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GRDadof3

Grand Rapids Public Schools' $216 Million Proposed Plan

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Plan would reshape GR schools

by Dave Murray {sodEmoji.{sodEmoji.|}} The Grand Rapids Press

Thursday January 31, 2008, 8:20 AM

GRAND RAPIDS -- Grand Rapids Public Schools would drop two of its four traditional high schools and replace them with small, specialized programs to address declining enrollment and new classroom trends under a $216 million plan being considered by city educators.

Creston and Central high schools would be recast as homes for themed programs. Union and Ottawa Hills would continue as comprehensive schools, but with beefed-up buildings and sports teams that will merge with Creston and Central.

Michigan News

Good idea? Bad idea?

And then today:

Grand Rapids school project a job-creator?

Posted by Dave Murray {sodEmoji.{sodEmoji.|}} The Grand Rapids Press February 01, 2008 08:01AM

Categories: Breaking News

GRAND RAPIDS -- Don't think of it as a tax increase; think of it as an economic stimulus plan.

That's the pitch Grand Rapids Public Schools leaders are putting forth about a potential $216 million plan to renovate four high schools and three other buildings. Board of Education members and district staffers say there are academic and economic benefits to the plan.

"In effect, this would be an opportunity for the community to pay itself," Superintendent Bernard Taylor said. "This would keep money right here in the community."

Press link

As one builder's association rep pointed out, the new school construction would be ramping up just as the current downtown construction wave is winding down (unless more projects are added).

Agree, disagree? Please keep the flame-baiting to a minimum.

BTW: The total plan has not been finalized and is still in the development stages.

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I love it. I think the selling point to me is smaller, more personal class sizes. Couple this with the proposal from Gov. Granholm to change the dropout rate to 18, and you have a good system to keep kids in school. We all know that something has to be done, and I can't think of a better plan than this one.

Do all the people voting "no" favor a different plan of action, or do they just want to avoid a tax increase? To those in column B, think about it this way. If the schools get better, your GR property values get better, and you'll recoup the $100+ in increased taxes plus some.

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Plan would reshape GR schools

by Dave Murray {sodEmoji.{sodEmoji.|}} The Grand Rapids Press

Thursday January 31, 2008, 8:20 AM

GRAND RAPIDS -- Grand Rapids Public Schools would drop two of its four traditional high schools and replace them with small, specialized programs to address declining enrollment and new classroom trends under a $216 million plan being considered by city educators.

Creston and Central high schools would be recast as homes for themed programs. Union and Ottawa Hills would continue as comprehensive schools, but with beefed-up buildings and sports teams that will merge with Creston and Central.

Good idea? Bad idea?

As one builder's association rep pointed out, the new school construction would be ramping up just as the current downtown construction wave is winding down (unless more projects are added).

Agree, disagree? Please keep the flame-baiting to a minimum.

BTW: The total plan has not been finalized and is still in the development stages.

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Great idea.... but I cannot figure out why it costs so much.

Aren't they using existing buildings?

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I live in the city of GR, I have no children (at this point in my life, at least), and therefore am paying taxes for a school system that does not directly help me. I am completely FOR this plan, and if I were allowed to cast more than one vote in favor of it, I would. GRPS needs a shot in the arm (just look at how successful and popular the two or three new schools built in the past year are), and we as citizens need to support the schools. A better school system = more people wanting to live in the city = higher property values and more development in the city = everyone wins. Progress can't be made at $0 cost, and people need to realize that GRPS can't survive without additional financial help.

With that being said, I would LOVE to see a wealthy person sponsor a school or renovation of a school, and anyone willing to pony up 50% of the cost of an individual school should automatically have their name slapped on the side of it as recognition for their generosity and good deeds.

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"GRAND RAPIDS -- Don't think of it as a tax increase; think of it as an economic stimulus plan."

Um, no. Where is the evidence that these magic schools will produce anything other than the same number of graduates who will just pick up and leave GR and Michigan?

What economic stimulus are we supposed to get, other than the stimulus for GRPS?

People are hurting a little too much these days just so we can heap another tax on them to make more pretty schools just to make people feel like they are getting quality.

When I see a concrete plane to raise the standards of education and discipline, then maybe the new money will be worth it.

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At this point in time, because much of the plan, particularly the detail, is not completely worked out, I am NOT in favor of this and if the vote were today, I would absolutely vote against it. However, I could be convinced otherwise - when more detail is given AND somebody can effectively describe and defend exactly what the benefit of this plan is.

The last bond issue did not revive the school system, IMO, and we spent a huge chunk of change on that one.

I am a city taxpayer and have three school-aged kids (none of whom attend GRPS), so this has the potential to have a huge impact on my family and we certainly have a vested interest in it. But at present, nothing has convinced me that I should be sending my kids to any of the GRPS schools and this proposal does nothing but push me farther away.

I just don't get it. Many of the students of GRPS have problems learning basic skills like reading and math and what are we going to do? Make themed programs, make specialized programs - like what exactly? Basket weaving? Greek Mythology? Plastic injection molding specialist?

How about teaching the basics?! Refocussing on a broad based general education that is grounded in excellence. We should be striving to have the best students in a broad base of general studies. Addition, Subtraction, History, AND being able to read and comprehend.

A few weeks ago I heard listeners calling in on a local radio station asking a couple of recent (young) college graduates if they could name who we fought in America's war of independence, or who we fought in WWII, or who bombed Pearl Harbor. They had absolutely no clue about these and many other things and the excuse was that they "did not need them for their jobs". They were trained (and credentialled) as specialists. They are probably not graduates of GRPS, but the point is that they were trained with a narrow education, which may be a national trend and even "best practice", but I am not buying it.

The last thing we should be doing is creating more specialists, especially if they do not know basic common knowledge and basic skills.

The idea of breaking up these large centralized high schools is good. They should be made into smaller neighborhood based schools, just like elementary and middle schools. We need to break down large systems and have them be more manageable, localized (neighborhood based), walkable, etc. But these schools should not be specialized or themed.

We do not need gimmicks. We need results - basic results. More importantly, I do not think that getting these results will take nearly a quarter of a billion dollars.

And I do not want my school system acting as an "economic development engine". That just seems to be another spin or gimmick. This just seems like a desperation move, or something that some marketing genius came up with to sell the electorate on.

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Great idea when a lot of ppl are out of work. Why did it take so long for a plan to come together? It will cost the owner of a 100k home $90 extra a year as stated by Wood TV. Seems a little too late to me.

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Great idea when a lot of ppl are out of work. Why did it take so long for a plan to come together? It will cost the owner of a 100k home $90 extra a year as stated by Wood TV. Seems a little too late to me.

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Quick note of caution here...GRPS just finished the community study. We had several hundred parents, community leaders, educators, and neighbors working with a consultant to study the issue. The results of this study has just come out. As usual the Press is covering this as if it is a done deal. All we have currently is a recommendation. There is A LOT of work yet to be done on this. We have massive detail we need to flesh out on this plan. Additionally the recommendation only deals with the physical infrastructure and not educational programming whatsoever. The board has made is clear that this has to happen as well. So, while we have and continue to appreciate input, it is far from a done deal.

Also, I would remind those that post here regarding issues related to GRPS, make sure you are speaking factually when you talk about the success or lack of success of GRPS students. Comments like: "The last bond issue did not revive the school system, IMO, and we spent a huge chunk of change on that one.", or "Many of the students of GRPS have problems learning basic skills like reading and math." should not be made unless one has the facts to back it up. I am not saying GRPS does not have its issue...we do. I am not saying GRPS does not have students that struggle academically, we do. But I ask people to not make sweeping statements that indict the entire system.

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I just don't get it. Many of the students of GRPS have problems learning basic skills like reading and math and what are we going to do? Make themed programs, make specialized programs - like what exactly? Basket weaving? Greek Mythology? Plastic injection molding specialist?

How about teaching the basics?! Refocussing on a broad based general education that is grounded in excellence. We should be striving to have the best students in a broad base of general studies. Addition, Subtraction, History, AND being able to read and comprehend.

The last thing we should be doing is creating more specialists, especially if they do not know basic common knowledge and basic skills.

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Another example of the Press skimming the surface: a while back there was coverage of the instrumental music program, and a GRPS administrator was quoted as saying that the kids need new instruments because the existing ones are "too old." If memory serves, the example was given of 30 years.

One minor detail: instruments don't wear out. Another: a horn bearing the crest of, say, the Grand Rapids Band Instrument Company is a much better instrument than a brand new one imported from, say, India. On my tuba-euphonium list (yes, there is such a thing) these are called "tuba-shaped objects." Consensus is that they make nice wall hangings.

There's a movie about marching bands playing at Grandville Middle school tonight (6:30 and 8 pm). It's a good flick. Besides the $6 admission, they're accepting donations of attic/basement instruments for GRPS.

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I am sure that the schools would not stop focusing on the "basics" they are called basics for a reason.

Specialties are good. I work as a media producer now, it wasnt until college that I even became aware it was an option for me. Imagine what it would be like if teenagers could start exploring their strengths in highschool at a more-specialized school early on! they would have a jump start! In my experience, I saw too many of my talented friends held back because they were stuck studying calculus when they should have been expanding their artistic skills. I am not saying that there isnt a place for mandatory classes that cover all topics of study, I went to a liberal arts college and value the required core curriculum. But if a kid shows a strength in science, wouldn't it be great if he could pursue those strengths in an environment that is geared more towards their interestes, desires, and needs?

Teach them all the subjects, make them well-rounded individuals but support them in their strengths and passions.

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I would imagine that they can't abandon the basics because they are a state requirement to graduate.

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Another example of the Press skimming the surface: a while back there was coverage of the instrumental music program, and a GRPS administrator was quoted as saying that the kids need new instruments because the existing ones are "too old." If memory serves, the example was given of 30 years.

One minor detail: instruments don't wear out. Another: a horn bearing the crest of, say, the Grand Rapids Band Instrument Company is a much better instrument than a brand new one imported from, say, India. On my tuba-euphonium list (yes, there is such a thing) these are called "tuba-shaped objects." Consensus is that they make nice wall hangings.

There's a movie about marching bands playing at Grandville Middle school tonight (6:30 and 8 pm). It's a good flick. Besides the $6 admission, they're accepting donations of attic/basement instruments for GRPS.

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Having read Charles Dickens' Hard Times, I'm a little skeptical of experimental education. But I have had conversations with Bernard Taylor in the past on these ideas and I think I get where they're going with them. It strikes me as a bit of a gimick, but so are things like the zoo school and the Van Andel Education Institute. Even Kent Skills on some level. These programs aren't popping out chemical scientists or zoologists (or at Kent Skills, working mechanics or chefs), but they are giving kids something to get them interested in learning.

GRPS really, really needs a gimick. If the GRAM can use green as a gimick to get people to look at art, then why can't GRPS use special schools to get parents to send their kids there? You Bill Tingleys of the world can knock student attraction strategies all you want, but I'm of the opinion that you will never be able to turn around the schools unless you can get more of the city's parents to buy into them. Not to generalize, but the parents that make schools like EGR, Rockford, Forest Hills, etc. work would never send their kids to GRPS, even if it means driving past the school across the street from their house in the city to Kentwood or Northview every morning.

Even without that, they just have to shut down at least one high school. I wish Creston wasn't one of them, but they need to consolidate and quick. Even if just for athletics. Having GRPS get humiliated next year in the O-K conference is only going to make things worse.

As for the bond issue, it'll pass. There are a lot more people like me willing to peel off a few extra bucks on my taxes to help the schools who live in the city limits [and vote than those that aren't.

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How sure are you that they have not abandoned basics? I am not sure that they have, or have not, but when a college graduate can not speak of important historic events that created the country that they live in, there is a huge disconnect between them and heritage/history. And those that do not understand history are doomed to repeat it.

If a kid shows promise in art or science, it should not negate or supercede other topics. I was once "stuck" studying calculus, since that time I have never directly used it again - but what calculus allowed me to do was form a foundation in problem solving. It provided a basis.

This goes to deeper philosophical issues. That of whether we create generalists or specialists.

I did not know what I wanted to be until I got into architecture school. And even after being there I was not convinced. Even after doing it for 15 years I am not convinced - and really, I don't do it all that much now.

But imagine if I had specialized in art and architecture in high school...or elementary school. I would never experienced the other subjects that put me where I am today.

I would rather that we create people with a little knowledge about a lot of stuff, rather than people with a lot of knowledge about a little bit of stuff. Historically that is how our schools worked, now for some reason these magical consultants think we need to deviate from that path.

I would commend the school district for finally realizing that they should not tear down any more of their historic structures (it seemed as though I saw that in one of the reports). It is unfortunate that we had to lose so much of the fabric prior to this realization. The fact that so much was just torn down has always left me a bid jaded about the entire administration of GRPS. So admittedly that feeling plays into much of my reaction regarding anything that they decide to do. That, and from my admittedly non-insider (general john q. public) perspective, I see no improvement.

And that only leads to a general level of frustration.

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Well many of those college students that couldn't name any historical facts were educated in a system that emphisized the "basics". The point that you seem to be missing is the same one that many parents miss. the school cannot do it all and a quality education starts at home. If you take the same high achieving students from EGR or forest hills and place them in teh GRPS they will still achieve. it is because education is emphasized at home and the school just provides an outline. I went to 6 different schools by 8th grade, 7 if you count kindergarten. they ranged from decent schools (Evanston school district) to poor (chicago public school system) to worthless (montessori schools). I eventually ended up at Northview High school and I wasn't behind at all. In fact, I was probably ahead of the average student because my parents made me do my homework and educated me about things beyond what I learned in the classroom.

Giving kids a chance to explore other opportunities and career fields is a good thing. of course the basics will still be taught and a well rounded education should be required. but you cannot blame the school district for kids not knowing anything. it comes down to good parenting.

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I agree with GR Urbanist about raising the standards of education and discipline - when that is accomplished, maybe we can talk about some new buildings. And don't be so sure that a bond proposal will automatically pass - I believe the blank check days are over. A few years ago, a promise was made to the community that the standards would be raised - a big deal was made of it with posters and banners and graphs in each building marking student progress and a pledge to be at or above minimum levels in reading, math, science, etc by 2007. I retired from GRPS in 2006 and the majority of schools were nowhere near making good on those promises. I'm sure that the banners touting these promises of success were very quietly shuffled off to the schools dumpsters. Now, I love all of the new and newly renovated buildings and would like to see the high schools get the same treatment (just imagine what they could do with the Central and Creston buildings) but I think that we deserve something more than banners and promises if we are going to be asked to approve almost a quarter billion dollars for those improvements.

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I agree with GR Urbanist about raising the standards of education and discipline - when that is accomplished, maybe we can talk about some new buildings. And don't be so sure that a bond proposal will automatically pass - I believe the blank check days are over. A few years ago, a promise was made to the community that the standards would be raised - a big deal was made of it with posters and banners and graphs in each building marking student progress and a pledge to be at or above minimum levels in reading, math, science, etc by 2007. I retired from GRPS in 2006 and the majority of schools were nowhere near making good on those promises. I'm sure that the banners touting these promises of success were very quietly shuffled off to the schools dumpsters. Now, I love all of the new and newly renovated buildings and would like to see the high schools get the same treatment (just imagine what they could do with the Central and Creston buildings) but I think that we deserve something more than banners and promises if we are going to be asked to approve almost a quarter billion dollars for those improvements.

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Hopefully this gets into the GRPress as something great that's happened in the schools rather than the usual drum beat of gloom and doom:

March 11, 2008

GRPS Senior and Junior Teams Win State Championships at Academic Games Tournament

Elementary Teams Compete this Week March 11-13 at Crowne Plaza

Grand Rapids, Mich. - The Grand Rapids Public Schools' senior and junior teams won state championships at the Michigan League of Academic Games State Super Tournament held this weekend at the Crowne Plaza in Grand Rapids.

The senior team won state championships in Equations and Linguishtiks and the junior team won a state championship in Equations. The wins this weekend continue a streak of state and national championships won by the junior and senior GRPS Academic Games teams. In 2007, the Senior Equations Team won the national championship in Equations and the Junior Team won the state championship in Linguishtiks.

"Our Academic Games teams are among the best in the nation and their record proves it," said John Howarth, Executive Director of Curriculum for Grand Rapids Public Schools. "I want to commend the students for their success, the parents for their support, and their coach Monique Wonderly for her leadership."

Academic Games can be described as a combination of chess, quiz bowl, and team sports. It is a unique enrichment activity that combines critical thinking, creative problem-solving, advanced academic concepts, and team values. Participants play cube games in which they must set goals and find solutions to those goals, while attempting to out-smart their opponents with scholastic knowledge and strategic cube movement. Grand Rapids students typically play four games, each of which focuses on a different subject area. The games are: Equations, On-Sets, Linguishtik, and Presidents.

The State Tournament continues this week with elementary teams competing daily from March 11 through March 13 at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Media is welcome to attend.

Grand Rapids Middle/High Awards

At the 2008 Michigan League of Academic Games State Supertournament

Grand Rapids High School - Senior Team

Awards

State Championship in Equations

State Championship in Linguishtik

State Second Place in On-Sets

State Second Place in Propaganda

State Second Place in Presidents

Grand Rapids High School - Junior Team

Awards

State Championship in Equations

State Second Place in Presidents

State Third Place in Propaganda

Divisional Second Place in Linguishtik

Divisional Third Place in On-Sets

Grand Rapids High School - All high school students named above, and in addition Colin Gerke (City)

Regional Champions in the "Team Average" Category

Regional 3rd Place in the "Top 5" Category

City Middle Team

Awards

Divisional Third Place in Equations

Honorable Mention in Presidents

Honorable Mention in Propaganda

SWCC Middle Team

Awards

Divisional Third Place in On-Sets

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So a while ago there was a lot of discussion about the GR Public Schools trying to change their image, trying to improve the school district. Granted, they did put up some really nice new buildings and improved the infrastructure.

But then they go and do something like this. What a tragedy and a disaster!!!

This reminds me of an old saying "It is what is on the inside that counts." Apparently, the exteriors of the new buildings will be hiding the most idiotic of decisions.

How can we continue to expect our teachers to teach when this is how they are supported?!

I am no fan of unions, but I would be very supportive of a strike over this. Parents should strike, too.

Ridiculous...

http://blog.mlive.com/grpress/2008/06/gran...some_grand.html

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So a while ago there was a lot of discussion about the GR Public Schools trying to change their image, trying to improve the school district. Granted, they did put up some really nice new buildings and improved the infrastructure.

But then they go and do something like this. What a tragedy and a disaster!!!

This reminds me of an old saying "It is what is on the inside that counts." Apparently, the exteriors of the new buildings will be hiding the most idiotic of decisions.

How can we continue to expect our teachers to teach when this is how they are supported?!

I am no fan of unions, but I would be very supportive of a strike over this. Parents should strike, too.

Ridiculous...

http://blog.mlive.com/grpress/2008/06/gran...some_grand.html

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Can you imagine any other school district taking this attitude? It seems very defeatist; since the students aren't showing up anyway, we'll just change policy to accommodate that, rather than trying to improve the students. Good luck attracting middle class families from the suburbs back to the city.

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