District 303 starts work on Davis Richmond school improvement plan

Updated 1/14/2014 11:22 PM
  • Parents and others discuss the status of Davis Richmond School in St. Charles, at a workshop that will help develop a court-mandated school improvement plan.

      Parents and others discuss the status of Davis Richmond School in St. Charles, at a workshop that will help develop a court-mandated school improvement plan. Susan Sarkauskas | Staff Photographer

A St. Charles District 303 committee charged with finding a way to improve Davis Richmond School asked parents Tuesday night what they know about the school and what it should be doing.

The first "community engagement" included a review of the programs at Davis Primary and Richmond Intermediate campuses.

About 50 parents and some staff members heard an overview from Davis Principal Denise Liechty explaining programs at Davis Richmond for students with disabilities, low-income students and students with limited English proficiency. Those subgroups failed to make adequate yearly progress on the 2013 school report card.

They then broke into small groups for an hour to discuss what surprised them in the overview, what the school should keep doing and what additional information they wanted.

One group was surprised when Liechty said 39 percent of the Davis Richmond student body was poor. Another group was surprised by the success of a bilingual learning program.

Several groups said class sizes should be decreased. Several spoke about wanting better communication and developing a sense of community between the Davis and Richmond families.

And one group, in the "need more information" category, was blunt: "What exactly is the problem that we are trying to solve?"

Tuesday's meeting was the first of three; the next two will focus on reading and literacy. The nine-member steering committee is compiling comments as it prepares a plan it expects to propose to the school board in March.

The committee consists of the campuses' principals, teachers who work with the subgroups targeted, and teachers who have taught at both campuses. And Liechty, heading up the committee, said she wanted also to involve parents who have had children at both campuses.

The plan was mandated by a Kane County judge in September, ruling on a suit brought by parents of students at the former Davis Elementary School.

The schools were separate kindergarten-through-fifth-grade elementary schools until 2011. The district then combined them and started sending kindergartners through second-graders to Davis, and third- through fifth-graders to Richmond.

The group claimed the merger was done to evade the federal No Child Left Behind Act, which sets standards for student performance. They asked that the schools be separated. The judge said "no" but ordered the improvement plan, and that parents and community members be on the team making the plan. The decision is being appealed.

Before the merger, Richmond was 54 percent Hispanic, with 61 percent of its students designated as low-income, well above the district averages. Davis, the next-closest elementary school, was 89 percent white and 12 percent low-income. Richmond usually failed to make AYP due to performance of its low-income, Hispanic and limited-English-proficiency groups, although those groups did improve from year to year. It was required to offer school choice to students, and 100 out of the more than 140 who took the offer chose Davis. The district said that led to an imbalance in enrollment, with Davis becoming crowded and Richmond under-used.

Davis Richmond is now 64 percent white and 27 percent Hispanic.

The next meeting is at 6:30 p.m. Jan. 30 at Davis.

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