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Why 41? Responds to District 41 Superintendent Ann Riebock

Glen Ellyn Patch welcomes letters to the editor. Letters may be submitted to Local Editor Mary Ann Lopez at maryl@patch.com.

The following is a letter in response to Dr. Ann Riebock’s, Glen Ellyn School District 41 superintendent, opinion letter in the January 10th, 2013, Glen Ellyn News.  

As parents of Glen Ellyn District 41 students and active members of the community, we agree with many of the sentiments expressed by Dr. Riebock in her January 10th letter and would like to express our gratitude toward the members of the District 41 Think Tank for their hard work to ensure that our schools continue to evolve appropriately. 

However, the tone of Dr. Riebock’s letter suggests that we are a community resistant to change and what is needed is an effort focused on “translating these ideas into a change effort that stakeholders understand and support.”  To be clear, the issues at stake do not stem from a lack of understanding.  Considerable time has been spent by concerned D41 parents reviewing and attending meetings about the Think Tank over the last two months, despite having no organized communication or detailed updates from the Think Tank prior to that time.  

Our chief concern remains to be the speed in which these proposed changes, which will radically alter the school day for our elementary students, are being implemented. As Dr. Riebock states: “We don’t know what will finally emerge from the Think Tank conversation. But we do know that we need to adapt so that our children are equipped to succeed in school and in a changing world.”  Is the District really suggesting that change within our schools is so desperately needed that we should expedite change simply because something has to be done? Or, is there something more at work here? 

A group of concerned parents and educators called “Why 41?” have started a petition to delay the implementation of these significant changes for the 2013-2014 school year to allow time for more planning, training and testing of the model.  Consider the following: 

  • With no firm plan or proposal slated until late February/early March, the petition is asking that more time be taken to implement the changes once the plan is finalized.  Supposedly, in its entirety, the Think Tank initiative is a brand new model created just for D41.  Because of this, there is no hard data to demonstrate the success of the new model.  Shouldn’t D41 take the time to first pilot the final model, gather data & feedback from teachers, make changes and then implement the strongest model possible district wide?
  • What is the rush to make such a major change in so little time?   Shouldn’t the district take more than a few months to implement this district-wide?  There appears to be no concrete reason as to why this initiative has to be implemented for the 2013-2014 school year.  This is a huge adjustment in instructional delivery for the classroom teacher. Why not take more time to train our teachers, plan and prepare our facilities?
  • Is it responsible to make such a change to our school district when over half of the Board of Education positions are up for election and our superintendent is retiring? Also, this might negatively impact the district's search for a qualified new superintendent.  Desirable candidates might not be interested in the job if they know they are going to be forced to implement a new initiative that they have had no say in.  

The Why 41? group appreciates the work of the Think Tank and of the school district to continue to look for improvements to the way we educate our children.   However, is it responsible to implement such a dramatic change this year when so many parents, teachers, and the community members concerns have not been addressed? 

The strength of our public schools reflect who we are as a community.  For this reason, every tax payer with D41 should monitor this situation with a combination of enthusiasm for our ongoing effort to better educate our children and healthy skepticism toward changes that don’t appear to be implemented in a measured, thoughtful approach.  With this in mind, the Think Tank’s objective should not be to force feed a “change effort,” but to spark a healthy dialogue that reflects the interests of the community at large.

We encourage all in the community to visit our website or Facebook page for more information on the proposed changes to our school system and to attend and get involved in upcoming D41 Board meetings and PTA meetings.  There is simply too much at stake to proceed in any other way.  Learn more at http://d41parents4change.org  or  https://www.facebook.com/groups/Why41/?fref=ts

Thank you,

Why 41?

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