For the Record

The Rise of RISE



Bob Capazzo

Facing the Greenwich public education system in the months ahead are two important issues that the Board of Ed needs to resolve. How they will be resolved will be a matter of concern to a number of students and parents. One is correcting the racial imbalance in certain of our schools; the other is the need to adjust for a declining enrollment that has left some schools underutilized. To tackle these problems, the Board of Education and Schools Superintendent Betty Sternberg established a task force called RISE, standing for Racial Imbalance, Space Utilization and Declining Enrollment (which is a pretty good excuse for an acronym). Represented are members of the BET, the RTM, the selectman’s office, parents, teachers and the school administration.

Connecticut State Statute Section 10-226 requires schools throughout the state to achieve and maintain certain specified levels of racial balance. The levels for each school are determined by comparing that school’s percentage of minority students with the minority student percentage in the public schools in the town or school district as a whole. The problem facing Greenwich has grown with the sizable influx of minorities. In just the past ten years, minority enrollment in our public schools has grown from 1,493 to 2,095 students, an increase of 40.3 percent and now represents nearly one out of four students. To achieve racial balance alone could, in the extreme, require significant transfers of students and even a radical redrawing of some school neighborhood boundaries. By way of illustration, Hamilton Avenue school is 59 percent minority, New Lebanon is 53 percent, and at the opposite end of the spectrum, Old Greenwich is less than 5 percent.

Bringing these schools into compliance with the State Board of Education guidelines would appear to be an unacceptably dislocating project. Some may recall the anger and frustration created some years ago when school neighborhood lines were redrawn in Riverside and Old Greenwich. Out of it, however, came the establishment of the International School at Dundee (ISD), a magnet school with its popular baccalaureate program.

A school is not in compliance with the state statute if its racial minority percentage varies more than 25 percentage points plus or minus the district norm. If a school reaches 15 percentage points of variance, it is warned that it is in impending imbalance, and action should be taken. According to John Curtin, assistant school superintendent, the two schools now out of balance could be brought into balance by the transfer of as few as eighty students. Still, this is a lot if you are one of the eighty and you don’t want to move. So the intent of the Board of Education and the RISE task force will try to achieve the goal through student choice. They have developed a series of options to correct the racial imbalance by attracting students to the town’s three magnet schools and by promoting “open choice.” Besides ISD, the two other magnet schools are Hamilton Avenue and Julian Curtiss. Magnet schools are defined as those that students want to attend because they offer unique programs or themes that appeal to students with special interests. It will remain to be seen whether any or all such voluntary transfers will be sufficient.

It is interesting to note that there is no specific penalty for noncompliance. Lawmakers must have realized that in many school districts it would take time to achieve these goals. Forcing students to transfer from their neighborhood schools to ones in unfamiliar neighborhoods, otherwise known as “busing,” was simply out of the question. The state does have the leverage, however, of withholding educational funds to enforce the statute.

The recent decision by the U.S. Supreme Court rendering unconstitutional the use of race as a qualification of eligibility in providing educational opportunity raised the question of whether Section 10-226 would be affected. Attorney General Blumenthal has given his initial opinion that it would not, and the State Board of Education has notified Betty Sternberg that Greenwich should continue with its efforts to comply.

As the Board of Ed tries to adjust for a declining school enrollment, the goal of the RISE task force is to entice students to choose to move to an underutilized school from one that may be overcrowded. Over the years, there have been dramatic swings in our student population, from 11,110 in 1970 to a low of 6,453 in 1988 to 8,954 today. Projections can’t be made beyond five years, so changing school boundaries that may have to be redrawn ten years later makes no sense. There is also the unpleasant option of closing a school. Fortunately, neither of these options is being considered at this time by either RISE or the Board of Ed. When it comes to issues affecting the education of our kids, emotions can run high. We hold out hope that the student choice approach of the Board of Ed and the RISE task force will satisfy the needs of both racial balance and school utilization.

 

Greenwich Agenda

  • Greenwich Harbor Sunset Wine Cruise | Greenwich, CT

    2014.06.05
     @ Delamar Hotel Dock

    The boat "Prudence" departs from the Delamar Hotel Dock on 500 Steamboat Rd. All the wine is sponsored through VALS with food...

  • SM&NC Farm Market

    2014.06.15
     @ Stamford Museum & Nature Center

    Sundays, June 15 – October 5, 10am – 2pm We're thrilled to bring back the SM&NC Farm Market — now on Sundays!...

  • Exclusive Tour of Modern and Contemporary Art at the Yale University Art Gallery

    2014.09.09
     @ Yale University Art Gallery

    Join JCC Greenwich for an exclusive tour with museum curator Elizabeth Manekin. The collection is noteworthy for exemplary works from the...

  • Understanding the Gaza War: Strategic & Political Implications

    2014.09.09
     @ Greenwich Library, Cole Auditorium

    Dr. Efraim Inbar is a Professor in Political Studies at Bar-Ilan University and Director of its renowned Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic...

  • Bruce Museum: Look and See - Into the Deep

    2014.09.10
     @ Bruce Museum

    A program especially designed for children ages 3-5 years and their adult caregivers, who will explore the Museum’s exhibition through...

  • College Admissions Boot Camp | Greenwich, CT

    2014.09.13

    College Prep 360 will be offering two college admissions “boot camps” in their Greenwich office over the summer. The first workshop...

  • Nigh Season: New Paintings By David Konigsberg

    2014.09.13
     @ Kenise Barnes Fine Art

    Dates: September 13 – October 31, 2014 Opening Reception: September 13, 6 – 8:30 PM  Public Invited   NIGH...

  • Undulate: Paintings By Julie Gross and Margaret Neill

    2014.09.13
     @ Kenise Barnes Fine Art

    GALLERY II Dates: September 13 – October 31, 2014 Opening Reception: September 13, 6 – 8:30 PM Public Invited...

  • Greenwich Area Newcomers Annual Lobster Fest

    2014.09.14
     @ Tod's Point Clambake Area

    This is our kickoff event each year-held at Tod's Point Clambake area. The event is scheduled for Sunday September 14th starting...

  • Information Fair

    2014.09.16
     @ YMCA

    Our Annual Information Fair - This event showcases non profits , community businesses, schools and  services in the Greenwich...

  • Laurel House Family Seminar Series

    2014.09.18
     @ Laurel House

    Thursday evenings, September 18, October 2, 16, 30, 6:30-8:00 pm Join us Thursday evenings for this four part Family Seminar Series as...

  • The Many Faces of Multi Media

    2014.09.20
     @ Meli-Melo of Greenwich

    Dr. Julia Trebing, Director Creative Therapies in Stamford, CT exhibits her paintings at Meli-Melo Creperie & Juice Bar  during Sept...

  • SoulCycle GWCH for Make-A-Wish CT

    2014.09.20
     @ SoulCycle

    Make-A-Wish Connecticut is thrilled to be partnering with SoulCycle's Greenwich location for a charity ride on Saturday, September 20th!...

  • Wall Street Tennis Challenge

    2014.09.20
     @ Greenwich Country Club

    The goal of The Wall Street Tennis Challenge is to support the Ovarian Cancer Research Foundation’s efforts while spreading awareness...

  • Arts & Crafts on Bedford

    2014.09.20
     @ Bedford Street

    Shop at over 100 craft and artisan boutiques on Bedford Street, which will be closed to traffic for the weekend. Dine in our extended sidewalk...


Show More...

Most Popular Articles

  1. Best of Greenwich
    Delamar Greenwich Harbor
  2. 10 Things Greenwich Teens Can Do This Summer
    One Greenwich teen shares some suggestions for summer fun!
  3. Villa Maria School: Annual Spring Gala
    Richards of Greenwich
  4. American Red Cross: Red and White Ball 2014
    NetJets Hangar at Westchester County Airport
  5. Save the Children Benefit
    Riverside Yacht Club