A school district isn’t judged by standardized assessment results or community perceptions. The true measure of success is achieving its stated mission. RB’s mission statement is:
“Riverside-Brookfield High School is a partnership of parents, students, staff, Board of Education, elementary schools and community. This academic partnership will provide a comprehensive education in a safe, orderly, well-equipped environment. All students will be prepared with the intellectual, aesthetic, vocational, physical, personal and social skills necessary to be responsible and effective members of a diverse and changing world.”
RB sued the village of Brookfield over a parking lot and tennis court. Parents of special education students have hired attorneys to force the school to comply with federal law. Students protested against racial intolerance and the dismissal of a popular teacher. This publication previously reported a strained relationship between the staff and administration. Communication and collaboration in the “partnership” is sorely lacking.
The mission stipulates that RB will “provide a comprehensive education,” in a “well-equipped environment.” RB’s administration cuts corners to save money, with little regard for best educational practices. Students don’t have textbooks to study at home; the district orders one classroom set, providing students with an online access code. I don’t think many students read the online version, and research shows that reading comprehension is lower on a screen than with a physical book. Textbooks are a critical teaching tool, yet RB’s staff must do without.
RB also fails to provide vocational skills, because the few courses listed in the curriculum guide often don’t run. Vocational classes are necessary to provide the instruction special education students are legally entitled to receive under the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act (IDEA). Almost 90 percent of RB’s students with disabilities do not meet state standards in reading or math, and lack the skills to succeed in high school, let alone college. It’s crucial for these courses to be available at RB.
RB’s technology classes are from the Y2K era, and of the six courses listed, four didn’t run this year and three were cancelled last year. The desktop publishing class uses Microsoft Word, which isn’t the standard page layout program used by publishing professionals.
The same is true of the Chromebooks and Google applications. RB is a day late and a dollar short with the 1-to-1 program. The Chromebook is just a larger version of the phones students already use. High schoolers preparing for college or a career need to learn and demonstrate mastery of the hardware and software used in those settings.
Technology is a continuously evolving field, with careers for students with and without college degrees. RB has no hands-on computer repair course, and the programming classes are available only to Advanced Placement students. Limited instruction in current technology doesn’t prepare students for “a diverse and changing world.”
I understand that there are budget constraints, but this excuse is a little hard to swallow given the expenditures for the athletic facilities. This year, the board approved adding boys and girls lacrosse teams. Sports do not come before schooling.
District 208 maintains high fund balances, earning recognition from the state. The reserves have been accumulated by increasing student fees, which isn’t a long-term solution. Saving money and winning awards is meaningless if RB doesn’t serve all students. The mission is more important than money.
I have addressed my concerns with RB officials to no avail. RB needs new leadership with new ideas and the courage to engage the community.