The School for Environmental Education, better known as the SEE Team, will not be offered at Riverside-Brookfield High School next year. The interdisciplinary program for freshman has succumbed, at least temporarily, to low enrollment.
Only 26 incoming freshman had signed up for the program in 2015-16, and administrators and teachers in the program agreed that was not enough to efficiently run the program. The SEE Team features coordinated instruction for freshmen in English, algebra and biology using environmental issues as a unifying theme.
“We did not have the enrollment to run the classes,” said Principal Kristin Smetana.
In the current school year, there are 44 students in the SEE Team, which means it can be run in two sections.
The SEE Team program was started by former Superintendent/Principal Jack Baldermann in the 2005-06 school year and has run since then except for one year, the 2011-12 school year, when it was not offered due to budgetary reasons in the wake of a failed tax referendum.
Smetana said the program is not being eliminated and could return in future years if enough students enroll in it.
“Our plan is to still keep it in our curriculum guide, have the teachers advertise it by talking to the feeder schools… and see what the interest is next year and then make a decision on that,” Smetana said.
Teachers involved with the SEE Team thought it was a valuable program.
“Obviously I’m disappointed that it’s not being offered,” said RB English teacher Daniel Mancoff, who has been part of the SEE Team for about the last eight years. “I think it’s a wonderful program that offers a really unique educational opportunity for kids.
“We will kind of take a year off and think about if we want to make any changes to the program and go back at it next year and see if we can promote it a little better, get the word out a little better, and make sure kids know what they’re missing, because kids who take our team love it.”
Mancoff said the program is not always well understood by incoming freshmen or their parents.
“It’s a very powerful program for kids and families and parents, but I think sometimes, because it’s so unusual, we have a hard time making people understand what the program is and how it works and what kids are really going to get from it when they sign up for it,” Mancoff said.
Budget cuts to the program after it was brought back after a one-year absence also hurt the program. Mancoff said. For example, a liaison to the Brookfield Zoo and a field-trip coordinator weren’t rehired. Additional instructional time for enrichment was also cut.
“It meant that a lot of the resources that helped to provide some the extra experiences on the team were not there,” Mancoff said. “The three classroom teachers tried to shoulder the load and make it all work, but it’s harder to stretch the resources around.”
Mancoff said for the program to come back it must be marketed better.
“I also think we just need to get the word out better,” Mancoff said. “I think sometimes people just didn’t know what the team was or exactly how it worked.”
The SEE Team also lost some administrative support when former Assistant Principal for Curriculum and Instruction Tim Scanlon retired in 2012. Scanlon was a passionate advocate for the SEE Team.