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Community, Parents Respond to Mary Drew's Closing

Find out what Summit Hill D161 residents had to say about the board's decision to shutter the school.

The closing of had parents and residents of Summit Hill School District 161 reacted Thursday to the news. Patch spoke with some of them and compiled comments from .

Tony Pietrzak, two children attending Mary Drew

Tony Pietrzak said Thursday he was organizing a group of parents that would petition the board to reconsider its decision on cutting full-day kindergarten, as well as hiring an outside consulting firm to develop the best financial plan for dealing with the district's $3 million projected deficit over three years. Pietrzak, who has two children that attend Mary Drew, also applied for .

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"They're flying by the seat of their pants," said Pietrzak, who is against closing any school. "Not really listening to the community at the meetings. Not taking out advice. What do we do to make them listen."

E-mail Pietrzak at bsgneighbors@gmail.com if you're interested in being a part of the petition.

Kelly Meister, two child attending Mary Drew

Meister's fourth-grade daughter came home Thursday "horribly upset" over the closing of Mary Drew.

"She asked, 'Why would they close the school'," Meister said. " 'How could they do this?' And she's a fourth-grader. This won't affect her next year."

Meister also is upset over the board's decision and dislikes talk about the board being just a building. She compared Mary Drew's teachers and administrators to one team and has nothing but praise for the work they've done for students. In fact, Meister, who runs a Facebook page against closing D161 schools, said she dropped by the school Thursday morning to see how Principal Kathy Klein was doing after the school-wide assembly.

Brenda Lorea, two children attending Mary Drew

Since preschool, Lorea's first-grade son has been moved from school to school, going to Pioneer Grove, , , Mary Drew and now to another one. 

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"My whole thing is that I'm upset that the board didn't look at the whole picture," she said. "It seemed like the board members were making decision just to make a decision."

Online Comments

Editor's note: Some comments were edited for spelling, grammar and length.

What a shame!!! I personally WILL NOT vote for any of the 4 board members that voted yes on this issues. I urge anyone in the community who does not agree with this decision to do the same. ... I think other things could have been cut before closing a school which should have been the last resort. 

Something needed to be done. Children can adjust to a building being cut. However, suggestions like "cut all activities" cannot be adjusted to. A lot of socially awkward children choose to be in clubs like Speech and Drama, those would have been included in this cut, as well as ALL clubs in the elementary schools. This is just a building, a building that a few short years ago parents were kicking a fit over it being built since it meant that their children would have to go to another school. Some of the same parents who were opposed to the kindergarten program being taken away were also opposed to the closing of this school. Some of the same board members who fought to save the kindergarten program had to vote to close this school. I saw what happened in this meeting, all of you kicking a fit because our school (Mary Drew) got selected. Would you have been among those who walked out if it was one of the other schools? Would you stand up and fight for Frankfort Square? Would you stand up and fight for Arbury Hills? To have my child come home from school and tell me that her friends say they don't want to go to school with the "dirty" Frankfort Square kids or the "snobby" Rogus kids is ridiculous. These children do not pick these phrases up on their own. These things come out of their parents mouths. So I ask, what are you really fighting for? A building? Your children are all going to end up in the same pot. they will all attend 5th-12th together.

I believe more investigation needs to be done before school closings happen. It doesn't sound to me like they thought much further than cut full-day kindergarten and 2 school closings. Everybody I know including myself and my spouse have had to remain flexible in our jobs and have even lost money because of this recession. I also work for an insurance company, and I pay more for health insurance than the teachers do. I value our teachers. They help mold my children into well-rounded individuals. What good is that if we can't afford to educate them? I'm not saying let the teachers take the cut, but I do agree every penny needs to be looked at and accounted for. This is not going to be popular with the teachers in the area, but why shouldn't you negotiate in contract? Everyone else in this recession has! Let us pay more for extracurricular activities, raise the registration fees a bit. Is it smart to close a school that cost multiple millions of $$$ to renovate just a few years ago than to close one that is considerably older? The board has had some tough decisions, but I knew back in 2006 that we were heading toward a recession why weren't we planning appropriately? Why isn't the board listening to all of the suggestions given? How is that financial committee coming along?

Do think the board gets together and says, "Let's make decisions that will piss off the community and cause the most chaos?" Of course they don't! We may not agree with their decisions, but I honestly think they do what they think is best! They are not out to "get anyone." No matter what they have to cut, no one will be happy.

I agree that some major cuts have to be made and that they will not make everyone happy, but I don't think that Rains provided the board with enough detailed information to justify the closing of Mary Drew. And if two schools will ultimately need to be closed, why not wait until next year and handle all of the moving and redistricting at one time? In that time frame, the new finance director can determine all of the details of the savings and reach out to community colleges and the park district to see who may be interested in what buildings. All that was provided was the savings in staff reductions and overhead. What about the cost of moving, increases in transportation costs, ongoing maintenance of the building and grounds, etc.? I know the board is faced with very difficult decisions, I just wish that they would make those decisions based on good information. (Board President) Mary (Kenny), (board members) Denise (Lenz), Denise (Wildeveld) & Joy (Murphy) thinking that (Supt. Barb) Rains and (Financial Director) Gerdes provided them with enough information is a problem in and of itself. They can't even recognize that the information that they were given wasn't complete.

As for MD, I believe that dividing that staff among the different schools will be a mistake. Klein was able to do something there that she wasn't able to do at Trail. They developed a synergy that is probably greater than the sum of its parts, and if they get split up, they may not be able to recreate that success. And I say that without having any students at that school.

This decision was made to hastily. This was no different than full-day kindergarten. Part of why they voted to keep full-day was because people weren't informed. How many of MD parents weren't informed of this? I agree it was on the agenda to discuss closing a school. Nothing was mentioned about voting to close one. And again, why MD? ... All of the facts should have been presented as to what school would be best to close. If after all the facts, it was MD, then so be it. But I don't think that would be the consensus. The fact that Mary Kenny wouldn't even look at the ideas the board came up with was wrong. She said flat out last night that she wanted MD closed. Her personal agenda is not in the best interest for the district, and Joy (Murphy) is just the puppet and agrees. Kudos to (board members) George (Perros), Sean (William Doyle) and Stacey (Borgens) for asking for the data! It is sad that questions weren't addressed and answers given to the community. Barb (Rains) says she takes her direction from the board, and the board says they take their direction from the superintendent. So I guess nothing gets accomplished this way. Every avenue should have been looked at before this decision was made. They acted in haste! Have they once ever asked the teachers what they can cut in their own schools? NO! Again, get all facts before a decision is made!

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Barney February 24, 2012 at 02:28 PM
I dont agree with closing any school but why close one that could take in more students and close one of the smaller schools. And who says this is a permanent closure, Hopefully when the ecomony comes back the building is still there to reopen.
District 161 parent February 24, 2012 at 05:51 PM
I would hate to see any school lost! My biggest concern with closing Mary Drew is that we just spent lots of $$$ remodeling and repairin g the school. The district office will remained opended so if the school is not rented out and simply used for storage we will still face the cost of utilities whereas if a free standing building is closed it could be winterized and save the expense of utilities if it is not rented out. Also, the older building are in need of repair. So are they going to close Mary Drew this year and tell us they need a million dollars to repair Arbury or Indian Trail next year? I believe that the 1/2kindergarten option needs to be revisited. I specifically remeber Nan Clinton stressing that the full day kindergarteners were not receiving any extra education, more the oppertunites to have specials in the afternoon like pm and music and a longer day experience. All of which is important but during these times sounds like a luxury. Also, sounds like somthingthat could be an additional cost if parents want it. I feel like this was such a hasty decision. The community was not provided with data as to the cost efficency of closing other building, charging for bus services(as neighboring communites do), and I have yet to hear mention of cuts to administrator benefits (i.e.Barb Rains 30,000 raise thise year). I think the sensible option would to have an outside source who specializes in finances come in and evaulate the districts needs.

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