Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Big news in Northwest Allen County Schools

A group of taxpayers in this area has collected signatures and submitted them to start a remonstrance, the first one in NACS.

The group opposes the expansion of Carroll High School. This group wants to build a second High School rather then add on to Carroll again.

I have thought about this issue a lot. I talked to a lot of voters during my run for School Board. During my run for School Board I changed my mind on this issue due to parental comments about Carroll High School.

Based on those conversations I have come to the conculsion that Carroll High School has some serious problems that need to be addressed.

Sit down when you read this.

I am in favor of building a second High School.

Mike Sylvester


Gravely Concerned Former CHS Student said...

That is the most moronic idea I have ever heard. To create an atmosphere with the same quality that carroll High School currently has, one would have to duplicate EVERYTHING. That means teachers, gymnasiums, athletic coaches, athletic budgets, athletic facilities and all other extra curricular activities.

Even though there were some issues with an overbearing administration, the waning years of my high school experience gave me a great opportunity to expand my horizons farther than they could have gone in a smaller school. Here is a list of just a few off of the top of my head.

1. I could act in only two plays my sophomore year. By my junior and senior year, the number of theatrical productions had doubled, and a talent show was also added.

2. I was part of the pilot TV program "Out of the Blue", our weekly newscast reporting various stories about the school.

3. I was able to write for one of the greatest high school papers in the state, which will (hopefully) soon be online.

4. I was able to be a founding member of the Carroll High School Political Club, an organization that you, Mr. Sylvester spoke to.

5. I was able to take five AP classes, one (European History) that was added this year. Because of the popularity of AP classes, the school was able to pay the $80 fee and all AP students were able to take the tests.

6. I was a member of the Academy of Finance, and was able to take a College Business Course through the University of Saint Francis.

ALL of this would not be possible at a smaller public school. Granted plays and school newspapers could have existed, but CHS is continually creating new programs developing existing ones because, with a larger student body there is a diverse interest base.

My personal interests are not the only great developments. There is an excellent technology department at CHS with a new engineering program. Internships are becoming extremely common among most seniors and many juniors. The photography classes have become so popular that, in the new plans, there will no longer be a general "Publication" room but an entire classroom dedicated to photography class. You will see more and more students taking more and more college courses at various universities around fort Wayne.

Without a school that is the size of CHS, there NONE of the activities mentioned before would be possible. Larger schools can hire more teachers that specialize in more detailed subjects and in the end, create a campus that will provide some of the greatest education in the state.

Education is MORE than just numbers, Mr Sylvester. Although it may be more beneficial fincailly, the aforementioned activities and subjects would suffer terribly if a plan for two high schools emerges.

There is not a snowball's chance in hell that a two school system will emerge. Anyone who truly understands what is great about the high school and cares for a better quality of education will never support a division.

Andrew Kaduk said...

What would be wrong with simply building a second campus to house, well, say...arts, music, athletics and civics/government, and the first campus retains science, mathematics, languages, and vocational studies? Students would then be able to spend time in both buildings, the crowding problem is solved, and everybody's happy except the twits that like to "hold hands" between classes.

LP Mike Sylvester said...

Gravely concerned former CHS student:

You bring up some great points.

I think the NACS Community is truly split on this issue.

There are just as many reasons to build two High Schools in my opinion.

That is my preference; but, you truly do bring up up some GREAT points and you state your points very rationally and very well.

I have had about 20 parents contact me that prefer two smaller High Schools. They make points every bit as good as yours. I assume you think they are all morons as well? I assume you think all of the people who signed the petition are morons as well? There must be a lot of parents in NACS who are morons in your world...

Would it surprise you to know that I have also been contacted by two teachers from CHS who feel we need two smaller High Schools. Are they morons too?

I wish that I had personal experience with CHS; but, I do not.

Bigger is not necessarily better. My main question to you is how large do you want CHS to be? Lets decide NOW.

What I do not want to happen is for us to expand CHS again, then be in this exact same situation in 5 years. That is what we have done in the past and it is irresponsible and awful planning.

It is also a huge waste of money. We need a plan and we need it now.

It is NOT efficient nor is it economical to continually build onto a building.

Please take the time to talk to ANY CONSTRUCTION PROFESSIONAL before you head off to Texas to attend college this fall.

We need to build CHS to the size we want it right now. We do not need to continually build on.

That is how I see it.

Mike Sylvester

Kelley said...

It's worth noting a smaller educational environment excels. For one, it is well organized, and the student-teacher ratio performs better within a community.

Looking at the State of H.S. Education, Penn Harris Madison in Mishawaka, In., has set the stage for many public IN. H.S. schools to follow. It appears these schools are in an affluent area and are following the same blue-print... There are many lessons to learn. Southwest Allen County School Corporation had a Remonstrance. So did, Penn Harris
...it's hard to fight City Hall.
School Corporations play dirty.
Politics on their turf, but if
you are against them find a polling
signature gathering station far away from the school. (By law, schools are not to be political
and have to give the public the ablity to publicly vote yes or no.) Schools do not set both petitions out to vote yes or no.

Door to door is really hard
in winter. Looks like Carrol H.S. plans to make sure the remonstrance folks walk door to door in December & January & February. In the meanwhile, be prepared that only signitures for the schools side can be signed at
school, and be prepared for the
one-sided blitz machine from the
one-sided school coming home in a flyer through your child.

It appears, Carrol and Homestead H.S. is following the blue pages of a one main campus with an option for a freshman academy and a mandatory drug program to be given to any person in any sport, club, school sponsored activity; even to drive to school. It also
appears there is only one main campus.

Homestead, has a $75,000 astro-turf football stadium; should this h.s. therefore be number #1 in the State at football?

Only if the cream rises to the top. And that takes talent not money.

And I have yet to figure out how this stadium will bring big money into Southwest H.S. Allen County.

Bobett Kelley said...

In, the real world, "whats left of it," we dream, we plan, but mostly we budget.We anticipate and make choices for what is reality.

William Larsen said...

I hate to say it but times have changed. The AP classes students’ takes today are the identical classes all took when I was in school. The choice of class may be more only because there are AP classes and those less stringent. My school also had a TV-morning news as well as a political club. My high school put on several plays during the school year.

I support the building of a new school for several reasons.
1. Cost. To spend over $63 million to get only 700 additional seats is too costly. It is far less costly to build a new high school spending $100 million to house 1,500 students.
2. Mixing Carroll’s existing building structure with a new structure will mean the core will be the oldest while newer construction surrounds the core. The life span of four different construction periods will be a tough problem in 30 more years. In addition we do not get full utilization of the newer heating and AC units from the last modification before they are replaced with newer larger units to handle more volume.
3. The limiting constraint is the hallways. There is simply no way to increase the volume of students in the hallways. Sure you can open up stairwells and move people faster between floors, but what do you do then? One option would be to put a hallway along the perimeter, rather like a bypass instead of cutting through the center.
4. Bussing is more costly since the further you get from the school, the more you travel the same route previous busses have. Smaller schools have smaller transportation nodes, resulting in fewer miles driven and less time on the bus.
5. The new addition will only be good for a few years and then another decision will have to be made. Do you have a super large high school and one small one or do you have to medium size high schools? If size is equal to quality, who gets shorted?

I support a new high school, one that is designed to be added onto. One that does not build hallways that meet minimum code standards, but those that are built with intelligence at what will be needed twenty years from now. A plan or determination as to what ultimate student enrollment will be. This will then make it possible to design into the structure where and how future additions are added so that they blend in. Infrastructure such as gym, cafeteria should be built larger than needed initially. These types of spaces are less costly per square foot to build than classrooms. This would keep from having to build new gyms and cafeterias each time the school gets added on to.

gravely concerned former chs student said...

Mr. Sylvester,

First of all, I am not the student (Josh) that you thought I was (no, I will not be attending Rice this fall). Please dont even attempt to guess.

Second, I know that NONE of those who have previously posted on this thread know personally what it is like to attend Carroll.

If you want to discuss size issue, then we should Really look at it. Carroll High School (the 10-12 Building) housed approximately 1200 students last year. The new addition will allow the school to be about 2500 after the additions will be added on.

So, if we are going to construct another school, parents will demand the same quality in each - everything from class sizes to athletic facilities will need to be the SAME or else you will get nagging parents and administrators complaining that the old school has money for 20 basketballs and the new school only has 10. The comparisons will become microscopic, and envelop the community in debate about riddiculous salient details, but NACS has to be comitted to equal levels of education at the high school.

The equality headache aside, there is a community unity (alliteration) that the high school provides - Regardless of elementary school or middle school, all roads lead to Carroll. Because of this there is an intense focus on our athletic teams from not only Carroll Students but families of younger students and alumni that abound in this area. We are NOT FWCS or EACS - we cover a relatively small area in comparison to the two aforementioned corporations and do not have much of a demographic variation.

Regardless of the current discrepancies about the administration, from a historical context, one sees CHS as a uniting place for the community. By creating a second school you will obliterate any semblance of community and become another manufacturer corporation.

Although there are some fantastic things about the diversity in FWCS (it has drastically affected my political standpoint, for example), that corporation cannot ever foster unity of community for their district. I have attended two FWCS schools, and I seemed to get lost in the shuffle (a difficult thing to do for such a vocal person such as myself). I am truly just a number - I go to class, I do my work, I get my grades.

Although it does have its inherent drawbacks, NACS allows me to be recognized as an individual with great things about me (and admittely, some not so great things).

I disagree, Mr. Sylvester - I DO NOT think the NACS community is split. I believe a select few are against this expansion and I hope that those two teachers make their opinions known - they probably dont like it at carroll anyway.

Finally, NACS will not continue to expand indefinitely. The school demographer has postulated that there will be a peak realitvely soon and that spacing for 2500 will be adequate. If you dont know yet, Carroll has been studying this for a few years know. When I was a JUNIOR, an administrator called a bunch of student leaders into a meeting and we talked about all of these issues. My aunt was on a parent study committee looking at this very issue for over a year. They are NOT flying by the seat of their pants when they plan this - the decisions are made in calculated incriments.

To Mr. Larsen - I resent the notion that he has become an expert on AP classes. Here's an interesting statistic - when I took the AP US History exam, only 4% of ALL high schoolers that took it recieved a 5 - and Carroll had quite a few that did just that. AP English required me to write on average 4 two page essays per week, on top of the 10 novels and 30 page report comparing Macbeth and Hamlet. I hate to say it, Mr. Larsen, but you have truly UNDERESTIMATED the strain AP courses place on the student. It is true that some are easier than others as many excel in different areas of study, but to broadly paint all AP courses with one stroke is ignorant to the true situation.

LP Mike Sylvester said...

Concerned Former CHS Student:

My guess was wrong if you are not going to Rice, I will not guess any more...

I agree that with two High Schools there will be complaints about equality. There are complaints with one High School. I doubt that we will have too many more or fewer complaints.

I think your point about CHS being a unifying force in the Community is an interesting one. I am not sure that I agree; but, I will have to think about it.

If almost all parents like Carroll then your point would be more valid. As it is there are a lot of parents who love CHS, a lot who are neutral, and a lot who are unhappy. I currently do not think CHS is unifying based on my discussion with other parents in this area.

On one point you are 100% wrong. There is NO LONG TERM PLAN at NACS. There is no building plan or capital projects plan of any sort. I have discussed it with 4 of 5 the Board members, Mr. Yager, and Mr. Mallers. There is NO PLAN beyond the current budget.

If the school Demographer thinks that NACS will peak at 2500 students soon then I disagree with him in a large way.

Based on all indicators NACS is going to grow and grow and grow.

I am not a Demographer; but, I do not beleive we are going to max out around 2500 kids at CHS.

Mike Sylvester

William Larsen said...

To "gravely concerned former chs student said.", I have five children spread out evenly in the NACS system. I know what is taught and what is required. I have a son who recently graduated and took mostly if not AP classes. I would say I am up to date with the requirements. What you fail to understand or appreaciate is that I and possibly your parents did not have computers (spell or grammar check) nor calculators (trig, sqrt, power, log, exponentional) but tables to use. The requirements were the same but with the same strict criteria you have today. Try writing a term paper of 25 to 35 pages on a manual type writer with no more than two corrections per page and no more than five spelling errors total.

What I have seen over the past 35 years if not more is that the educational system has become less strict, not more. The AP class phenomena started about 15 years ago as a result of decreasing academic standards. In my opinion the AP classes are no different than the standard classes of the mid 70's and before.

”If you want to discuss size issue, then we should Really look at it. Carroll High School (the 10-12 Building) housed approximately 1200 students last year. The new addition will allow the school to be about 2500 after the additions will be added on.

My notes from the school board meeting in May: A demographic study was done that showed the 2005-06 student body to total 1,652 but actual total for the 05-06 school year was 1,717 or an increase of 4%. This study projects in the 2013-14 to have 2,374 and three years later in 2016-17 to have 2,698. In short the time frame covers ten years which at the end of this time frame the proposed expansion would be 100% utilized.

It was difficult to pin point the exact current capacity of Carroll and the freshman campus. I am not sure why the school board could not just list current capacity and projected capacity, but needless to say, they did not. They informed the taxpayers that due to curriculum changes and computer labs reduced capacity by 200 students. They then presented the current student body to be 1,717, but again is this Carroll and the Freshman Campus or just Carroll with the freshman campus at 450? I asked this question three different ways and got three different responses. The school board could not give a direct and single answer, which concerns me. Does the total student body total 2150 or is it 1717?

What is obvious is your 1,200 number does not include the Freshman Accademy while your 2,500 number does.

It is very apparent that there is no long-term plan. In fact one of the school board members came up to me afterwards and told me I was 100% correct, but when they looked another school prior the last expansion, they faced the same dilemma. Build or renovate? They knew renovating was the more expensive route to go, but because they did not have a plan, they took the easy way out.

Keep mind property owners do not have unlimited funds. The purpose of education is to teach you how to learn. It is to teach you the basics to get through life. It is also to prepare those going onto higher learning. I think those who support expansion are in the minority and when the realization that this expensive expansion is only a stop gap measure, you will loose even more support for it.