December 17, 2001

 

       We will discuss a time line for decision on the facilities issue at the  January meeting.   I  speak  now  because  the  announcement  by  our  president  of   our discussion next month may appear to some to reflect unanimity on the board as to discussing  the  issue.  I want to make it clear that is not the case.   Rather,  as  is our  practice, we are discussing this issue - as with many other issues   -  because some of us, not all of us, wish to discuss it. 

 

       I  believe the freshman campus is one of the very best things this board  has  ever  done.   Every  comment I have heard about the freshman  campus  has  been positive.   Parents  appear  to  be delighted with how the  faculty  and  staff  have  nurtured   and   encouraged   their  children   academically   and   otherwise.    The  leadership,  starting  with Jan and Gene, have been very creative  and  responsive.    They  have  assembled a highly motivated group of teachers who  have  dedicated  themselves to our 14 year olds.  I could not be more pleased.

 

       Since we are not even half way into the first year of the freshman campus, I  think it is hugely premature to discuss making any change of facilities model.   But this  is  a  democratically  elected board.  We try  to  model  democratic  behavior,  including  every  one  having  a say.  For that reason alone  I  support  having  the  discussion in January. 

 

       When  we  have that discussion, I will urge that any  decision  on  changing  from  a freshman to a voluntary campus be made no sooner than three and  a  half years from now.  I am not alone in wanting to put off a decision for several  years.  So  no  one  should  take the fact that the entire board is  having  a  discussion  in January  of  a facilities decision time line as an indication that all the  board  thinks that  discussion is a good idea. Rather, it should be taken as an indication  that  all the board thinks that everyone having a voice is a good idea.

 

       Phyllis has suggested that we vote soon on closing the freshman campus  in Northfield  and  replacing it with a voluntary school.  I think doing so  at  this  time would be a huge mistake.  I know that at least Chuck and Adair agree with me.

 

       It is possible that there are four board members who would vote this  winter  to  begin  the  process  of closing the freshman campus  and  replacing  it  with  a voluntary  school.   I  think there will be a fire storm of community  protest  if  the board  votes  4-3  to do so.  There are a number of reasons:  the  last  bond  issue was  based on a freshman campus; a freshman campus would be  somewhat  less expensive  than  2 four year high schools; former one  schoolers  have  discovered that  everything  except the overcrowding has been preserved of what  they  most prized about one New Trier; and most importantly, the tremendous success of  the freshman campus as a school and as a community. 

 

       We  shouldn't  close  the  freshman campus and  open  a  voluntary  school now.