By JACK ANDERSON
For Rantoul Press
Good people throughout our community are needed to step up and serve on our Rantoul City Schools (RCS) school board.
To begin with, it is important that I point out Rantoul has two separate school districts: the RCS and Rantoul Township High School (RTHS). The districts are separate political subdivisions and taxing bodies.
It goes without saying but is important to point out that there is nothing more important to the success of our schools than our teachers, principals and the many volunteers, and they all need the community’s support.
Teachers inspire and engage our children, cultivating a passion for learning. Principals support our teachers, engage parents and the community, and shape school culture. And our volunteers selflessly give of their time and talents to the benefit of our children.
RCS is comprised of Broadmeadow, Eastlawn, Northview and Pleasant Acres elementary schools and J.W. Eater Junior High. Around 1,700 of our community’s sons and daughters, nieces and nephews, grandchildren and great-grandchildren currently attend these RCS schools. No doubt the families of these children hope and pray they will obtain a good education that will prepare them for successful lives.
You should be surprised and understandably upset to learn that our community’s children attending RCS academically perform among the very lowest on the state’s annual PARCC assessment.
The state test assesses the child’s knowledge of skills they must be taught and are necessary to be successful in the real world. The test results also allow teachers and the school administration to measure a child’s growth, and for the community to hold the district’s school board accountable.
In 2018, out of 771 Illinois ranked school districts, RCS ranks 763, placing eighth from the bottom. As it turns out, RCS has been among the state’s very lowest-performing school districts for many years. This year our children are again performing at the bottom 1 percent. See for yourself at www.illinoisreportcard.com and www.schooldigger.com.
What is the cause of our children’s low assessment performance? Is the problem with the students, teachers, administrators or school board? The answer can be complex, but there appears to be a common thread.
Students come and go every year, new ones arrive as the older ones graduate or move away. So year after year it’s not the same students, but rather new students keep replacing the old. Even with many new students over time, RCS has the same poor results.
What about the teachers? Turns out teachers come and go too. The state’s average annual teacher attrition rate is 14 percent. Teachers leave a school district for various life reasons. RCS’ average annual teacher attrition rate is 33 percent, more than twice the average. A third of RCS’ teachers leave every year. Even with many new teachers over time, RCS has the same poor results.
School principal turnover for RCS over the past six years is an average of two per school. Studies show principal turnover generally bodes poorly for schools. Some RCS students can claim they are on their third and fourth principals before they have even reached junior high school. Even with many new principals over time, RCS has the same poor results.
School board members run for election every four years, many times unopposed. Of the current seven RCS board members, six have been on the board from eight to 19 years, five of them for more than a decade. The same six long-term school board members year after year have been making decisions on the curriculum and pedagogy methods, and formulating policies under which the school district is operated.
I believe the common thread has been found. With many of the same board members over time, RCS has the same poor results.
I dare say some may try to defend RCS’ leadership and the appearance of incompetency. All school districts have their issues, and RCS defenders may even try to offer explanations and justifications. But in the end you just need to ask this one question, "How do our children’s assessment scores rank among the other 771 school districts in Illinois?"
The reality is no one can defend that eighth from the bottom is the best our children can accomplish.
For those who might interpret this commentary as harsh, earlier this year I pleaded with the RCS school board to produce an annual report as was required by their very own policy manual. An annual report serves to inform the community about what is happening at RCS, what’s working, what’s not and how the district is performing in educating our children. The board’s response… they removed the requirement of an annual report from their policy manual. Yes they did.
What we don’t need is people to defend a system of educating; rather, we need people to ensure our children receive a good education. I don’t believe our children are failing. I believe our school district’s leadership is failing our children.
It’s time for leadership with fresh energy and ideas.
Do you believe in the importance of public education and that every child is deserving of an outstanding education and possess a genuine desire to improve our schools?
The deadline to submit your nominating papers for RCS school board is approaching quickly.
To be an RCS school board member you must be a U.S. citizen, live in the school district for the year preceding the election, at least 18 years old and a registered voter. That’s it.
If you are interested you’ll need to pick up your nomination papers from the county clerk’s office, gather 50 signatures from your family, friends and neighbors living in the school district and submit the signatures back at the county clerk’s office by Dec. 10, 2018. That’s it; you’re on the ballot for April 2019.
There are people who are available to volunteer their time to help you with the process of getting your name on the ballot. If you should need any help or have any questions about the process, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jack Anderson is a resident of Rantoul.