RLAS District 116 Lacks Parent Participation

[kc_heading_two size=”24″ color=”red”]Last night they were talking to an empty auditorium..[/kc_heading_two]

On Thursday evening the Round Lake Area Community School District 116 held a Community Forum to discuss various topics. At the very beginning they asked for teachers and staff members to stand up at which time almost everybody sitting in the lower section stood. That meant that parents of over 10,000 students were scattered around the perimeter and in the second tier where I was sitting. I counted less than two dozen parents in the audience, some with their children tagging along.

The presentation was another one of the school districts Power Point presentations which gets rather boring with its one-hour length. About the only thing keeping people awake was the fact that they used multiple speakers to discuss various parts of the presentation. Most of this information could have simply been sent home to the parents. Another disturbing thing, at least to me who went to videotape the event, was the fact that the school board and Superintendent sat in almost TOTAL DARKNESS! I can understand them turning down the stage lights during the presentation so that the big screen was easier to view but WHY leave the lights off during the question and answer period which lasted the last half hour?
[kc_heading_two size=”24″ color=”red”]The officials sat in almost total darkness…[/kc_heading_two]

Superintendent Collins and the School Board sat in almost total darkness at the Thursday's meeting
Superintendent Collins and the School Board sat in almost total darkness at the Thursday’s meeting

The speakers could barely be seen
The speakers could barely be seen from any distance

Since each presenter was standing near the front of the stage with very little light on them, I elected not to videotape the PowerPoint presentation while trying to include the person doing the speaking (since they were in poor lighting). The video below is just a portion that shows the GOALS of District 116 along with using just one parent’s question as an example of how dark it was during the Q&A session. Notice that the last item on the Goals chart is “Develop a Health & Wellness Plan and Wellness Committee”. That will be their efforts to add a School-Based Clinic (SBC) to the high school grounds that can treat and prescribe drugs and medical procedures without parents knowledge.

One chart that I happened to grab a shot of shows how the students at District 116 compare with the Illinois averages and College Readiness benchmarks in various areas of teaching. I find that the mathematics column is representing a much different picture of college readiness when compared to a recent article in the Daily Herald that indicated RLAS is leading other areas with the BIGGEST decrease from 2011 results.

The chart that was presented shows students close to college readiness in Math but that's not what the DH reported
The chart that was presented shows students close to college readiness in Math but that’s not what the DH reported

So, why can’t the school officials and board get more people to come to their meetings? I’m sure that fliers were sent home to parents and that the  electric sign board at the high school announced the meeting as well. Why is there so much lack of interest on the part of the parents to get involved especially with the results, year after year, of failing efforts to educate their children at a higher level? With over 70% of the student body being Hispanic, are the parents aware that there is a translator at these meetings? What changes does the school board need to make for future meetings to add more interest to the event and draw more parents out? Is it time to scrap the Power Point presentations and talk from the knowledge in their heads? Continuing down the same path is a total waste of time on everyone’s part with only a handful in attendance. Another thing they might want to consider is to STOP dominating the Q&A half-hour with lengthy answers that reduce the number of questions that other parents have their hands up to ask. Like politicians, many who respond, especially Superintendent Collins, like to hear themselves talk and take up way too much time responding. You will see an example in the second half of the video below where a simple question gets almost a four minute response.

If you were paying to rent a hall and putting on a marketing event, you wouldn’t last long or sell many products if nobody came to hear what you had to say. You would regroup and analyze what you need to change and come up with a NEW plan to get customers at your future events. That is exactly what this board needs to do BEFORE the upcoming forum where they will be discussing Finances.

[kc_heading_two size=”24″ color=”red”]What suggestions would you make..[/kc_heading_two]

If you have any suggestions that might help them increase participation, email it to Superintendent Constance Collins or School Board President Nanci Radford (or add it to the comment section here)

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[kc_heading_two size=”24″ color=”red”]Don’t miss the next meeting if you enjoy numbers…[/kc_heading_two]

Board of Education Community Forum – Finances
11/28/2012 7:00 PM – 8:30 PM

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  • james

    Well it would be nice if you got your facts strait and stopped spewing whatever YOU feel is the truth. Yes I was at the forum and yes it could have been a little more interpersonal. So with that let me correct you on your miscalculations. District -116 has 7250 students(that was in the presentation), you say we have 10,000. As for the lighting they said it was set for the play that will be taking place, and the board of Ed did ask for more light. Its people like you Mr Carey that make it hard for the rest of us. All you can do is complain about whats around you and point out the negatives and never see the positives about anything. There were some positives, They did have community members show. And the district did advertise to alll to be there. I for one received many phone calls and emails about this and other happenings in the district. The board of Ed did have a forum and they all were there (except for Nancy Radford) They give a tremendous about of time and dedication to the students,schools and staff. They are elected but don’t get paid for there time. If all you want to do is put down the schools, there leadership, and even the town you live in then you are no better then all the people that that can’t say anything good and keep dragging our towns and district through the mud. We as a community in 60073 have a lot of stereotypes and bad visions viewed by others outside and inside our district. people like them and you don’t help with the negatives that you always seem to put out. If you are going to “report” local news maybe, just maybe you should not be so” bias”. You may be a good real estate agent, but your work as a journalist has a lot to be desired. I hope in the future you can see more sides of the story than just yours. good day, Jimmy Round Lake Beach

  • Gene Carey

    Jimmy ~ Thank you for clarifying the number of students. I used a figure that was reported in the newspaper from a previous article. Even with 7250 students and robocalls to their homes regarding the meeting, WHERE are the parents? My point is that the meetings are currently simply BORING which is probably why the turnout is so poor. In your response you offered no suggestions, only criticism of what I wrote. Even if the stage lights were set for a play, it certainly was not going to be happening after 8:30 PM or 9:00 PM after everyone finally left. Lights are controlled by switches that simply get turned on, off, or up and down for variable lighting.

    I’ve lived here since the High School was on triple-shifts, had three kids graduate from the RLA school system, and am proud of the improvements and advances that have taken place throughout all the villages. Being critical of the lighting certainly isn’t being critical of the schools. As far as real estate, I retired from that over two years ago after almost 30 years in the business and because of that I have a pretty good idea of what increases property values, number ONE being good schools!

    Please stop back when you have some concrete ideas on what it will take to get parents to attend these meetings. The next one is on Financing. Can you imagine how boring that will be if it is just another slide show with a bean-counter reading the numbers to us? What would you suggest the officials do to liven up a meeting about numbers? We look forward to your ideas.

  • james

    Again all you did was criticize and point out the negative. my suggestion would be to be more involved like us parents that were in the audience. Instead you sat up high, had an attitude and expressions like you are better then the rest of the people in the room. As for ideas, yes I have a few, first lets try to have everybody work together and stop criticizing whatever any individual feels is right( i do get the irony that I am criticizing). Next, just because you have lived here for 30 plus years does not make you an expert on what is going on in our schools, you may even be more of a hinderance then help because you haven’t seen much more than what is in front of you. Please let me explain, many Round Lake “lifers” don’t think we have a problem, they just want to go on as business as usual. Well that is part of what is putting the schools in the hole. I do agree we need to raise academic standards, but with all the low income, none english speaking kids and parents that is a task that really needs the help of that community that the school is trying to help. I do know that the schools reach out to them but unless you want to tell them we will give them something for free then they dont show because they fear what they dont know. Trying to help them know whats going on is a never ending task from the PTSA, school administrations, teachers Board of ed, and community leaders. We need a complete overhaul of the failing education system, but seeing as this costs money and there are few politicians that will truly tackle this issue then we need to deal with the hand that we have. This is a conversation that really has strayed but I would like to repeat, please stop being so critical, see both sides, and open you eyes. Jimmy

  • Gene Carey

    Jimmy ~ The reason I sit up high is that when I videotape an event my tripod with the camera’s LCD screen lit up doesn’t annoy anyone who might be sitting behind me. If I sat in one of the first few rows imagine how seeing my hands go up to move the camera around, zooming in and out, etc. would be to those around me. That is why I have a camera with a 1,000 zoom capability and why television crews are always at the back of an auditorium. Your reference to being up high as being an “attitude and expressions like you are better then the rest” is almost laughable.

    As far as being a “lifer” in town and not wanting changes, you are sadly mistaken. I was involved when my three kids were in school and even chaperoned the Middle School band when they went to Florida and won 1st place, competing against High School bands. All my ears are hearing at these meetings is what else can we hand out to parents and their children. How about going and talking to the parents at their homes or calling the parents in more often for one-on-one conferences to find out why homework may not be getting done or why it’s incomplete? It sounds like we are caving in rather than taking the bull by the horns and demanding more from both the parents and students.

    An article in Saturday’s Daily Herald showed comments from several RL students who are almost embarrassed to say they are from RL because of the negative attitude from students at other schools. If that’s the case then the student body needs to step up and make the change from within. There may be other schools with worse SAT scores but the students still have a high esteem of themselves.

    It’s a shame that some schools are now going to be offering $25 gift cards to those who attend student-teacher conferences, meaning the problem isn’t just in our area. You seem to have overlooked my main purpose of being at the meeting in the first place which was to videotape the presentation and put it online, like I have done in the past, for parents who may have had a good reason for not being able to attend. The poor lighting on the stage and area directly in front of the stage made it a fruitless effort as I indicated in the last half of the video. I’m sure the school will make their PowerPoint presentation available on their website but few will have an attention span to sit through an hour of watching it. In the future I might suggest that they show ONE graphic on the big screen and VERBALLY talk about the graphic using the information that we didn’t need read to us like Fifth graders. Those other screenshots could be the ‘cheat sheets’ they read from (although they should know this information without having to refer to any note cards).

    I have read your message a few times and still can’t find any suggestions on what they need to do at the meetings themselves to get more participation. You, like many others, only deflect the blame on others rather than those who held the meeting and had the ability to make it more interesting and entertaining. I haven’t strayed a bit in my purpose for being at the meetings. I expect more from my elected officials and haven’t been seeing it lately at these community meetings.

  • Jackie

    Hello, I was planning on going, but did not attend. I don’t think it has to do with the time or day it was planned, it is more of parents not wanting to go, making a commitment. Perhaps making these meetings mandatory or making them available via Skype or some other method. And yes we were notified via letters, calls, etc. So there shouldn’t be an excuse as to why we don’t go.

    • Gene Carey

      Thanks for stopping by Jackie and adding your comment.
      When I started my management career at major real estate office, for over ten years, the attendance at the weekly office meetings was very poor. Agents, being independent contractors, could not be forced to attend so it was up to me to make the meetings more interesting. Originally I put out an agenda hoping that would increase attendance but that simply gave them an excuse to decide nothing on the agenda was worth an hour or so of their time. After scrapping that idea, the agendas were given out just prior to the meetings which were beefed up to include featured speakers (not just loan officers and home inspectors looking for business) demonstrations, gift offers, etc.. It didn’t take long for word to get around that the meeting was exciting to be at and soon I had close to 80% or better participation.

      The reason for my post, which Jimmy took offense to, was to get parents to add suggestions either here or by contacting the officials responsible for putting the meetings on. Instead, he preferred to call me names as: “Instead you sat up high, had an attitude and expressions like you are better then the rest”. Jimmy, like others, prefer to defer the blame to others rather than suggest ideas to improve attendance at the meetings. I was only there to report on the meeting, noting that the lighting was poor, the parental attendance was poor, the officials dominated the 1/2 hour Q&A thus reducing the number of parents able to ask questions, and having all the words on the screen read to us was boring. The people who put these on are used to teaching in a classroom with a chalkboard at the front of the room to go over the subject matter. Parents are adults and do not need this type of presentation. Those responsible need to step out of their ‘teaching’ shoes and talk to those at the meetings as adult parents, not students. Sometimes they just can’t see the forest for the trees.

      • Jackie

        I have some thoughts about possibly motivating parent participation. What if questionnaires via email/letter were to be sent to those families? It can be a questionnaire with specific questions or not, or a comment area where they could ask or write comments. Once parents fill out these emails/letters the school staff could review and have them ready for the meeting. I am not saying that what was on their slides is not important, but maybe some parents don’t want to ask questions in public, so why not have a list of questions from parents that can be answered by the school staff.

        What I would like to know is the school being environmentally green. I’d like to see recycle cans outside of each school. What about composting garbage and giving using it or giving it away to those who need it for planting purposes. (I may be off topic, but I think it’s important to be aware and teach our kids about the environment.)

        Also, asking parents if they will participate. By having a head count they can use smaller or larger spaces.

        • Gene Carey

          Jackie ~ Those are some great suggestions which is exactly what I was hoping for when I created this post. Those who filled out the questionare would need to attend the meeting to get the answers.

          I might even suggest that the officials not sit on the stage, but instead in the front row or at tables setup just in front of the stage. Let the person making the particular portion of the presentation be up on the stage with the ability to ‘work the audience’ by engaging them instead of waiting until the final half hour. I just don’t understand why they make the speakers stand at the foot of the crowd rather than UP in front of the crowd. If they were to walk around amongst the seated parents it would be one thing but they remain stationary and spend a lot of time clicking on the slide show remote and reading the words to us.

          Why not invite a guest speaker such as a local or State official to talk about what government is doing to help local schools or reduce retirement costs. How about some alumni who have gone on to succssful careers using tools and knowledge gained by the RLA school system?

          There is so much that COULD be discussed and done so in a way that would encourage a better turnout.

          Keep the ideas coming since Dr. Collins does read this blog.

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