District 150 given an ultimatum

DeWayne Bartels

Terry Knapp delivered an ultimatum to the District 150 School Board concerning the planned closure of Woodruff High School at last night’s meeting.

Lawsuit bound?

Knapp — a retired District 150 teacher and former president of the Peoria Federation of Teachers — reading from a letter  said the board is being asked to provide a copy of the plans to close the  high school to the public by Oct. 19.

“If such a plan is not presented by the deadline, we will seek an injunction to stop District 150’s efforts to close Woodruff,” Knapp said.

Knapp said a core group of unnamed individuals are upset that no details of how the plan will be implemented have been presented to the public.

Knapp, before the school board meeting, would not say who the “we” is referred to in the letter.

“The group will become apparent later,” he said.

Knapp said he was asked by the group to read the letter.

“There’s a core group of about 10 people. It’s going to grow in number,” Knapp said.

He did say the core group was made up of “influential” individuals with the finances to carry on a legal battle.

“We gave them two weeks in hopes of seeing a plan,” Knapp said. “

“We will go to a judge to ask him to force them to show the public a plan.”

Knapp said he has no expectation the school district will have a plan in place to show in two weeks.

“These people will drag their feet forever. I think they should have had the plan in place before they (voted to close Woodruff,)” Knapp said. “We’ve got to know what the plan is.”

Race factor

Knapp would not comment on what role race may play in the student make-up of the remaining three high schools.

New high school boundaries will have to be drawn up, and race could become a factor when that is done. Knapp acknowledged that, but would not comment further.

While Knapp would not comment, Bradley University professor Bernie Goitein addressed the subject in July.

“The disruption posed by the merger will be a problem educationally, and will be costly to the district in new school bussing costs. It is also true that the original study done for District 150 by consultants Planning Advocates advised against consolidating down to three high schools, and cited the social and educational advantages of smaller schools. However, if the district proceeds with the two high schools’ merger as described, the district will need to modify its selection of Von Steuben School area for student bussing to Richwoods High School, as bussing the Von Steuben area students will increase racial segregation at Central/Woodruff,” Goitein said. 

Students from a middle school other than Von Steuben will need to be selected for bussing to Richwoods, Goitein said, suggesting those at Lincoln Middle School or from the Loucks Middle School area would be likely candidates based on the percentage of low income students.

“Review of the data for the middle schools sending graduates to Peoria Central and Woodruff high schools last year shows that Von Steuben School has the lowest percentage black (47.4 percent) of any of the schools’ attendance areas that were feeding students to Central and Woodruff,” Goitein said. 

“Each of the middle schools other than Von Steuben that had been feeding students to Central/Woodruff was over 70 percent black, according to the 2008 ISBE report card data — Sterling 71.9 percent black, Columbia 74.5 percent black, Lincoln 77.9 percent black and Loucks 89.7 percent black.

“Although this school is now closed, the students of its area go to schools that serve Peoria High. Meanwhile, the 2008 report card data showed that Richwoods High School was 28.2 percent black, Peoria High was 78.1 percent black, with Woodruff at 62.5 percent black.”

Goitein said instead of bussing that segregates, the district will need to select a middle school for bussing from the Central/Woodruff area based on criteria other than race, criteria that are educationally appropriate. 

“Selection of a school area for bussing to Richwoods with a high percent low income would ease the education task for the staff working with the students remaining at Central/Woodruff,” Goitein said.

 Goitein said looking at the five middle school student centers that last year fed into Central and Woodruff, the logical selections are Lincoln Middle School, 95.7 percent low income, or the students in the area served by Loucks, 92.6 percent low income.