Hasling: Board didn’t ‘target’ Westside

       The Westside, with its higher proportion of lower-income students, was not being picked on when the D-11 Board of Education approved its School Utilization Plan Feb. 25 - even if some people thought so.
       So said Board President Tami Hasling in the wake of the board action that resulted in four of the district's nine school closures being on the Westside (five, if Ivywild is included).
       “It was just by chance,” she said in an interview. “It's just where it [the under-utilization] happened to be located. We have facilities overutilized in the northeast. Some people may think the Westside was targeted, but it's not true.”
       Although many parents spoke up for their small neighborhood schools at the public hearings on the issue, the board's majority agreed with D-11 staff that such schools are no longer affordable and that schools large enough to have more than one classroom at each grade level offer more educational opportunities.
       (This opinion has been publicly disputed by Welling Clark, president of the Organization of Westside Neighbors (OWN), who claims that the district did not take into account student improvement and applicable data for small neighborhood schools.)
       Hasling said she has also heard from numerous people who have told her the board did the right thing. To those who remain disappointed, she appealed: “Stay involved. Your voice is important to us, even if you think we didn't listen and it didn't go your way.”
       Her driving rationale was to “give every child the same opportunity of the same education,” said Hasling, who works full-time as a paralegal (the board job is volunteer). “My feeling is that if we continued maintaining small facilities with very, very small classrooms, it would mean cutting all programs that aren't mandatory, and so all students would not be getting that same opportunity.”
       She said she could empathize from a personal standpoint, recalling some years before she was elected to the school board when her own son had to change schools before the fifth grade. At first it seemed unfair, but “in retrospect it was the best thing for him,” she recalled, by helping him with socialization. In similar ways, she added, “People will see their children will be OK and eventually for the better.”
       On another personal note, Hasling related that she and her husband Curt grew up in the city and attended D-11 schools themselves (she's a Doherty grad). She said she has gotten some teasing from Curt, because he went to Longfellow (set for closure after this school year), Irving (also to be closed) and Wasson (which is still being considered for closure).

Westside Pioneer article