Janesville51.6°

Parents to Delavan-Darien school officials: We’ll keep working

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Catherine W. Idzerda
September 15, 2011
— A parents’ group will continue its work to improve the school district—with or without the support of the Delavan-Darien School Board.

At a meeting Monday, the board voted 5-2 against a task force proposed by board member Dr. Jeff Scherer and supported by the parent group.


The task force’s job would have been to come up with ideas on a variety of issues, including academic improvement, disciplinary problems and open enrollment losses.


The vote on the task force came near the end of a long meeting that included a presentation outlining the district’s plans for improvements. The district plans include a parents’ group to generate ideas and promote the schools in the community.


Scherer said he didn’t have any problems with the district’s ideas but was hoping for something a little different.


“I was really hoping for something a little more urgent, a little more ramped up.”


How urgent are the problems?


It depends who you ask.


The district has been honest about its struggles with open enrollment and test scores and its desire to improve both.


Open enrollment allows students to attend the public school of their choice, if space is available. Last year, the district lost 205 students to other districts and gained 27 for a net loss of $1.4 million in student revenue.


District officials have said the school suffer from a perception problem—that people judge the schools unfairly. They’re working to improve test scores and the school environment with procedures designed to hold people more accountable.


The district has added advance placement courses and has more students than ever taking those classes, high school Principal Mark Schmitt said.


Joe Peyer, one of the leaders of the parents’ group, acknowledged those changes, but wants more done. More importantly, the parent group wants to be part of the process.


Earlier this year, Peyer approached Superintendent Wendy Overturf about his concerns regarding language and behavior at the high school.


According to Peyer, Overturf told him that many of the issue he raised were common at all schools and that they were being handled.


But as he continued to talk with parents—and then with teachers—Peyer and others began to feel as though conditions, especially in the high school, needed urgent action, he said.


After two contentious school board meetings in August, the parents’ group was looking toward the task force as a way to make changes.


“I thought the task force could bridge the gap,” Peyer said. “Instead, it was just thrown aside.”


Peyer said the parent group would continue its work on its own, focusing on five areas: open enrollment, discipline, academics, communication and teacher retention.


In spring, they’ll be out on the campaign trail, running for at least two of the school board seats assigned to city residents.


Scherer thinks the prospect of contested races is a good thing—even it means he loses his seat on the board.


“The apathy is gone,” Scherer said.



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