Letters to the Editor

Loss of school district enrollment no surprise

It is without surprise that I read in last week’s Herald about the flight of district students to schools in neighboring districts (“Student transfers hurt NKSD,” page A1, Dec. 23 Herald).

The causes for this migration are surely several — and identifiable only through a focused investigation, which will not occur. One contributing cause to this enrollment loss, however, is easily identifiable and might have been wisely and easily avoided.

For 30 years I was employed by NKSD — to build and manage alternative educational programs, as a teacher, counselor, founder and principal of Spectrum Community School, and as the supervisor of the Parent Assisted Learning Program, which was referenced in your article. At the height of the history of their enrollment in 2005, Spectrum served 145 students and the PAL Program served 204. In district parlance, it seems, this constitutes “quite a chunk.”

These students sought a different educational experience than was available in the traditional school structure. Along with the elementary and junior high options programs, Spectrum and PAL were the most diverse and popular schools in the district, according to annual survey results from students, staff and parents. State apportionment funds for students enrolled in these two schools brought some $1.3 million into the district annually. Today, it would be more.

From 2007 until 2009, I cautioned district leadership against instituting wide changes in the funding and operation of these programs, citing the probable loss of district enrollment if these opportunities for students and families became less available or less supported. Contrary to this admonition, district leadership embarked on a wide and systematic dismantling of alternative programming and, now, as predicted, students have voted with their feet.

In NKSD, under current leadership, we find an inexorable drive toward a simplistic one-size-must-fit-all approach to learning. And so, I fear, students will continue to seek options in neighboring districts since they can’t find them at home.

Chris Wendelyn


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