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Enrollment and vocational programs were topics at school board meetings


GESand166_012011.mp34.85 MB

The ISD166 school board looked at ways to improve vocational programs at Cook County Schools. The Great Expectations board grappled with the good problem of class enrollment waiting lists. Both boards met earlier this week.

Great Expectations director Peter James said at Tuesday’s meeting, the board discussed how to keep GES classes to a workable size while continuing to meet increased requests for enrollment.

James: As people have known for awhile, enrollment drives finances in terms of the funding per student. We also have, as charter schools, the ability to limit enrollment based on our charter to deliver a particular type of programming. In our case, what we’re looking at now is how many students is the right number of students to provide the financial support we need as a school, to provide opportunities to the community, quite frankly. We’re in a situation where we have waiting lists for classes, and do we open up more spots for the community? At the same time, how do we maintain the smaller class size that allows us to deliver the type of program that we’re set up to do? So, that’s really the discussion, is how do we find that right number, what’s the right balance, what’s the right class groupings to make that work.

James said the issue is to look at grade level rather than just the total number of students enrolled.

James: It really is looking at grade level. In part because of managing the classes’ sizes and in part because of, you know, time passes. So, if you enroll students in kindergarten then they’re going to go, hopefully, become first graders and second and so forth. So, to avoid creating unsustainable bubbles in enrollment or the challenges of real uneven enrollment, we have to look at that by grade level.

At ISD166, Superintendent Beth Schwarz said the board is taking a new look at classes grouped under the heading “applied arts.” These include classes in industrial technology, culinary arts and business courses. She said that group of classes is in a planning year.

Schwarz: We are talking about what we want kids who think they want to go into vocational careers, what sort of things do we need them to take? If a family comes to us or a student comes to us and says, “I want to go to a four-year college, I know that’s what I want to do,” we have a very laid out, very articulated plan for them. When a child comes to us or a family comes to us and says, “you know, I don’t think my child wants to go to a four-year college,” or the child themselves says, “you know, I’m a sophomore, I really don’t see myself going on to a four-year college. I want to look at a two-year school or perhaps going directly into the workforce.” We don’t have a very well-articulated “here’s what we think you should do.” You know, “you should be taking these courses; this would help you prepare for that.” And so we’re looking at that.

Schwarz said the District needs to get a plan in place, hopefully by April. Once accomplished the school will turn to local trades people to help them design their vocational space.

Schwarz: For instance, if it’s decided that welding needs to be a major portion of our long-term plan in industrial technology, then what do we need to do to bring our welding area up to speed? I know these committees have been formed before and I know people are frustrated because there wasn’t follow-through on some of that. But, I hope that the local tradesman here me say when I say we are committed to improving our vocational vision and looking long term that, when this committee forms in April, we really do want your input and we are going to be following through with bringing that vision to reality.

She said the District will also consider the state of the economy and changes in workforce needs.