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

  • Meet Bestselling Author Ayelet Waldman

    2014.10.30
     @ Organic Planet

    On October 30 at 10am, JCC Greenwich will present New York Times bestselling author Ayelet Waldman, who will discuss her latest novel Love and...

  • Exhibit Ira BARKOFF

    2014.10.11
     @ Canfin Gallery

    “The beauty of the physical world becomes a metaphor for the capacity of the spirit to reveal itself". Ira Barkoff Evocation of...

  • 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...

  • Parties at the JCC Center

    2014.09.02
     @ Stamford JCC

    A place to celebrate birthdays and special occasions. Be a guest at your own party! The JCC offers a wonderful space for you and your guests to...

  • SPLURGE Matches Scarf Donations for Cancer Patients

    2014.10.01
     @ SPLURGE

    SPLURGE and the Cancer Institute at Greenwich Hospital are partnering to bring comfort and encouragement to cancer patients.  From October...

  • Flinn Gallery Art Opening

    2014.10.30
     @ Flinn Gallery 2nd floor

    FLINN GALLERY Opening Reception 'IN FOCUS' Thursday October 30, 6 - 8pm Seven artists share their visions - Carolyn Conrad,...

  • 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...

  • Flower Power

    2014.10.08
     @ SM Home Gallery

    SM Home Gallery show featuring two Greenwich based artists: Margaret Bragg and Penny Putnam. The art show runs thorough November 22nd....

  • IMAGINE CANDY- SWEET TASTINGS!!!

    2014.10.24
     @ Imagine Candy

    Imagine Candy located in Scarsdale Village- Winner of 2014 Best West of Westchester by Westchester Magazine- holds a Belgian Chocolate and Candy...

  • Harvest Fair and Gift Show

    2014.11.01
     @ Second Congregational Church

    Event Will Include Hay Mazes, Games, Crafts, Food, Holiday Shopping The community is invited to a Harvest Fair and Gift Show on Saturday, Nov....

  • New Fitness Class: SalsaTone

    2014.11.01
     @ Latin Moves Dance Studio

    Starting November 1st ~ Every Saturday morning 10 to 11 AM Instructor: Melissa Lopez Start your weekend off right with this exciting cardio...

  • Lynne Scalo Design Opening

    2014.11.05

    Please join Lynne Scalo, Greenwich Magazine and athome Magazine to celebrate the Greenwich showroom opening of Lynne Scalo Design Cocktails...

  • Breast Cancer Alliance Benefit Luncheon & Fashion Show

    2014.11.06
     @ Hyatt Regency Greenwich

    Breast Cancer Alliance to Host Branching Out, Coming Together, Aspiring to a Cure 19th Annual Benefit Luncheon & Fashion Show: November 6,...

  • Free Screening of Documentary ' Children of the Inquisition'

    2014.11.06
     @ Bush-Holley House

    Join filmmaker Joseph Lovett as he presents his documentary film and multi-platform project of personal exploration and...

  • P.A.L.S. 2nd Annual Soarin' Soiree~ November 7, 2014

    2014.11.07
     @ Greenwich Country Club

    You are invited to join our State Senator, L. Scott Frantz and our First Selectman, Peter J. Tesei, for an awe-inspiring evening to benefit Patient...

  • John Hardy Event

    2014.11.08
     @ Bloomingdale's

    John Hardy One of a kind. One at a time. Each by hand. Bloomingdale's is inviting YOU to meet the head designer Guy Bedarida as he presents...

  • Olivine Gabbro Opening

    2014.11.08

    Olivine Gabbro invites you to join them for their Opening Party! DJ | Cocktails | H'Orderves | Gift Bags Made to Measure Beautifully...

  • Meet Joshua Safran, Author of "Free Spirit: Growing Up On the Road and Off the Grid"

    2014.11.11
     @ YWCA Greenwich

    Meet the author of this powerful memoir. Joshua Safran is an author, attorney, occasional rabbi, and nationally recognized advocate for...


Show More...

Most Popular Articles

  1. Henry & Me
    Greenwich
  2. Go For Pink
    Greenwich Avenue
  3. Joie Shopping Event
    Joie Greenwich
  4. 100th Annual Hunt Ball
    Conyers Farm
  5. 6 Ways to Practice Mindfulness
    Simple steps to get the most out of each moment