CAARE continues work on improving Tecumseh schools
The Committee for the Advisement and Advancement of Responsible Education (CAARE), a consortium of parents, concerned citizens, administrators, and teachers in the Tecumseh Public Schools, held its monthly meeting Thursday, Aug. 16, in the administrative services building. The acronym —CAARE — is appropriate, because the committee is composed of anyone who cares about the future of the school system. The public is encouraged to attend these meetings to voice concerns about education, and the discussions are informal.
Tecumseh School Board Vice President Jim Rice is chairman of the sessions. “I wasn’t elected chair,” he told those in attendance. “I guess it was by default, but I’m happy to serve.”
The afternoon’s agenda included how to improve building open houses at the beginning of the school year, student distribution among elementary classrooms, and input about desired traits to look for in the future superintendent of schools, among other topics.
Rice reported to the committee the decision of the school board to continue the charter of CAARE. “The board agreed that your enthusiasm is terrific,” he said. “You have permission to do your own follow-up on solutions that you propose. Your direction is simply to help solve problems and to continue to communicate with the board.”
Tecumseh Middle School Principal Rick Hilderley was in attendance and middle school parents had posed the question of how to have more of a presence in the middle school, especially to ease the transition of fifth graders from elementary to the new building.
“Parents are welcome to get involved by becoming chaperones for events or volunteers for book fairs and athletic events,” Hilderley said. “We have field trips to Gettysburg, sixth grade camp, and other things they can help with. Volunteers pay their own way. The kids raise their own money, too, with fundraisers.”
Debbie Enterkin asked Hilderley if there were some way to smooth the transition from elementary to middle school, not only for students but for parents, also. “I know some moms who loved to help in the elementary schools and would like to do the same in the middle school, but access is difficult.”
“I was a principal in elementary schools, and parents in those schools were pretty much free to come and go as they pleased, but the student population in the middle school requires a more secure building,” Hilderley said. “I know that sometimes it feels like Fort Tecumseh when you try to get in but there are 24 entrances and we have to keep all but the main entrance locked for security reasons. Parents who want to be involved in middle school can help with student extracurricular activities.”
Heather Masten, director of Communities In Schools of the Tecumseh Area (CISTA), suggested that parents are always needed to help with the many middle school activities of that organization.
Chris Trainor said that she was a frequent volunteer in elementary school activities and is now active in the middle school. She referred to occasions when it was just she and Hilderley who were cleaning up after an event. “I would love to have a signup sheet for volunteers to help with events,” she said.
On the subject of deciding which elementary school students attend which schools and classrooms, Rice had some insight, having taught in the Tecumseh middle and high school for more than three decades. “Originally there were seven elementary schools and even then there was a problem with student distribution,” he said. He cited Herrick Park Elementary School as an example. Herrick Park school was built along with the Herrick Park subdivision, he said. At first, all of the students walked to school. “Ten years later, most of the students had to be bused in because Herrick Park parents hadn’t moved, but their kids grew out of elementary school.”
It was noted that the problem of student distribution had been addressed by a committee in the not-too-distant past and one possibility suggested at that time was to make the elementary schools dedicated to a single grade: one school for first, one for second, et cetera.
Hilderley and Tecumseh Acres Elementary School Principal Carl Lewandowski chaired that exploratory committee, and Hilderley said that the single-grade school idea was unpopular because it divided siblings who would otherwise have been in the same building.
Regarding the current search to find a replacement for Supt. Mike McAran, Rice briefed the committee on the board’s progress, noting that input from the community would be part of the process. “We’re considering having someone from outside the community to chair the town hall meetings,” Rice said, “not somebody from the board or administration.”
Jan Hammond said that the search should emphasize candidates from outside the community, too. She said that the schools need somebody who will bring a new enthusiasm that would attract new families to the area and inject some badly needed prosperity.
“We have great teachers, great facilities, and great athletic potential.” Hammond said. She said she could remember a time when fans packed the stands for athletic events and got behind anything the schools were doing. “Please find a superintendent who is equally as great as the community,” Hammond said.
Rice had noted earlier his commitment to the work of the CAARE committee, especially in light of his position on the board and liaison to CAARE. “I follow up on all suggestions. I’m retired. I have the time and the will to do it.”
The next CAARE meeting will be Thursday, Sept. 20, at 5:30 p.m. in the TPS Administrative Services Building, 212 N. Oneida St.