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posted: 5/19/2010 12:01 AM

2 Dist. 26 board members undecided on grade center vote

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Three District 26 school board members said they are in favor of moving to grade center schools instead of neighborhood schools, two members said they were against the idea and two said they were still making up their minds.

"We had the same uproar in 1987 when we wanted to go to all-day kindergarten," said board member Donna Johnson. "There are 9,000 registered voters in Mount Prospect, and it's just the same 25 to 30 people who come here every meeting to say they are against grade center schools. We represent a lot of people."

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Besides Johnson, Jeff Bradley and Tom Fallucca said they were in favor of grade centers. Board members Steve O'Mara and Becky Reese said they saw too many problems with the switch, while Donna Nasser and Alex Carrillo said they were sill thinking it over.

The board will vote on the issue on June 1.

District 26's two elementary schools are Euclid and Indian Grove. About half of Euclid's student body is Hispanic compared to less than 10 percent of Indian Grove's students. If grade centers were implemented, all prekindergarten through second graders would go to either Euclid or Indian Grove and all third- through fifth- graders would attend the other school.

River Trails is the only middle school and wouldn't be affected.

The board has been discussing the switch for the past nine months. The emotional issue brought out more than 150 parents to past board meetings where some parents accused others of being racist for not wanting the change.

About 60 parents - all of whom were against grade centers - also attended the meeting on Tuesday.

"The school board wouldn't tell us for nine months why were discussing this, and that makes me angry," said parent Michael Diaz. "We've been cast as racist bigots, and that's not accurate."

Reese said Euclid has been "unfairly dinged" in all the talk about grade center schools.

On Thursday, the school board also discussed a staff survey on the issue. Of the district's 251 teachers and staff, 116 filled out the survey. According to the results, most of the elementary school teachers and staff are against grade center schools, while River Trails staff are in favor of the switch along with 90 percent of the district's administration.

Several months ago, District 26 spent $18,000 to hire consultant James H. Warren to study the idea, which included surveying parents. His final report listed 21 advantages and 21 disadvantages to switching to grade-level schools.

Some of the advantages include sharing resources and saving about $200,000 by eliminating four staff members. Some of the disadvantages include spending $162,000 on more bus routes and causing families to have multiple students at multiple schools.

Most elementary districts in the area use neighborhood schools, including Arlington Heights District 25, Mount Prospect District 57 and Des Plaines District 62.

The results of the staff survey are posted at www.rtsd26.org.

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