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Letter to the Editor: Bessie Rhodes Needs Assistant Principal

A parent at Dr. Bessie Rhodes Magnet School says the K-8th grade school is sorely in need of an assistant principal to provide consistent leadership.

Dear Editor,
 
I am writing to bring to the attention of the attention of our community to the fact that Dr. Bessie Rhodes Magnet School (scholastically a leading school in the district) is struggling to provide consistency of leadership that if continued will result in a district wide failure of decreasing the magnetic attraction and enrollment balancing function the school provides. The school does not have an Assistant Principal and it is sorely needed. 

What many Evanston/Skokie residents may not understand is that families who choose to attend Rhodes Magnet school frequently do so for the consistency of a K-8th grade education and global focus but this is at the expense of not having science labs, locker rooms, fully rostered sports teams, and other extra curricular activities for our students. Managing the wide spectrum of a K-8th grade school with 367 students requires at minimum a full time Principal and Assistant Principal.  Other middle schools within the district have these positions in addition to PBIS coordinators and numerous other support positions that provide infrastructure so that educators can teach and the lead educator (e.g. the Principal) can ensure the school continues to provide our students with the education to which they are entitled.  

When Dr. Bessie Rhodes originally envisioned the school it was with the intent of creating a technologically advanced educational environment.  To achieve her dream, she exchanged the school’s allocated assistant principal position for a technology specialist.  As technology has been mainstreamed within our district; technology positions standardized/eliminated; and managing student behavior has become an increasing part of education; Rhodes Magnet School stands at a deficit that must be rectified if it is to continue to be an effective resource for our community.  Each Rhodes family has made a personal decision about whether or not they should become a part of the magnet school community. We realize there are pluses and minuses associated with this decision but consistent and adequate school leadership for the purpose of supporting our kids academically and socio-emotionally must not be one of the things we compromise. 

I would like to thank the Evanston/Skokie community for their ongoing support of this matter. 

Wendy Woodward King
Rhodes Magnet School Parent

Dan June 19, 2012 at 02:45 PM
@Wendy, Another approach could be to allow King and Bessie to combine. Make Bessie K-4, while King would focus on 5-8. Following the model of Northfield's schools, Middlefork and Sunset Ridge. Then each principal (one of Bessie, one for Kings) could focus on the 'needs' specific to both a younger and older demographic. It would also have the secondary benefit of utilizing the superior space and facilities of Kings for the upper classmen (larger rooms and gym lockers), while allowing the younger kids to utilize a school like Bessie which was originally designed to be an elementary. By modeling after the stronger districts in the North Shore area, the Magnet schools can deliver superior results without the increased costs of building expansion and adding administration.
Catherine June 19, 2012 at 09:46 PM
Dan, I'm not sure how you are judging 'stronger districts' and comparing schools. In 2011 Bessie had 98% of the 5th graders meeting or exceeding standards and 91% of the 8th graders; this compares to Sunset Ridge at 93% of the 5th graders and 96% of the 8th graders meeting or exceeding standards. Where is the real difference in scores? White students score at high levels at Bessie--95% of the 5th grade and 100% of the 8th grade meet or exceed. Where is the need to make a difference at Bessie? The minority population does not do so well. Overall Bessie compares favorably with the schools you are using, any discrepancy is due to the diverse population present at Bessie compared to these 'model' schools in the North Shore area. Wouldn't an assistant principal make a difference in lessening this achievement gap? And although I find your idea of changing the way the magnet schools are managed. I think the draw for some families is to be in a K-8 environment. It is not for everyone; but it works for some. Do we need to have cookie cutter schools? Do we really want them? Isn't that an advantage we want as parents and school communities to create a vision for our particular school at that point in time?
Dan June 21, 2012 at 04:20 AM
Catherine, How would an assistant help? Do they engage in IEPs, assess learning disabilities, tutor, run after school programs, does an assistant principal even set the tone and feel for the school. No, they do none of these. The strength of a school comes from three things, teachers, peers, and facilities. (Book - The Third Teacher) Adding a close to 100k position to a 'small' school does nothing. If there are discipline issue at a magnet school then transfer the student out. The magnet schools should be the leader in the district not the dealing with petty discipline issues. I would suggest that anyone interested in contrasting D65, take a tour of other North Shore schools and then really compare the learning environment. How does the physical structure of the school engage a child's imagination? Bessie Rhodes is as bland as a pair of khaki. There was barely a hint of color on the walls and no sign that the administration allowed the students to customize the common areas to make it their own. As I said before, the goal of the magnets should focus on being the top schools in the North Shore that educate the whole child. The measure of success would be families purposely moving into Evanston in hopes of attending the magnet schools instead of their neighborhood school. Anything less is the status quo and sells our students short.
tannesha pottinger June 22, 2012 at 04:32 PM
Thank you Wendy, for taking the time to write this article. I believe having an assistant principal is crucial to the students, parents and teachers. There is only so much one principle can account for in a school day. I really hope the school board takes heat to this as this is an important matter for our children to grow and for the school to remain successful. Tannesha Pottinger
Ania June 23, 2012 at 07:22 PM
I also support securing the assistnace principal for our school. Sharing administrative day-to-days tasks among two people would allow more time for both to focus on student-teacher relations, academics and behavior monitoring and correcting, where appropriate. If at one poiont we have an established, strong principal and the assistnace won't be necessasy, that can be always reevaluated, but we are not there yet. Ania Karwowska-Lopez Bessie Rhodes Magnet School parent

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