughest decision they have and ever will have to make on the board.

Kathy Buchholz, School Board member said, “Nothing is simple. It’s not a yes or no thing. We are going to continue to work towards improving the resources available for all of our students.”

Each and every school board member dedicated their time and their effort to ensuring they made the best decision possible for the students and for the district. They will continue to carry out the plans and proposals made by the B.O.L.D. plan.

“I know what the easy decision would be tonight. I also know in my heart what I believe the best decision to serve all of our kids. Always, always I will choose kids,” O’Louglin said at the March 3 meeting.