Changes proposed for magnet school enrollment
Superintendent of Schools William McKersie's administration is proposing for next year several changes to the district's enrollment practices for magnet school students and pupils of town employees, a set of revisions intended to address building use issues.
"We tried to craft it rather surgically, focused not at all on racial balance and only focused on facility utilization, where we have some very obvious facility challenges," McKersie told board members at their Dec. 5 meeting.
Among its most prominent recommendations, the plan calls for the district to not accept any new magnet students at New Lebanon School, because its building is projected to be fully occupied during the next three years. The school is already grappling with major overcrowding. It has 265 students this year, including 17 magnet pupils.
In another major change, McKersie recommends that magnet students matriculate at the middle school in the attendance area where they live. In the current system, magnet students enroll at the middle school serving their magnet school. International School at Dundee magnet students, for instance, go to Eastern Middle School, regardless of where they live.
McKersie's plan would also affect "tuition" students, children of district staff members and other town employees who pay for their children to attend Greenwich public schools. It advocates for restricting admission of new elementary tuition students to Old Greenwich, North Street and Parkway schools and limiting the acceptance of new middle school tuition students to Central Middle and Western Middle school. McKersie argues this would minimize the possibility of overcrowding at Cos Cob, North Mianus and Eastern Middle schools by placing tuition students in under-capacity schools. The district would review and update that procedure annually based on new enrollment projections.
Staff members still would be able to apply for available seats at magnet schools.
"We're not trying to get ahead of any of the facility utilization, racial balance decisions that the board is going to have come back to, but rather say we have an existing school of choice program that needs some modifications for it to run well regardless of what the board may decide on facility use and racial balance," McKersie added.
The district in January will begin accepting magnet applications and requests for tuition student and out-of-attendance area student placements. Magnet pupils are admitted through a lottery system. Younger siblings of magnet students are allocated places in the same schools.
Among a total district enrollment this year of approximately 8,800 students, there about 270 magnet students and approximately 120 tuition pupils.
At the Dec. 5 session, some board members questioned closing off New Lebanon to magnet students next year.
"Because we don't know where we're going on FURB (facility use and racial balance) yet, I would be a little thoughtful about changing what we're doing at New Lebanon," said Peter Sherr, the Republican candidate for the board's chairmanship. "I get the problem, I get we're trying to address the problem. I wouldn't want to take tools out of our tool bag before we know what we're doing with FURB.
"(The state Department of Education) might interpret we took a tool out of the toolbag for balancing at that school," Sherr added, referring to the state's designation of New Lebanon as a racially unbalanced school.
"We would see this as near term, but we are overstocked next year at New Leb anyway," McKersie replied. Read Full Article
In a Monday email to Greenwich Time, New Lebanon PTA President Mike Bocchino indicated his support for McKersie's plan.
Some board members suggested giving greater weight to New Lebanon students in magnet lotteries, a move that would increase their probability of gaining admission to other magnets.
"I don't understand why we wouldn't consider giving New Lebanon families some greater weight, because this is an opportunity to alleviate a utilization issue," said Peter Bernstein.
Barbara O'Neill, the board's acting chairman, appeared receptive to McKersie's recommendations.
"I think this is a huge move forward in terms of making it really clear that people can't go to any school they want to, and we're going to use those schools that have capacity," she said.
Adriana Ospina, the Democratic candidate for the chairmanship, argued for a consistent approach in applying magnet enrollment rules.
"I think the best road to take on these things is absolute clarity," she said. "You will always have people mad. But I think the worst thing is when you have unfulfilled expectations -- when you say no to a family, and they find out their neighbor was in the same exact situation and you said yes."
Board members did not take any votes at the Dec. 5 meeting on the proposed magnet and tuition student changes. McKersie is seeking a "sense of the meeting" resolution on his recommendations at the board's Dec. 19 meeting at Greenwich High School.
-- Paul Schott, staff writer
Firearms turn-in Saturday
On Saturday, Dec. 14, the Greenwich Police Department will be collecting all unwanted firearms for destruction.
Guns that will be accepted include:
All assault weapons
Ammunition, carrying cases and holsters
Other dangerous weapons, including swords, knives, etc.
Firearms will be accepted from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Greenwich Police Headquarters, 11 Bruce Place. All firearms must be unloaded. Firearms should be transported unloaded in the vehicle's trunk. If not in a vehicle, carry the item unloaded in a box or bag. Ammunition should be in a container separate from any firearm. For details, call 203-622-8021.
GHS considers `school within a school'
A team of Greenwich High School faculty members led by Headmaster Chris Winters has unveiled a proposal to launch a "school of choice" at the high school within the next two years, a model they say would offer personalized learning, heavy use of technology and strong relationships between students and staff.
"The vision is that this would be a small school designed and run by a collaborative team of teachers and that they would have access to all of the infrastructure at Greenwich High School," Winters told Board of Education members during their Dec. 5 meeting at the district's Greenwich Avenue headquarters. "This would actually reside in Greenwich High School, taking advantage of all the resources and opportunities Greenwich High School has to offer."
The school of choice would operate at the GHS Hillside Road campus and would be open to all students, according to Winters. In a Dec. 5 report on the proposal, Winters and Superintendent of Schools William McKersie presented the new school as an innovative program that would engage students while developing skills and knowledge needed for college and career readiness. They also said this would mesh with educational trends, including emphasis on digital learning and a multifaceted type of education called "blended learning."
Recent data also point to students' desire for different learning approaches. A 2012 Harris Survey on Greenwich High students', educators' and parents' attitudes about the school showed widespread support for its programs, but also highlighted several sources of dissatisfaction. While 86 percent of students gave an overall satisfaction rating of "A" or "B," 35 percent reported feeling that the school was not adequately preparing them for employment.
"We also know that there are students for whom an alternative to that traditional model of education could help," Winters added in his presentation to the board. "We see this as . . . an opportunity to cultivate innovation right in the school without disrupting Greenwich High School and to offer an opportunity for Greenwich High School to grow and change as a whole."
-- Paul Schott