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Sunday, May 1, 2016

Judge sides with school board on grade-alike decision

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Administrative Law Judge Carol Greta has ruled in favor of the Spencer school board's Nov. 22, 2011 decision to restructure the elementary buildings into a grade-alike system.

"There is no fraud and no abuse of discretion established by the record presented here," Greta wrote in the proposed decision she submitted Tuesday. "Although its decision may be unpopular with some, the local school board exercised its statutory authority for reasons that were neither arbitrary nor irrational."

"This issue is understandably of utmost importance to families of elementary-age students who will be losing their neighborhood schools," Greta continued. "We understand that the appellants vigorously disagree with the decision of the local board. But there are no legal grounds for reversal by this board."

The Iowa Board of Education will make a final decision in the case titled James and Alison Herman, et al. v. Spencer Community School District, based on Greta's proposed decision, on March 29 unless a party files an appeal by March 5. Whether or not the proposed decision will be appealed is unknown because attempts to contact the appellants' attorney, Sean Barry, before press time were unsuccessful.

During a Feb. 9 phone hearing with Greta, Barry relied on the 2002 decision in Jacobson v. Nodaway Valley Community School District, which enunciated four criteria guiding a local school board's process for grade structures.

"They argue that inadequate notice was given to the public that the issue was under consideration, inadequate study of the pertinent factors was undertaken, and that because the process was rushed, there was no promotion of open and frank discussion," Greta summarized.

However, analysis of that decision is no longer applicable after the Iowa Supreme Court's decision in Wallace v. Iowa State Board of Education in 2009, Greta explained.

Instead, the Iowa Supreme Court has stated, "[We] look only to whether a reasonable person could have found sufficient evidence to come to the same conclusion as reached by the school district. In doing so, we will find a decision was unreasonable if it was not based upon substantial evidence or was based upon an erroneous application of the law. Neither we nor the Department [of Education] may substitute our judgement for that of the school district."

Using that criteria, the appellants were required to prove the school board violated a procedural requirement.

"The appellants' argument fails because there was sufficient evidence in this record of notice to families and opportunity to be heard," Greta said. "The committee meetings were not required to be publicly noticed, and there is no evidence the parent informational meetings were inadequately noticed."

Next, the appellants cited a lack of research regarding grade-alike schools and alleged the board's decision was pre-determined, unreasonable and irrational, but Greta said the state board is not to second-guess well supported local board decisions.

"The issue is not whether restructuring the elementary grades and buildings was the best decision," she said. "The issue is whether voting to restructure the buildings under a grade-alike concept was contrary to the local board's statutory authority or was done for irrational reasons."

She does not believe that was the case and said "substantial, credible reasons existed" to justify both approval and rejection of grade-alike restructuring.

"Even if we view all of the underlying facts in the light most favorable to the appellants, we must conclude that a reasonable person could reach the same conclusion as was reached by the Spencer board," Greta said.

Steve Avery, who represented the school district, said Greta's decision was "the anticipated result."

"The standard is whether the board abused its discretion and the determination by the hearing judge was that they had not abused their discretion," Avery said. "Iowa has a history and practice of respecting local control of schools. This follows the practice that local boards make local decisions."

While Greta's proposed decision is in favor of the district, she noted voters will have the final word.

"The voters hold the local directors responsible for what voters perceive to be unwise decisions or decisions with which voters disagree by changing the make-up of the local board through the election process," Greta said.

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"unpopular with some"

That's an understatement.

Parents...remember this at election time.

-- Posted by spencer-gma on Wed, Feb 15, 2012, at 2:11 PM

I keep seeing people post "remember this at election time" I'm all for electing most if not all of these members off the school board but the problem you might have is there might not be enough people running to replace those on the current board. Hopefully this debacle will encourage more parents to run for any school board openings.

-- Posted by iowafan11 on Wed, Feb 15, 2012, at 5:06 PM

The problem is not whether there will be people to run. There WILL.

The problem is keeping this issue fresh in the minds of the voters, as there will be no election until 2013.

Thus, you hopefully will continue to see "remember this at election time."

-- Posted by spencer-gma on Wed, Feb 15, 2012, at 5:37 PM

Indeed, I will remember this at election time. If there was a legal way to recall the board, I'd sign on for that too.

I would have alot more respect for all involved in this decision, had they set it up to span over an election... giving the parents an actual chance to decide. Utopian, I know.

-- Posted by ADAMHARRIS on Wed, Feb 15, 2012, at 6:23 PM

grade alike is the worst idea since unsliced bread

-- Posted by JeffDahmer69 on Wed, Feb 15, 2012, at 9:25 PM

We all have to remember. I hope the Hermans et al form a group or committee to come together and find the best person to beat the current board members. This person will have to have a strong personality and backbone because once on a board a lot of people turn to groupthink. I would venture to guess it will take 2-3 years as the board terms are staggered so you need someone strong.

I would also venture to guess whomever is up for re-election next will gracefully bow out as to not suffer the humiliation of getting trounced so I see opportunities.

People will have to voicably made sure the candidates next year forcefully answer if they will vote and push to reverse this decision once they have a majority. They can't just be against it they have to committ to reversing it.

I would also urge new board candidates to support revising the board so that they are elected as a group every year instead of being staggered. This would hold them more accountable and allow for dumb moves like this to be reversed more rapidly.

The biggest problem is going to be the pushback in 2-3 years if you get non grade-alike board members on the fact that it is alread grade alike why go through the expense of changing back.

Things to keep in mind for the next candidates. Also if you are against grade alike come together as a group and choose ONE person to support so you don't get 5 opposed running against an incumbent and lose because they split the vote.

-- Posted by financeman on Thu, Feb 16, 2012, at 8:44 AM

I do believe that three board members are up for re-election in 2013. Three new board members will need to step into their places at that time, not just one!

-- Posted by a-thought-or-two on Thu, Feb 16, 2012, at 8:52 AM

It was a sad day for families in Spencer School District with this decision. Our family was hopeful the appeal would somehow stop this process. Technically the school board may have not done anything wrong, but somehow they got it wrong with the parents. This change will be difficult to implement without the support of parents.

Spencer not only had neighborhood schools, we had family schools. Schools where siblings could share their common experiences of childhood. Siblings could help one another out, play together on the playground, be there for one another. Now families will be split up on a bus in the morning.

I am sad for the teachers who will no longer see how those young children change and grow.

It frustrates me that now the school wants to figure out how to implement these changes. The parents wanted answers before the change -- not after.

In summary five members of the community "felt" they knew what was best for the school district. I even voted for a couple of them to represent me. It was hard to talk to them because they were basing this decision not on facts -- but on feelings. The school board had no facts. They even said there was not a lot of data either way.

The only people I have heard that this was a great idea were the 17 committee members, the 5 school board members, and our new Superintendent Hemann. In my house we have talked with neighbors, friends, teachers, co-workers,people out and about in the community - basically the local buzz, discussing these changes. After talking to all these people I haven't found one that thought this was a great idea. Our family has cried over this decision, we have had sleepless nights... We have lost faith in what we thought was a great school district. To the people who I voted for on the school board....Please start listening to the families of this community.

-- Posted by IASTATEWINS on Thu, Feb 16, 2012, at 11:13 AM

I agree. I've yet to talk to ANYONE who thinks this is a good idea. Nobody that I talk to likes it.

Unfortunately we all voted for these school board members because they typically run unopposed or just one person per available seat.

I find it disturbing that it wasn't until after the last election that this was brought forward. The two up last fall should have had to answer for their views on grade alike.

There are no winners in this debacle.

-- Posted by financeman on Thu, Feb 16, 2012, at 2:14 PM

everyone who is against this needs to turn in an open enrollment form by march 1st!!! you don't have to follow through but I think this would be a great way to open their eyes to what they have done! I will not be putting my elementary child in the spencer public school system. I have older children that I may take else where as well. I cannot support a system that doesn't listen to the community.

they made comments on how only 600 people signed the petition this time around. I know more would sign but it just wasn't out there long enough to get the numbers I know we could get. the petition needs to go back out there and this time everyone needs to make sure anyone they know is against it puts their name on it.

I've even sent an email to hemann about comments he made in an article when he first arrived. stating he wants to do what the community wants. I've gotten no response. I doubt I will. but I am not done fighting this and I how the rest of you are not finished either!! we need to continue fighting for what we believe in!!

-- Posted by puppyluv on Thu, Feb 16, 2012, at 10:37 PM

I thought the school system wanted healthy kids and wanted them to walk or ride their bikes to school. Now they won't be able to have them do that since we have to go to grade alike. Maybe they should have more P.E. time since they won't be walking to school any more.

I do agree with the comments that Hemann has made when he first arrived about WANTING TO DO WHAT THE COMMUNITY WANTS - well that didn't happen at all and you probably won't get a response from him either.

-- Posted by chipmunk30 on Fri, Feb 17, 2012, at 12:01 PM

Your children can still ride their bikes or walk to the local school then will get bused to school they will attend so that is not an issue. As for all you people who want to vote the board members out there is nothing wrong with that just put your money where your mouth is and run for the board yourselfs. Most of the complaints on here are parents saying how hard it will be on them, this is about the children and what is best for them. I will have children and two different schools and will have to deal with it but I see the plus of having all the teachers together as long as they work together as teachers it should benefit the children.

-- Posted by longhair126 on Fri, Feb 17, 2012, at 4:46 PM

I couldn't care less about the transportation of my children to separate school buildings and the hardship I will face.

I care about the transitions, their education,the inability to move bullies from one school to another to relieve bullying situations that are out of hand, the two years of them trying to make the system work and get out all the kinks, the lower test scores in the districts who already do grade-alike, well, really a myriad of things that doesn't include my children's method of transportation.

-- Posted by a-thought-or-two on Fri, Feb 17, 2012, at 5:05 PM

So your answer to bullying is to move the bully to another school, and all districts that do this have seen test scores go down. If test scores are going down then parents need to take a look at what they are doing. We have gotten to the point that parents are expecting teachers to not only teach their kids but raise them too. I am not saying at all this is what you are doing thought or two but parents need to be involved with the education of their children. This doesn't just mean volunteering for things but helping the children with homework, making sure it is getting done etc. I have heard Iowa Falls ran into the same thing when they went to grade alike and now they like it. We can all look at this as glass half full or half empty. To many kids will go into this with a negative attitude because that is all they hear is their parents complaining about it.

-- Posted by longhair126 on Fri, Feb 17, 2012, at 6:29 PM

It isn't my answer to bullying, but it has been the district's answer to bullying more often than they admit to. Now, one option they've used several times in the past is being taken away, and all the kids being together is going to make them get along? They're claiming this is going to put an end to bullying and I don't see it happening that way, but I'm more than willing to be happily surprised.

And thank you for not assuming that I don't raise my children myself or that expect the school to raise them for me. I am one that does get involved in their lives at school and at home. Perhaps that is why I was so offended when I was told to trust what the educators knew to be best for my children, and my opinion was given no weight.

-- Posted by a-thought-or-two on Fri, Feb 17, 2012, at 8:03 PM

Don't assume things about people you don't know, longhair.

What this boils down to is that a huge wrong was done here...and by that I mean going against public opinion and wishes.

And that wrong needs to be righted, as people are committed to doing.

The group of parents who appealed this school board vote didn't have school funds behind them to pay for their lawyers and time invested, but they did pay for the school board to have a lawyer (paid for with our tax money). And yet, because of their convictions and strong feelings about right and wrong, they are more than willing to do whatever it takes now and in the future. Mark my words.

And I respect them for it.

-- Posted by spencer-gma on Fri, Feb 17, 2012, at 8:17 PM

longhair126, 3 things

1. No parents have mentioned how tough it will be on them. The fact of the matter, is that it will be a hardship on some parents. Not every parent has a flexible work schedule. Not every parent can afford extra day care before or after school that MAY be required by this change. So for some parents that may be a real issue. But real or not, inconvenience to parents has not been mentioned on any of the posts on this article, other than yours.

2. I find it interesting that the parents or people who are for grade alike (and you are allowed to have your opionion) are making assumptions about the parents who are against this. You have no idea what kind of parent I am, how I work with my kids, how they are raised. But you are so ready to pass judgement. So far I have not seen any parent opposed to grade alike make assumptions about parents with differing views. We have discussed why we think this will be bad for our children and how frustrated we are at this whole process.

3. Iowa Falls. Are you aware that over the last 3 years the test scores have dropped. They have one school that is already labeled in Need of Assistance and the other on the brink. Maybe different examples of grade alike schools should be found?

-- Posted by SpencerParent on Fri, Feb 17, 2012, at 8:34 PM

I am not necessarily for this and do belive that the school board should have taken heed in the fact that so many people signed a petition against it, it probably should have been put off for at least another year. As far as test scores, the problem you have is you can never be sure what causes this. I dont like the fact that this is how schools or teachers are judged. Too many factors can determine this. My main point is we need to realize this was passed and move on and make the best of it.

-- Posted by longhair126 on Sat, Feb 18, 2012, at 8:45 PM

One other thing is I do not know how any of the posters raise their children and am sorry if you feel I was pointing you out. I do remember when if a teacher sais a child was doing something wrong or acting up in school you took the teachers word, now it seems many peoples first reaction not my child. Kids used to be worried their parents would find out they got in trouble in school, now the first tthing they do ias run home and say how mean the teacher was and it was the teachers fault. Again I beleive the school board was in the wrong to pass this as they did they need more input from the parents against it.

-- Posted by longhair126 on Sat, Feb 18, 2012, at 8:52 PM

longhair126--- Yes kids can ride or walk to A school that they don't attend and then be bused to the school they will now be attending. Need to keep in mind that is more room for children to get lost, forgotten, dropped at the wrong place, etc, and for parents with multiple kids who wants each child going to 3 or 4 different places? Siblings will no longer have an older sibling around to help them get on the right bus or anything now. As far as parents on here mad about this decision I'm betting you will see more than plenty of us "willing to put our money where our mouth is" and run. On this article I did not see anyone commenting on how hard things will be on the parents. I believe whats best for children is not what is happening now. I understand that having teachers work together will help the kids, I really do get that, but why can't they work together the way it is? Why can't they meet and incorporate ideas during teacher inservices?

-- Posted by AshlyMeyer on Sun, Feb 19, 2012, at 11:28 AM

longhair- My question is that if test scores were at a base level before a transition and the after the transition occured the scores drop how are parents to take the blame for that? Why should parents not be angry when we are left to try to fix what has happened when we didn't want it in the first place? If this is known to happen then why is it being pushed as what is best for our children? I also know for one that myself and many that I know don't expect the teachers and/or school to do anything besides teach our children and keep them safe while they are at school. If there are parents that expect otherwise I would hope that DHS would get involved if the parents are trying to put off their parenting responsibilities on someone else. I also believe that many of us adults that are unhappy with this decision are adult enough to not complain to our children about it. I've heard that comment over and over and honestly doubt parents are really debating this topic with their kids, seriously. I have explained it to my kids but that is the extent and I'm sure that the majority of parents have done similar. As far as not being sure of what causes scores to drop, really? If they was a steady pattern for average score levels and then there is a significant change and the scores suddenly drop I think its a pretty good chance we can all safely assume what caused it. If it was a significant change in just 3 or 4 students then yeah it could be something else, but when it is alot of students scores changing at the same time, come on. You say you don't like that this is how schools and/or teachers are judged, well then how would you like them to be judged? how else are we to measure to make sure that kids are progressing appropriately? Obviously you have accepted the fact that this was passed and have moved on, but don't be surprised when the rest of us don't follow! I have not been much of a follower in the past, especially when it concerns a serious matter and something I am passionate about. The world has enough followers already! If you want to follow, then go ahead, I won't think different of someone because they see a different view point than myself, and feel that should be like wise. But I will change my view on someone based on them making preconcieved judgements of myself based on and idea I feel is right. As far as parents believing kids over teachers I'd say that seldom happens. I think many parents are smart enough to know who to believe, unless their child has some proof or multiple other students saw the same thing or such. If you watch the news you would see what the rest of us do about all kinds of teachers doing all kinds of horrible things all over the place, so we can't just assume that our child is always lying or such but as I said I think most parents are able to practice good judgement on the different situations that arise. As far as students used to be scared of their parents finding out they were acting up in school you also have to keep in mind that back then, different kinds of punishment was concerned acceptable than is now.

Spencer parent- I could not agree more! Yes to some parents this change very well might cause some very real issues for them! But nobody was complaining about it on here, nor do I think it is the main issue with many parents. I also agree that is seems odd that parents against this idea seemed to have been stereotyped in a negative light some how. I make no assumptions about people who are for this change, just would like them to show me with FACTS how this is going to be better in the long run for our kids. So say we change all of this, and then scores continue to drop them what? Is all the blame going to be passed to the parents? Or will it just be a big "Whoops, my bad"? This is about the education of real children and it was changed on a whim with what seems to be very little research and very few if any supporting facts. Seems like a huge gamble to me.

-- Posted by AshlyMeyer on Sun, Feb 19, 2012, at 12:04 PM

This is a sad day and decision indeed. In my opinion this is going to cause more problems than anything else. I am totally against the decision. I find the judges words very narrow and near-sighted. She made every effort to deflect any type of culpability in her decision. With that being said, a couple of these people do have one things correct....we need to accept that the system failed us, and move on. The only thing we can do is make sure it doesn't happen again in the future. As far as the school members go....I don't envy them at all. It must really suck to know that people hate you that much. It must really suck to know that you failed that hard. But then again, maybe they think they did the right thing. We should be blaming ourselves for voting these hapless, shallow minded, trained monkeys into the positions they're in.

-- Posted by lastsonofoa on Sun, Feb 19, 2012, at 7:35 PM

Do it and make your voice heard!!!


Parents or guardians considering the use of the open enrollment option to enroll their children in another public school district in the State of Iowa for the 2011-12 school year should be aware of the following dates.

March 1, 2011 -- Last date for regular open enrollment requests for the 2011-12 school year. If a student meets the definition of good cause under 281-Iowa Administrative Code 17.4 (1) because of a change in residence the application can be accepted after March 1, 2011.

September 1, 2011 - The deadline for entering kindergarten students.

A student who transfers school districts under open enrollment in grades 9-12 shall not be eligible to participate in interscholastic contests and competitions at the varsity level during the first 90 school days of transfer. Parents/guardians of open enrolled students whose income falls below 160% of the federal poverty guidelines are eligible for transportation assistance.

If you have questions, please contact the superintendent's office at 262-8950.

-- Posted by puppyluv on Sun, Feb 19, 2012, at 9:24 PM

I am not for this decision to go to grade-alike, AND, transportation was not my main issue.

HOWEVER...gas prices are going up, and are expected to go way up. Students are not going to be able to walk/ride bikes to school. They may walk or ride their bike to the school closest to them, but that might not be their appropriate school and will then need to ride a bus.

There is going to be an increase in the amount of of bussing happening. There is also going to be more parents driving kids to school. Some because they don't want their kids on the bus. Is anyone not concerned about the cost to put gas in these busses? What if there is a gas shortage? What if the prices really do climb as high as predicted? Things are so unsettled overseas, no one can predict what is going to happen.

Spencer will not have a very 'green' footprint with all the gas we are going to be consuming.

As a Spencer resident I have been following the 'Blue Zone Community' vote and watched the video that was prepared and submitted. One of the topics presented was the Safe Routes to School program and getting more students to walk to school. I don't even know what to say to that. We are trying to promote a healthier city, yet we are going to rely on busses to take our kids to school. YES, I understand they can still walk/ride a bike...BUT they may still need to ride a BUS to their appropriate school. A BUS that uses GAS, which is costing more and more.

-- Posted by jb1978 on Mon, Feb 20, 2012, at 9:58 AM

I applaud the Spencer School Board for recognizing it's duty to create a learning environment for it's students and teachers in spite of heavy handed criticism and thugish mob behavior.

I applaud the Spencer School Board for creating a system of education that not only addresses the immediate needs of the Spencer student population but also the future needs of Spencer's citizens.

Spencer is a constricting city. Each year Spencer loses income earning population and, even more devastating, loses in per capita individual salaries. This double whammy results in significant increases of school children in the lowest socioeconomic levels which increases the pressure on the infrastructure of the school to provide the services required with a lessening tax base.

It is a very simple equation, you can't do more with less. The Spencer CSD cannot survive to the levels of academic achievement required with the present configuration. It is a slow death spiral, but a death spiral never the less.

Low socioeconomic student populations bring increased behaviors, low academic support at home, and higher levels of learning disabilities. All which require increased levels of intervention and cost.

Federal and State education policies mandate that ALL behavior and low cognitive performing students be "mainstreamed" (Least Restrictive Environment). This results in students being force feed into the general education student population irregardless of impact.

If you have a class room of 23 students with 10 requiring high levels of behavior and academic support, what level of academic challenge is the remaining 13 students being provided? Where is the teacher going to direct the majority of their effort?

For the last several years Spencer High has suffered from one of the highest drop out rates in the state; a rate on par with Perry, Waterloo, and Ottumwa. In northwest Iowa, only Sioux City and Storm Lake have higher rates. Why?

The canary died in Spencer CSD a decade ago and yet many people posting here wish to keep the "status quo". Shouting from the rooftops that they "know" what is best and claiming to be ever vigilante of the sphere of education.

The bird is dead, where were you when it died?

-- Posted by Headhunter on Mon, Feb 20, 2012, at 10:50 AM

1st - 'heavy handed criticism and thugish mob behavior.' this makes no sense to me. so people that are stating their opinion about this article and the things going on in their community are thuggish? please explain because i don't see people gathering around the board with weapons. isn't that what thugs would do?

2nd - 'addresses the immediate needs of the Spencer student population' how are they addressing their needs? so far i haven't seen any proof of that. just that the teachers are going to be able to collaborate more. because technology isn't good enough for them to utilize.

3rd - 'If you have a class room of 23 students with 10 requiring high levels of behavior and academic support, what level of academic challenge is the remaining 13 students being provided? Where is the teacher going to direct the majority of their effort?' so you'd rather have a classroom full of 23 unruly kids? do they not deserve the same education at the rest of the class? not mainstreaming them just pushes them to the side and says 'you're not good enough to be placed with the other children' which in turn gives them the impression that they are worthless. that's a great example to be sending to any child no matter their level of learning or behavioral issues!

i still have so many thing to say to you headhunter but you're not worth going against the clearly stated rules.

'Refrain from obscenity in your comments, and to keep discussions civil, don't say anything in a way your grandmother would be ashamed to read.'

-- Posted by puppyluv on Mon, Feb 20, 2012, at 12:17 PM

I am curious as to what you think is changing? The teachers are the same. The curriculum is the same. The teaching methods and practices are the same. The children are the same. The equipment and resources are the same. The only 2 things that are changing are the schools the children attend and how they get there in the morning or go home in the afternoon. So is this change or is the "status quo" with a twist?

How does this "address the immediate needs of the Spencer student population but also the future needs of Spencer's citizens"? What are those immediate needs and the future needs? Have you read something I have not read? The ONLY need that has been defined is desire of the teachers to have more collaboration. That need has been defined, but has it been addressed? When you do think the teachers are going to fit collaboration into their daily/weekly schedule. When the children are at recess or at specials the teachers are not sitting around thinking, "Gosh it would be a good time to collaborate with other teachers". They are cleaning up for the last section, checking papers, preparing for the next section, etc. Maybe the teachers could come in early or stay late or give up lunches. I would not ask them to do that, are you willing to?

The High School Dropout rate is a real problem. So is the amount of Bullying in elementary, middle school and high schools. So is the drug use and alcohol use at both the Middle Schools and High Schools. While the test scores at Lincoln and Fairview have been improving, the scores at Johnson have dropped. Test scores for both the Middle School and High School have remained about the same, hovering around the 80% mark. There has been no evidence presented that the new Grade Alike Configuration will specifically address any of these issues. There has been evidence presented by parents that transitions are hard on children. We are going from 2 transitions to 5.

Am I for the "stauts quo"? No, I am not. Am I for "change for the sake of change"? No, I am not. Do I think the class room style and teaching methods that were around when I was a child are "Good Enough"? No, I don't.

What am I for? I am for the school board, the administration, the teachers, the parents, the community to sit down as a group and open a discussion on what are the current problems in our schools, what are the immediate needs in our schools, what are the future needs of our schools. Once those issues are identified, then as a group we could find solutions. We could find solutions that address specific needs or issues. The solutions need to be more than an opinion on what might work.

This process will take time, commitment and a willingness to think and look outside the box, but at the end there should be a consensus between all participants of where we are going and how we will get there.

-- Posted by SpencerParent on Mon, Feb 20, 2012, at 1:04 PM

So let's see.....SHS has one of the highest dropout rates in the state. Ok. Can't really argue with numbers. But since when has location of schooling become the reasoning for dropout rates? That's the essence of what you're saying. You ask why the numbers are so high. I can't answer that question, but I know the answer ISN'T where they attended elementary school. You want to claim that the public engaged in heavy handed criticism and thugish mob behavior." How? Was it because they were notified of the change on the back of a calendar....and got pretty upset because damn near the ENTIRE public found this issue something that needed to be discussed or addressed? Or was it because parents got upset...and rightfully so. You stand behind the idea that there is more teacher collaboration....what happended to inservices, meetings, emails, or phone calls? How much hand holding do they need? "Low socioeconomic student populations bring increased behaviors, low academic support at home, and higher levels of learning disabilities. All which require increased levels of intervention and cost." This is part of your point? Let's see if I can simplify.....Because families are in a lower income situation this MUST mean that the parents don't care much for the children's education...right? And because they are in a lower income bracket, and by association don't care about their children's education.....this MUST mean that this enviornment is the hotbed center of learning disabilities....right? You don't have to much answer.....your words are right there for everyone to see. I just simplified them for those who come from poor families, and might have a learning disability because of it. You did a very eloquent job of stating almost nothing. I'm actually very impressed that someone could use so many words and say so little. My point at the end of all this is that in your defense of the school board, you painted them and you in the light that you wanted everyone else to stay away from. You claim the public is thugish and heavy handed....fine. If that's what they are, then we can call the school board exactly what they are....narrow minded, elitist, corrupt officials that made this decision because of what they "felt"....not what was actually right. Look forward to hearing from you....I'm sure your response will be at the least, entertaining.

-- Posted by lastsonofoa on Mon, Feb 20, 2012, at 1:14 PM

My previous post was directed @ headhunter....Spencerparent makes some great points, and I agree with them 100%.....but maybe both of us are just "heavy handers with thugish mob mentality"....:)

-- Posted by lastsonofoa on Mon, Feb 20, 2012, at 1:18 PM


Spoon feed time...What do all of those areas with high drop out rates have in common? High minority enrollment, low socioeconomic status populations, and low tax base to high demand infrastructure school ratios.

High dropout rates in high school are a causation of low or ineffective intervention programs at the grade school level. Not the only cause, but an extremely important one.

As per socioeconomic parenting; your the one making the accusation that low SES parents "don't care". I'm simply telling you the facts of the situation. Don't believe me?

American Psychological Association


Great article on reading and low SES:


The Spencer School Board choose an unpopular route in addressing issues inherent to the Spencer CSD. They gathered the facts and judged the best avenue to correct deficiencies within the educational hierarchy. I applaud their courage in making a difficult decision and in being PROACTIVE to future educational alignments.

Please continue in threatening to recall the board, or to "remember election day" (as if the board members need fear the loss of their elite status), keep yelling at them in the grocery store, or threaten them as they are out for a walk with their kids. Then come onto this board and pretend that that behavior is from another in the community and has NO links to your behavior.

Have you been entertained?

-- Posted by Headhunter on Mon, Feb 20, 2012, at 2:07 PM


Intervention, intervention, and then more intervention. From Pre-K through 3rd grade intervention is the key to curbing behavior, addressing learning deficiencies, and creating a positive model for future academic success for students. Intervention becomes vitally important to students coming from low socioeconomic backgrounds.

If you have 5 to 6 sections of 1st graders spread in three buildings versus all sections in one building, which scenario is better to bring to bear the resources necessary for effective intervention?

This is where grade alike makes sense. It allows the administration increased flexibility in creating intervention policies and programs that take "economies of scale" into account in providing increased efficiencies of intervention. You cannot deny that from this point of view, grade alike makes sense. If I can group students of similar deficiencies and teach strategies specifically tailored to their needs then I can increase effectiveness of the program.

This is simple economics!

Now, as to collaboration. Spencer CSD has some FANTASTIC elementary teachers. It also has its share of "less than enthusiastic" ones. Grade Alike INCREASES accountability in a teacher to teacher peer collaborative environment. Collaboration is more than sharing ideas, it's also about teachers PUSHING each other in becoming better! By having all 1st grade or 2nd grade teachers in one location, this will allow teachers to take leadership roles in helping to elevate their peers in a way that cannot be done in a single grade section environment.

-- Posted by Headhunter on Mon, Feb 20, 2012, at 2:52 PM

Headhunter, do you have actual real-world experience?

-- Posted by a-thought-or-two on Mon, Feb 20, 2012, at 6:33 PM

Headhunter, yes i can see the benefits of kids that need extra help, being able to group them together and focus on their needs. They currently do this on a smaller scale. But we need to be careful that this is the exception rather then the rule. Children also learn from having a diversity of abilities.

I don't think any one is saying the collaboration between teachers is not a good thing. However, that collaboration is not going to happen just because they are in the same school. Likewise, grade alike will NOT increase accoutability, or pushing teachers into a leadership roll just because all the 2nd grade teachers are in the same building. For that to happen and happen consistently across all buildings and all grades you have to have a plan and a stucture.

It seems to me that those in favor are grasping at things that may be better in this sturcture. But is the problem really teacher accountablity? and how specifically is a grade alike going to effect that? How will it be implement? Tracked? Adjusted?

We are changing our school structure on opionions and possibllities. If we are making a major change i want definites. I want to know the problems that are to be addressed. How this change will address those issues. How it will be implemented. How it impovement will be measured. What safe guards are in place. My kids only get one shot at each grade. There is no do over if the school gets it wrong. Am I really asking for too much?

-- Posted by SpencerParent on Mon, Feb 20, 2012, at 9:49 PM

Yes, both in the private sector and in elementary education. None of which I have written is based on some ethereal plain of academics but comes from the experience of working (and in some cases leading) teams of professionals torwards either a specific or several sets of goals.

One person; sales, manufacturing, or teaching, can effectively raise the level of execution for their team given the proper tools and support to do so.

You raise teacher capabilities and student achievement will follow. Why is this so hard to understand?

SpencerParent- You ask to bring the community together to solve issues in the schools. The community has designated a leadership group to do this and the result has been a horrific witch hunt and abuse targeting people that have unselfishly given time and effort to better this community. Trained monkeys? Corrupt? Narrow minded and elitest? Yep, that's a group people I wish to have a civil discourse on the merits of Spencer's educational system. Not the ones doing the name calling.

-- Posted by Headhunter on Mon, Feb 20, 2012, at 10:01 PM

By a designated leadership group, I will assume you mean the members of the school board. I have not call them names on this website or when I have seen them in public. I know of no other parent that has done so. If they have been called names, yelled at, or abouse by the general public that is wrong.

I have and will continue to express my opionions in whatever form is avaialble. I will continue to explore any option that I have. My children's future depends upon the education they receive now. It is my repsonsiblity to see that my children receive the best education that I can provide for them.

-- Posted by SpencerParent on Mon, Feb 20, 2012, at 10:26 PM

SpencerParent- I wish that someone could make the promise that this system will guarantee student achievement, increase graduation rates, raise scores, end bullying, and provide the athletes for Spencer to beat Harlan. I would be happy with just three out of the five.

The only guarantee is that the present course is untenable and that the last decade of minor corrections have failed. This we know.

Now what?

At some point you tell the morbidly obese patient that they will die without some basic changes. Change isn't comfortable.

Look, many on this board will tell you that Grade Alike is "new" or limited in the number of places that it has been implemented. I am here to tell you that Grade Alike is actually common. Hartley Melvin Sanborn has it, Sioux Rapids has it, many of the consolidated school systems have implemented versions of Grade Alike. Ames, Cedar Rapids, Polk CSD's all build elementary schools to accommodate more than a single or two section class size. They aim for four to five sections per grade level. What the Spencer Board has put into place is the same.

My goal for Grade Alike is that teachers can return to teaching to the middle, and not be forced to focus so severely on the bottom where the vast majority of both academic and behavioral issues originate.

-- Posted by Headhunter on Mon, Feb 20, 2012, at 10:42 PM

You think grade alike will teach to the middle??

You think teachers will suddenly be so much better because there are 6 or 7 in a building instead of 2?

You think the 10+ days of in-service each year isn't enough to "collaborate"?

You think "collaboration" is the key here? Like suddenly they are going to do new and special things because they can talk to each other?

You don't realize that it is Principal DeWitt that sets the teaching agenda from the top and they all teach math/reading/etc from the same systems? (Not criticizing Principal DeWitt, I think he is a great principal, I just disagree with him on the grade-alike)

Where is the improvement going to come from with all of this "collaboration"?

Since they could not come up with any statistics on why it is a better system and that it would be better because of "collaboration" I ask these questions.

-- Posted by financeman on Tue, Feb 21, 2012, at 8:45 AM

I see posted on the schools website that there is a grade-alike committee meeting Thursday Feb 22nd. Does anyone know who is on this committee or how the people were selected to be on it. It says" The purpose of this committee is to discuss and share ideas on the transition, transportation, and other issues as the district prepares for the Grade-Alike implementation for the 2012-13 school year."

Just wanting to know if this is the same 17 committee members that the school board used to say they had unanimous support for grade-alike.

-- Posted by IASTATEWINS on Tue, Feb 21, 2012, at 9:37 AM

No, they actually took volunteers for this committee.

-- Posted by a-thought-or-two on Tue, Feb 21, 2012, at 10:36 AM

My understanding is that it is open to anyone that would like to attend. However, you may want to check with Mr. Hemann if you would like to be on the committee.

-- Posted by SpencerParent on Tue, Feb 21, 2012, at 11:13 AM

Was there a letter or anything sent home with the kids saying there was going to be a committee meeting. I'm just try to figure out how to stay informed. I guess I'm out of the loop.

-- Posted by IASTATEWINS on Tue, Feb 21, 2012, at 11:30 AM

No there was not a letter sent home. It was mentioned in one of the Daily Reporter articles. So to stay informed you need to read the Daily Reporter and/or attend the School Board Meetings. It would be nice if you could read the minutes of the School Board meetings but they are very unimformative.

-- Posted by SpencerParent on Tue, Feb 21, 2012, at 12:08 PM

Headhunter- You say the school board "...gathered the facts and judged the best avenue to correct deficiencies within the educational hierarchy."

Well, I don't remember seeing any facts when this was presented to us. I remember seeing pros and cons the committee thought up, but no concrete facts proving to me my children will learn better because of this arrangement. Teacher 'collaboration' and 'larger dating pool' aren't enough to make me sleep better with this decision. I'm not sure how serious this committee was if this was all they could come up with. This change isn't going to give the teachers any extra time to collaborate. And if they do, its more than likely going to be a social hour, not talking about work. They aren't going to 'share' resources. Its going to work on possession....I have it, so its mine.

And, you speak of drop-out rates. From what I can find, more transitions lead to higher dropout rates.


(quoted from the above website) "As the number of school-to-school transitions increased, there was an associated increase in the high school dropout rates (. . .) The students attending larger schools tended to experience more transitions than the students in smaller schools. The schools with two transitions had higher dropout rates than the schools with only one transition.(Alspaugh, 1998, p. 23-25)

Given these findings, it would appear obvious that a district requiring four transitions from kindergarten to high school would cause a higher dropout rate than a district requiring only one or two transitions. Alspaugh's (1998) study demonstrates that students placed in relatively small groups for long spans of time tend to experience better educational outcomes, these better outcomes overlap into the students' high school education (p. 25).

So, after reading this, you can tell me that its OK for the current Kindergarten kids not attending Johnson (and assuming they have attended preschool) to transition 7 times by time they reach high school???

So, if Spencer CSD was serious about this change and researched it thoroughly, why didn't they have some kind of a report similar to this website showing how this was better for our kids and their education? SpencerParent is right. We only have one shot for our kids in elementary....lets not screw it up.

So Headhunter.....if you know this well, what really is the underlying, hidden reason this is happening? Why did they 'ram it down our throats'?? (but didn't want people to feel like this was what they were doing)

There is a hidden agenda here....

-- Posted by lovehawks on Tue, Feb 21, 2012, at 2:18 PM

HeadHunter -

Hartley Melvin Sanborn and Sioux Rapids have one elementary school. I would not call them either a neighborhood school or a grade alike school.

Ames School District has 5 elementary schools. They are K-5 configuration. Preschool is hosted in a separate location.

Cedar Rapids has 23 elementary schools. They are PS/PK-5 configuration.

Des Moines has 38 elementary schools. The majority are PS/PK-5 configuration. One has a K-8 configuration, another has a K-12 configuration.

Southest Polk has 8 elementary schools. They are PS-5 configurations.

North Pol has 2 elementary schools. One is PS-5 and one has PS-6 configuration.

I am unclear as to why you were using those schools as examples?

-- Posted by SpencerParent on Tue, Feb 21, 2012, at 2:30 PM

Alright, let's get real here, Headhunter. You are allowed to have your opinion as we all are, but you should probably check your "facts" and pay attention to what people are actually concerned about before throwing irrelevant statements out there.

Sioux Central is the Sioux Rapids school which you're referring to. Sioux Central is a K-12 school. That is NOT grade alike. The reason it is configured this way also has NOTHING to do with how it will enrich the students' learning. It is simply because the town of Sioux Rapids and the surrounding towns are not large enough to have individual elementary schools that are K-5 or K-6. That is not the definition of a grade-alike school. The same goes for "many of those consolidated school districts" that you mention. Why are all their students of a certain grade in the same school? Because there aren't enough students to have more schools. Pretty simple.

Just because schools in the Cedar Rapids, Ames, and Polk CSD which you talk about have multiple of the same grade, multiple meaning more than 1-2, in each elementary school, does NOT make them grade-alike, yet again. They are ABLE to do that because they have such a large number of students in the area. Their schools are still K-6/K-5 configuration. They still have neighborhood schools because they have so many neighborhoods to begin with. Spencer is a smaller town, so we do not need to place that many students in the same schools.

My point: you cannot use these as examples of grade-alike school districts, because they are NOT.

What changes is that we are still losing the support from having older students in your school. Transitions ARE a large cause for lower test scores and drop-out rates. What right do I have to say these things? How about the fact that I am a senior at the major "Education Major" University in the area. You may have heard of it; just this small school called UNI. I don't know, it may or may not be the school that principals and hiring officials look at first when hiring new teachers. Considering I'm at the end of my education, as an Elementary and Middle Level Dual Major, I think I've taken far enough classes to qualify me to have a valid opinion. Considering I'm in these classes at this school that basically breeds quality teachers and provides so much educational research for the state, I think that I probably would have heard about this if it is the miracle cure-all plan for any school district. The funny thing is, I haven't heard of it ONCE in my time here at UNI.

I've talked to my professors, who have PhD's in the Educational Research field. I've talked to the teachers at Malcolm Price Laboratory School which is one of the top research schools in the state. I've been in multiple schools, in multiple school districts, during multiple field experiences, and have not yet run across grade-alike schools, or anyone who thinks it's a good idea for that matter.

I have heard the spiels and seen the research PROVING that TRANSITIONS make education harder for students. I have SEEN students BENEFIT from being able to work closely with their older peers.

Every person who has had a complaint about this transition that Spencer Community School District is trying to make have valid points: The fact that Spencer wants to be so "healthy" and "green" yet wants to waste gas and bus children; The fact that bus routes have already been cut because they didn't have the funding for them previously; The fact that parents with multiple children in multiple grades now have to get those students to different schools; the fact that those same families now don't have the support of sharing a school with their sibling; the fact that it adds more transitions, thus makes things tougher on students; the fact that this was done in a way that parents and the community had no say; the fact that bullying IS still going to occur; the fact that now it will be that much harder to "re-invent" before middle school and have a chance at making new friends. All of these are valid points and concerns, and things that quite frankly my education has thus far proved to me to be important factors.

As a future middle school teacher, I have learned that middle school consists of the toughest years of a students schooling. I have seen the research on possible school configurations that might make this a smoother transition for students. Would anyone like to know what options were presented to us at this fine university that takes pride in their education program? K-12, K-5 with a 6-8 middle school, K-6 with a 7&8 grade middle school, K-6 with a 7-9 middle school and 10-12 high school, and a middle school versus a junior high school. These are the ONLY grade configurations I have learned about in four years as an education major. That's not by accident.

In my Schools and American Society class I spent time learning about the various education reforms of the past. There are two main categories: the Progressive view/Social reforms, versus traditionalist reforms.

More often than not when a progressive/social reform attempt has been made, it's failed and they've gone back to the traditional. I don't mean to sound biased towards traditional ways, but you can't deny research and past experience. Grade-alike is as much of a social reform as it can get. Entirely progressive, and entirely focused on SOCIAL factors rather than great CURRICULUM and great TEACHING.

You want teacher collaboration? Well teacher collaboration doesn't help the already GREAT teachers, it helps the mediocre. And if they're only mediocre, well, I think it's obvious where the change needs to be made, and it's not within the school structure itself. You want teacher collaboration? Use SKYPE. Use WebQuests. Use GoogleDocs and sharing online. Use the good old fashioned telephone. And God forbid you possibly use a car and drive your SIX 2nd grade teachers to one location to collaborate once in a while, rather than use how many buses to bus hundreds of kids each day so the teachers don't have to move far to collaborate. We have been given the gift in this day and age of so many GREAT sources of technology and communication. If I can communicate with a soldier over seas by means of skype, e-mail, phone calls, and sometimes even texting, why on Earth can I not manage to communicate with a teacher who is sitting at a desk in a classroom ten minutes away? Figure it out in a way so that it doesn't have to affect the kids.

I have no personal investment in this school district as I don't have kids that attend there and never will. It's not personal. It's logical. Even though it doesn't affect me personally, I still think it is absolutely ridiculous. I grew up and was educated in Spencer before the off-the-wall reforms, and I am very proud of my education. Born and raised in Spencer, graduated from Spencer, but do not see what it has to offer anyone any longer. Spencer has gone from a promising town with large potential of growth and a great education system, to a black-hole that does nothing but suck the life out of people and hold them back. I don't see the need to continue my life there, but I still don't see why any future children should have to suffer the consequences of these selfish individuals on the Spencer school board. After all, I am in the education field for the STUDENTS. Isn't that what it is supposed to be about?

-- Posted by username465 on Tue, Feb 21, 2012, at 5:01 PM


Thugish mob behavior? What exactly qualifies as such? I read the chicago paper and see some thugish behavior there, but I don't see people posting their opinions as being comparable.

Please explain to me how poor kids bring "increased behaviors, low academic support at home, and higher levels of learning disabilities."

I have helped off and on at various schools starting in high school and know well enough that kids of any income bracket can have learning disabilities and increased behaviors, so not sure why you are trying to connect it mostly with poor kids. I by no means am rich and am of what i consider lower income. My daughter is above average for her age level as well as my oldest son. My other son is learning delayed but I promise you it isn't due to our income bracket, he was born with his disabilities and I assure you he wasn't aware of our income when he was born.

From the years that I have been involved in special education I will tell you that yes students are in a way mainstreamed as it has many advantages for them and for their classmates as well. However, those students needing the most help send only a portion of their school day in a regular classroom, and spend their time in the special ed room so they are able to receive the one on one help they need without taking time and attention away from all the other students. So its not that they are really "force feed into the general education student population irregardless of impact" as you have stated. We have attented more than one of the spencer school buildings and it has been this way at each one of them.

'Shouting from the rooftops that they "know" what is best'- we are parents, why wouldn't we know what is best for our children? and what kind of parents would we be to blindly accept something someone else tells us is best without proof?

'What do all of those areas with high drop out rates have in common? High minority enrollment, low socioeconomic status populations...'- I could see some of these maybe contributing factors in a large city, but we are in spencer, iowa. The minority rate is growing however is not large. I feel you have a very bad stereotyped idea of low income families are minorities that narrows your view on things.

As far as I'm aware nobody has threatened the board members. If they have that is totally wrong and it needs to be reported to the police. As far as us "threatening" to remember this on election day, that is our right to say and remember. I'm not going to spare someone elses feelings when they flat out didn't listen to a majority of the parents wishes.

If teachers need to be pushed to be their best, then maybe we shouldn't have them as teachers. I don't see teachers pushing eachother in ways of teaching and such is going to have the best outcome, they might suggest, doesn't mean that idea will be accepted and implemented. Might even offend the receiving teacher.

I personally don't care how common grade alike is in other towns, doesn't mean it is right for our school system. Also of those towns listed how much improvement has been recorded since the change? how are they measuring improvement? Were the families allowed to openly vote on this change? or was it forced upon them? How much did it cost these schools to implement grade alike?

Throughout your postings you talk about how teachers are forced to focus severely on the bottom where the vast majority of both academic and behavioral issues originate. I ask have you volunteered at a school before? Or are you just basing these ideas off what you assume happens? Yes some student do receive extra help as they need, but the ones that need the most help do so from other sources, weather it be a one on one aide, the special ed teachers, or volunteers. Do you have children? Do you have children that are currently in the spencer school district?

As someone else stated above what exactly is this change to grade alike going to be changing? The teachers and kids and material are all going to be the same. If the only change that is going to happen is how teachers teach the material or what equipment is used to teach it, why can't that be implemented now? I'm still very curious why all this collaboration can't be done during inservice days.

I am also interested in this meeting that is scheduled for tomorrow. What time? Where? Open to the public?

-- Posted by AshlyMeyer on Tue, Feb 21, 2012, at 5:22 PM

OH, Headhunter, and one more statement because I forgot to make it previously!

As someone in the education field I can assure you that "teaching to the middle" is not appropriate either. Your "goal to return to teaching to the middle" is a very ignorant statement. I am not sure you are aware that teachers have to teach to ALL spectrums of students. This includes low-socioeconomic, students with behavioral problems, students with disabilities, the struggling learners, the average learners, and the gifted learners as well. Separating them will only really do harm to the students themselves. By making schools grade-alike, there is still no way you can make this easier on the teacher and benefit the students at the same time. It's a challenge to teach to all those different types of learners, but that's why you should probably just leave that to the teachers. Not that all teachers are effective either, but grade-alike won't fix the teachers, yet again. Even in a grade-alike school, differentiation is still going to be a challenge for each individual teacher to overcome. Being in the same school won't help and you cannot, not, not separate students to solve the problem. Teaching is not an easy job and please, don't anyone be fooled into believing it is. It is an art. If you have a teacher who is doing a great job, let them know you appreciate them!

-- Posted by username465 on Tue, Feb 21, 2012, at 5:43 PM


Grade-Alike committee to meet on February 22

The Grade-Alike Planning Committee is meeting on February 22, 6:00 P.M. at the Spencer Schools Central Office, 23 East 7th Street. The purpose of this committee is to discuss and share ideas on the transition, transportation, and other issues as the district prepares for the Grade-Alike implementation for the 2012-13 school year. Call the Central Office at 262-8950 if you have questions.

-- Posted by SpencerParent on Tue, Feb 21, 2012, at 5:56 PM

username - I wish that I could copy your above statements and send them to your future self, after a few years of actual class room experience. You wish to invoke your "expertise" and prove an ethos without actual experience. Oh, the foibles of youth!

The Spencer School Board has voted to implement Grade Alike. This implementation is based upon the tacit (if not overt) approval of the Spencer CSD Elementary and Middle School administration and staff. This includes many of your UNI brethren. UNI brethren with actual teaching experience within Spencer CSD. If these teachers were as sure as you that this was a bad idea, they had ample opportunity (and a professional obligation) to speak. Instead, many came before the Board and voiced APPROVAL!

Does anyone in this thread think that the Spencer School Board adopted this position WITHOUT the approval of Spencer CSD administrative and certified staff?

It is only due to the political and social fallout of this decision that teachers and administrators have "gone to ground". Judging by the reaction by a group of Spencer citizens to the Board, rightfully so!

Again, we come down to the fact that the current elementary system employed by Spencer CSD does not have the confidence of the teachers, administration, or school board. The system can and must be improved. Grade Alike is the official stance of Spencer CSD because the Spencer CSD believes there are NO BETTER options.

-- Posted by Headhunter on Tue, Feb 21, 2012, at 10:40 PM

headhunter- I know for a fact that a decent amount of teachers do not agree with this decision. Have you even talked to any teachers here? I see you did not answer my questions in my previous post which gives me the answers that I need.

-- Posted by AshlyMeyer on Wed, Feb 22, 2012, at 7:49 AM

and who are you to comment on who does or doesn't have actual classroom experience? I'm pretty sure you don't but feel the need to tell others their opinion doesn't count because you assume that they don't have enough experience? When was your experience? Was it here? How much experience do you have? How involved in daily classroom activities was your experiences?

-- Posted by AshlyMeyer on Wed, Feb 22, 2012, at 7:51 AM

Current staff survey data: (61 responses)

47 (77%) For Grade-Alike/14 (23%) Against

The total number of staff surveyed was not supplied and typically that would indicate that the total number was not favorable to the presentors.

-- Posted by SpencerParent on Wed, Feb 22, 2012, at 9:26 AM

Spencer CSD believes there are NO BETTER options. that is just sad....

-- Posted by SpencerParent on Wed, Feb 22, 2012, at 9:27 AM

When those employees who are for grade-alike are told to voice their opinions loudly, and those who are against are told to keep quiet, it is hard to say what is really going on with the staff.

When a form letter is placed before staff members at every school, and it is implied they are to sign it, it is hard to say what is really going on with the staff.

-- Posted by a-thought-or-two on Wed, Feb 22, 2012, at 10:21 AM

I would not want my 1st or 2nd grader walking to school if (example) we lived near Johnson and they had to walk to Lincoln.

Our children are already lacking in social skills in this tech era, Why would you want to put them in a school were they only interact with children their own age for 6 yrs.

Are we going to bus the sixth graders to the 1st grade school to read to them? How will they learn to play with other children at recess or teach the older students that it builds character to help the younger students with simple things like helping them put on there boots.

I see this as a huge disaster when they go out into the world as adults and cant relate to people as little as 4-5 yrs age difference.

Open enrollment is a VERY good idea!

-- Posted by spencer lover on Wed, Feb 22, 2012, at 10:54 AM

Open enrollment, Sacred Heart, or IGLL are excellent choices. And there is financial aid available (for SH I know for sure), but needs to be filed by April 2. Go on their website http://www.spencersacredheart.com/ to get more info!!!

username465, financeman, and all others against this. If you would contact nogradealike@gmail.com so we could continue converstaions, that would be awesome! Let us know who you are when you email!

-- Posted by parent_of_3 on Fri, Feb 24, 2012, at 9:38 AM

Spencer Parent... Puzzled by your assumption....

47 for plus 14 against equals total surveyed of 61 who cared to respond? Not sure how that indicates that the total number was not favorable to the presenters. Also could be how the reporter presented the data.

-- Posted by Mechler on Sat, Feb 25, 2012, at 12:28 PM

There were 61 responses, of those responses 77% were in favor of grade alike. That does not mean that 77% of the staff is in favor of grade alike. In order to know the percentage of staff in favor of grade alike you would need to know the number of staff surveyed.

In fact we do not know that the majority of the Spencer CSD administrative and certified staff were for this or against this change.

I would have like know the percentage that did not respond to the survey.

-- Posted by SpencerParent on Sat, Feb 25, 2012, at 3:19 PM

Maybe this helps. If you go to the school website and account for the teachers listed as working in more than one of the elementary buildings it appears there are about 65 elementary teachers so approximately 4 "did not respond" (~6%). Perhaps they were out the day the survey was given. We don't know and there is no way to know how they would have responded. Also, let's be careful about saying that teachers were coerced into responding for or not responding against grade alike in this survey. They are protected by a union and as such it would be foolish to penalize them for their opinions. It would also be demeaning to our teachers to suggest that they are not expressing their true feelings. I respectfully suggest that the survey speaks for itself whether we like it or not.

-- Posted by Mechler on Sat, Feb 25, 2012, at 5:15 PM

Sorry, but no that does not really help. The slide that i referenced mentioned staff, not teachers. I don't know who staff includes, grade level teachers? reading teachers? TAs? office staff? Elementary? Middle School? So the total could be quite higher than 65. It could be 65.

I guess my point is that the total number of staff the survey was avaiable to was not ever given, and if it had been close to 65, then I am guessing that that would have been included.

At this point it is not really relevant, but still I would like to know.

-- Posted by SpencerParent on Sat, Feb 25, 2012, at 9:04 PM

I wasn't being demeaning to our teachers. There have been teachers who have privately stated they are not welcome to share their dissenting views. Union protected or not, it is much easier to not create a big fuss over this and do as they are urged to do...remain quiet.

-- Posted by a-thought-or-two on Mon, Feb 27, 2012, at 1:24 PM

You are correct a-thought-or-two. The teachers against it couldn't talk. And, I would think it would be safe to assume some of the teachers that signed the letters to say they wanted this, didn't really want it, they just didn't want a target on their backs for not signing it.

If the survey of the teachers would be taken again now, I think it would have a different turn-out.

-- Posted by parent_of_3 on Mon, Feb 27, 2012, at 2:47 PM

Are you suggesting that teachers were coerced by the administration or school board not to oppose the proposal? Can anyone prove that? Then why did some teachers "vote" no? Have any of them been punished? We may not approve of their decision but suggesting such things without proof seems almost libelous. Please be careful.

-- Posted by Mechler on Mon, Feb 27, 2012, at 6:17 PM

simpleperson - I have talked to teachers who have been teaching over 25 years outside of our district and it was confirmed that to go against the district/administration is not a good move in any district, not just in Spencer. Plus these teachers are in shock that our board would approve something like this is such a short time with nothing backing it up but opinions of a hand picked committee.

Did you know that all the teachers that were on the committee were FOR grade alike before they were even on the committee? There was ONE person mentioned that was against grade alike the last time it was brought up. Now they are for the change. I'm going to go out on a limb but I don't think she has kids that will be affected by the change anymore. But it was a committee that was formed of people with open minds and had no opinion of the matter according to our fantastic superintendent. You know that is not true! It was a bunch of friends getting together to make the community happy and come up with pros and cons like 'larger dating pool'. Hope they all enjoyed their social time together at the expense of everyone else's children!!!

-- Posted by puppyluv on Tue, Feb 28, 2012, at 8:15 AM

Kudos to the School Board, teachers and to those who are educated enough to understand the entire concept! As anyone with my opinion can see....you cannot intellectually argue with most of those who oppose this change. The lawsuit came out of "they didn't give us this, or that before a decision was made"....no wonder some kids struggle in school when their "role models" don't have enough common sense to know how to complete their own research. Not worth it guys....I look forward to the changes and to the impact they will have on our children. As I have said before...my kids WILL succeed and be successful adults because of the Spencer Schools, the community and our hard work. My simple answer is please if you are unhappy open enroll your children elsewhere. Doing so will allow lower teacher to student ratios and only add to the success that my children will have!

-- Posted by AmericanDreamChasers on Tue, Feb 28, 2012, at 10:17 AM

"My simple answer is please if you are unhappy open enroll your children elsewhere. Doing so will allow lower teacher to student ratios and only add to the success that my children will have!"

If you really think that will happen you are chasing a dream! Less students will allow them to 'early retire' a few teachers. Because with loosing students they are loosing money. With teachers being the biggest expense, I can't see them keeping them around with a decline of students.

-- Posted by puppyluv on Tue, Feb 28, 2012, at 11:56 AM

AmericanDreamChasers- you say kudos to the school board, teachers and to those who are educated enough to understand the entire concept....I say kudos to the school board for sneaking something unfounded past the radar....thats what it was.

As far as the rest of us that don't agree with the idea does not mean we are not educated enough to understand, it means we are educated enough to ask questions and make sure that the answers have adequate supporting facts! I also don't believe most that don't agree with this change are against change in general, just against this specific change. Educated people know things are seldom an all or nothing deal.

As far as why some kids struggle in school I suggest you take some time to work with struggling students and know their family situations before you assume its because their parents aren't role models because they simply don't agree with others around them. Or that they can't possibly care about their kids and their education because they don't hold the same opinion as yours!

You say that those that don't agree with your opinion don't have enough common sense to know how to complete their own research. For one, the idea was brought up not by us parents so the FACTS should have been presented to us. and for two, many of us have done research and it has not yielded much of any facts....

You look forward to the changes and thats great that that is your view and that you are so optimistic on such little factual findings. That is your opinion and nobody is bashing you for that, and yet the rest of us must be uneducated not to agree with you...hmmm....Its people that voice crazy off the wall random ideas like that that maybe won't make the best role model. Should we be showing our kids that if someone doesn't agree with them then the other person clearly must be stupid?? I am openly against the idea but will debate things with an open idea for anyone to show me clear proven facts to support otherwise...

It's sad when adults can't have an honest debate anymore without resorting to 2nd grade tendencies.

-- Posted by AshlyMeyer on Tue, Feb 28, 2012, at 6:18 PM

When it comes to teachers saying they where against the move did you see the survey they filled out or is that what they are saying to you knowing you are against it. I do not know but have seen many times where people vote one way then when they are talking to someone who disagrees they will say I was against it. The survey of teachers should have been required and maybe it should have been anonymous so the teachers wouldn't feel threatened. As far as teachers worrying about backlash from administration when was the last time you heard of a teacher being fired for something that was serious. I had plenty of teachers in school that had no business being teachers.

-- Posted by longhair126 on Thu, Mar 1, 2012, at 9:52 AM

I thought it was anonymous.... wasn't it?

-- Posted by Mechler on Thu, Mar 1, 2012, at 10:05 PM

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