Thornton group organizing effort to change high school district

2013-06-16T00:00:00Z Thornton group organizing effort to change high school districtGregory Tejeda Times Correspondent nwitimes.com
June 16, 2013 12:00 am  • 

THORNTON | Students at Wolcott School may someday stop moving up to Thornwood High School when they graduate, instead continuing their education at the neighboring Homewood-Flossmoor High School.

That is a desire expressed by a parents’ group of about 50 Thornton residents who live in Wolcott Elementary School District 154. But they are beginning to form their group just as District 205 Superintendent John Thomas has been replaced by Acting Superintendent John Arrington.

As of Friday, the District 205 website says effective immediately Arrington has been named acting superintendent of the high school district with schools in Dolton, Harvey and South Holland. No further information was available Friday on the situation.

Thomas informed the District 205 School Board last week that Wolcott interests have begun the process required by state law for a shift in district boundaries to be considered.

“The district is not involved in the process,” said District 154 Superintendent James Dunlap. He declined to comment on the issue, other than to say that he is watching the parents’ group to see where the issue goes from here.

The group held an informal meeting June 4 to discuss the issue. According to its website at CommunityforEducation.org, the group is in the process of hiring an attorney. Once that happens, it likely will hold a public meeting in Thornton this summer to discuss the issue further, although group members said Friday no meeting had yet been scheduled. Those parents have said they are concerned about the standardized test scores and graduation rate for District 205.

Last week, Thomas said the process would have to take at least two years to complete. Located at 17101 South Park Ave., Thornwood High School is on the South Holland/Thornton border.

“They have valid reasons for wanting to change, but I want to urge them to stay,” Thomas said at the time. “We’ve got to convince them they should take a chance on us.”

District 233 Public Relations Director Jodi Bryant said it is “too early” for Homewood-Flossmoor officials to take a stance on the issue. “We’re monitoring the situation, but it will be years before this is resolved,” she said.

The Thornton-based school district is small with only about 215 students. Of Thornwood’s enrollment for the now-complete 2012-13 academic year, 32 were from Wolcott. Thomas said those students usually are among the high school’s top students, and they give a boost to the districtwide test scores.

In a presentation to the School Board last week, Thomas said District 205 had a 2.1 percent dropout rate for 2012 and a 69 percent graduation rate. The latter may increase to as high as 79 percent for 2013, although Thomas said the graduation rate won’t be set until autumn after it is determined how many summer school students successfully completed their classes.

He also cited the district enrollment as having dropped from 6,602 in 2008 to 4,983 this year.

This is not the first time that District 205 and Thornwood High School have lost students to a surrounding school district.

In the early- to mid-1990s, District 205 engaged in a legal fight with Thornton Fractional Township High School District 215 when students who lived in a part of Lansing bounded by the Grand Trunk Railroad tracks, Locust Street, Stony Island Avenue and 186th Street expressed a desire to attend T.F. South High School rather than Thornwood.

Parents of the roughly 80 high school students impacted at the time expressed a preference for having their children attend a high school within their hometown, rather than one in a neighboring suburb.

That case ultimately was resolved by the U.S. District Court in Chicago in 1996 following four years of court battles.

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