a blog started by a mom
The alleged savings of $750,000 is a drop in the bucket of the district's budget. So, even ASSUMING (big assumption) that amount would be saved, it would not be worth it for the reduction in extracurricular opportunities and the loss of the distinctives between the schools. Support for continuing the current system may be found in the fact that having two high schools engenders a certain level of competition between them; this causes both schools to try harder, thus improving both.Further, this reduction is only an assumption; it does not take into account the distinct possibility (likelihood?) that families will choose to send their kids to other area schools should this occur, in which case we lose the state funding for those students. This has all the earmarks of being someone's pet project, which is not how public policy should be made. The following need to occur before such a drastic change is adopted: 1) a complete break-down of the source of alleged savings from combining the schools that takes into account the costs associated with it - e.g., the costs of changing signage, uniforms, and other school-specific materials; 2) an honest appraisal of the likely adverse consequences of this proposal, including the loss of extracurricular opportunities and a survey of the number of families who may choose other area schools, thus reducing the "savings"; and 3) the opportunity for a lengthy and robust public debate.
I have no connection whatsoever with the West Bend schools at all, except knowing a couple people who went there. So on one hand, you may think I don't know anything about the community, its traditions, etc. You'd be right. On the other hand, I don't have any emotional biases and I think I can look at your situation from a completely neutral perspective. While doing some research about school finance a couple of years ago, I learned that West Bend is the only school district in the entire country to use the high school system it does, with two separate high schools at the same site and no feeder or choice system. From my perspective, the way the school system is structured is completely insane. I saw that West Bend was thinking of combining high schools a couple years ago while I was doing that research, and was disappointed that you decided not to do it. If nothing else, it would make sense to at least switch to a feeder system, say Barton, Green Tree, and McLane go to West, and Decorah, Jackson, and Fair Park go to East. That way, kids who are next door neighbors will at least be at the same school together all through high school, instead of possibly being together in elementary and middle school and then randomly being split up at high school with no choice in the matter. (Or go to a choice system, but I'll get to that later.)You talk about the strong tradition of two separate high schools, but that tradition is not a cross-town rivalry; it is based on nothing more than birthdays of the eldest child. It would seem to me that ONE high school for ALL of West Bend would UNITE the community, not divide it. And in fact, I read on the documents on the website from 2008 that the "tradition of Suns and Spartans" is, in fact, not that strong at all. According to the documents from 2008, there is no real school spirit at the elementary and middle school levels because half of the students are going to "East," and half to "West." I would think it would be so much stronger of a tradition if all elementary/middle school students were united behind one powerful West Bend program. You mention West Allis and Wauwatosa... but Wauwatosa has a feeder system, and West Allis at least has a modified feeder/choice system. West Bend appears to be completely random, which is ridiculous. A feeder system would be better if you must keep two high schools. Even a choice system would at least allow for a rivalry between kids who are more interested in different academic subjects. Engineers vs. Poets, anyone?
(2nd half)In terms of lost opportunities for athletics...I think I'd rather be a backup on a championship team (or even sit in the bleachers cheering on that championship team) than a starter on a mediocre team. Merging schools would increase the likelihood of the first option. With academic extracurriculars...with more students you'd be able to offer more options, or just grow the size of the programs in some cases.The idea that there would be fewer scholarships donated by businesses also seems like nonsense to me. If the businesses really care about education, they will simply move to awarding two scholarships to WEST BEND students instead of one to East and one to West. Also, in terms of costs/savings, it looks to me like the one-time costs would be more than cancelled out by the savings, for the first year. After that, it would be $382,910 in savings every year. A lot of school districts would love to be able to make a move like that and save that much money. So I think it is a no-brainer that West Bend should either:1. Merge the schools. Use the nickname from back before the current high school complex was built, whatever that was. 2. Go to a feeder system. 3. Have two high schools, no feeder system, but have school choice. Have different academic specialties--maybe one school emphasizes math/science more, the other one specializes more in English and social studies. Or maybe one school has a really strong Business/Marketing/blue collar trade program, the other has a greater variety of fine arts offerings. Whatever. But they should offer parents and students a real choice. But I must say that from an outsider's perspective, the current system looks totally ridiculous.
I am for 1 high school. I think the lack of participation at East High School in many sports (6 girls went out for Freshman basketball. East cannot field a full varsity wrestling team not to mention JV and there is no freshman wrestling team) Time to combine the schools and unite our community!