In the weeks leading up to a June 11 start date for summer school programs in District 209, Superintendent Stan Fields said he will lead an all out blitz intended to boost enrollment after other administrators botched the effort.
The superintendent pointed specifically to building principals in Proviso Township for failing to emphasize the importance of the program, especially given the district’s poor academic track record. More than 2,100 students attending the East and West campuses received a failing grade this year, and as of May 14 only 47 kids were enrolled in summer school. That figure is actually up slightly from the roughly 30 students enrolled at the end of April.
“I am disappointed with the poor communication that has come from the district and I intend to get more directly involved in this,” Fields said.
With approximately 4,800 students attending Proviso East and West high schools, 43 percent of the student-body failed at least one class. Roughly 2 percent of those students have registered to make up the work this summer.
In addition to purporting false information about registration deadlines and fee waivers, Fields said the principals did not use all the outlets available to them to make parents and students aware of the program. May 11 was touted by the district as the day administrators would decide whether to hold summer classes, however, Fields said Monday he never intended to cutoff registration.
“I have every intention of having summer school,” Fields said.
Beginning immediately, parents whose child failed a class this year will, on a daily basis, receive an automated call from the district regarding summer school. Information will be posted on the district website, morning classroom announcements will mention the programs and area churches have been asked to include registration information in their bulletins, Fields said.
All of these efforts should have been part of the strategy to reach parents from day one, Fields said.
“We are putting the full-court press on the community in terms of having summer school,” Fields said. “I just can’t imagine the community not responding.”
Angela McDaniel, a spokesperson for the district, said that in previous years the push to enroll students in summer classes began earlier in the year. In 2006 the responsibility was delegated to a committee of district administrators that did not include the principals, who managed to spike enrollment figures up to 1,700 students. Typically, summer school programming attracts about 1,200 students, McDaniel said.
As the district’s full-time public information officer, McDaniel said she was responsible for pitching the information to local media outlets and posting registration information on the website. Internal communications, McDaniel said, are typically handled by building administrators.
“I can’t make that demand of the building principals,” McDaniel said.
Phone calls to the three campus principals in Proviso, Ed Moyer, Milton Patch and Alexis Wallace, were not returned.
Some controversy has also been made of a registration fee introduced this year by the superintendent. The $200 fee will not be charged to students who qualify for free or reduced lunch programs, and every student could see 50 percent of the money refunded if they meet certain benchmarks over the summer, Fields said. Though the money would help cover the costs of staffing a summer school program, Fields said he expected the principals to “use their good judgment” in waiving the fee for other families.
Summer courses are expected to run from June 11 to July 13 at each of the three campuses at Proviso. With only 20 students from East, 27 students from West and none from the math and science academy enrolled, Fields said it’s too early to predict the cost of summer school.