News From Terre Haute, Indiana

September 15, 2013

FLASHPOINT: The north side suffers from School Board’s decisions


-----

---- — As the parent of four children on the north side of the Vigo County School Corp., I am becoming increasingly alarmed by the growing disparity in opportunities and facilities provided to students depending upon where they reside. I am writing this as a parent, a former student of the district, the daughter of two past educators in this corporation and as a former teacher in the district myself. I would like also to preface this letter by stating that my family has had many positive experiences in this school system; however, for brevity’s sake I will need to limit this letter to only my concerns.

My first concern stems from the closure of Chauncey Rose Middle School. I don’t intend to debate the decision to close this school. That is in the past. My point is simply this: upon its closure, the north end of the district lost a middle school. Considering that the number of students feeding into North High School is greater than South, this is a problem. One-and-a-half middle schools now serve the larger end of the district while two-and-a-half the smaller. This has resulted in severe overcrowding and large class sizes in the middle schools serving the north end.

The plan to close Chauncey Rose should have included the redistricting of North and South Vigo and their feeder schools in order to shift students more into line with the capacities of existing facilities. This plan should have also included significant capital improvements to Otter Creek, which lags far behind other Terre Haute middle schools in modernization and general facility investment.

My second concern relates to programming provided to students qualifying for gifted and talented services. This year, second- and third-grade GT students on the east and south sides of the corporation are being served through full-time, self-contained classrooms, as they have for many years. However, second- and third-grade students with the same qualifications on the north and west sides are being served with a cluster-group model which provides only part-time GT instruction by an enrichment teacher. A child who qualifies for special services anywhere in the school district should be provided equivalent services regardless of where he or she lives.  

My next concern relates to the school district’s newly approved “central” pool project. Again, to debate this project’s need is not my intention since the decision in favor of the pool’s construction has already been made. Rather, I would like to point out that the administration’s favored site, Voorhees Park, is in no way central to all three high schools. The drive time and distance is considerably longer for students from North and West Vigo than for those from South.

I firmly believe that there are very suitable sites that are much more centrally located. My most adamant argument here is that the pool’s location should have been decided upon and proposed before public comment was received and the subsequent board vote taken. It is absurd that decisions of some finality were made on this issue before the key element of a “central” location was determined.  

Lastly, I want to emphasize that I am only able to share issues I see from my perspective. There may be many issues that parents in the corporation could and should bring to the forefront. I would like to challenge all parents to do so regardless of where they live or what schools their children attend. After hearing from a School Board member that she rarely hears from northend parents though, I would like to extend the “triple-dog-dare” to you, my fellow northside neighbors. This is no time for apathy. Decisions are being made daily that affect our students. Let’s not make it easy for the school corporation to make decisions that negatively impact our children by simply being silent.

— Martha Livengood Goodwin

Terre Haute