A group of Springfield parents and educators is hoping to prevent the closure of a popular middle school, despite two unfavorable votes by the Springfield School Board. Their main tactic? Elect a different school board.
Shelley Tulipana of Springfield spearheads the effort to keep Capital College Preparatory Academy open. Tulipana leads a group of about 20 parents and teachers, called “Save CCPA,” in advocating for the school.
“I believe in what this school is doing,” Tulipana said, explaining why she decided to get involved. She has a son in seventh grade at CCPA and another child whom she hoped would attend CCPA. Tulipana and others in the group hope the upcoming election on April 9 shifts the school board’s majority in favor of keeping CCPA open.
The board voted Feb. 4 to close CCPA, citing cost concerns because of the school district’s ongoing budget problems. CCPA is an alternative school for sixth, seventh and eighth-grade students from around the city. The school has a high proportion of non-white students and students from low-income households. Closing CCPA was originally estimated to save $1.7 million, but later revisions lowered the estimated savings to about $1.3 million.
Correction: A previous version of this story said the revised savings estimate was $1.1 million instead of $1.3 million.
In total, the school board has approved $6.6 million in cuts that include eliminating 104 staff positions, foregoing new textbooks, and consolidating Wanless and Pleasant Hill elementary schools into Feitshans Academy.
Save CCPA is concentrating its efforts on lobbying the candidates who will comprise the new school board. With the school’s closure scheduled to happen at the end of the current school year, after the April 9 school board election, Save CCPA sees an opportunity for the next school board to reverse the closure decision. The group has been attending candidate forums and asking each candidate to publicly say whether they would close CCPA. They have also asked members to canvas their neighborhoods in support of candidates who would vote to save the school.
It’s possible that the April 9 election could produce a school board which favors keeping CCPA open. Two of the four board members who previously voted to close CCPA are not running for another term in office, and most of the new candidates favor keeping the school open.
Scott McFarland and Judith Johnson, the board members representing Subdistrict 3 and Subdistrict 6, respectively, previously voted to keep CCPA open and are running unopposed in the election.
In Subdistrict 5, candidate Katharine Eastvold has expressed support for keeping CCPA open, while candidate Donna Moore told Illinois Times that although she hasn’t taken a position on CCPA, she would like to examine ways to keep the school open. Either Eastvold or Moore will replace outgoing board member Candace Mueller, who previously voted to close CCPA.
In Subdistrict 1, current board member Lisa Funderburg faces challenger Teresa Jones. While Funderburg has twice voted to close CCPA, Jones says she would keep the school open. The same situation appears in Subdistrict 4, where current board president Susan White faces challenger Mike Zimmers. White voted twice to close CCPA, but Zimmers says he would like to see it remain open or become a “school within a school” – a concept in which CCPA would retain most of its characteristics but take up residence in another Springfield middle school.
Candidate Adam Lopez is running unopposed in Subdistrict 2, and he says that he will propose a resolution on May 6 to vote again on CCPA. He says many of the school’s “scholars” come from his subdistrict, so he would vote to keep it open. Lopez also plans to propose a 10 percent pay cut for all administrators in the school district, which he says would save about $5 million. Lopez will replace outgoing board member Nick Stoutamyer, who previously voted to close CCPA.
The race for the open seat in Subdistrict 7 has three candidates. While candidate Gary Pierce says he can’t take a position on CCPA until he sees a “cost-benefit analysis” for the school, he says he would support keeping it open if the analysis favors doing so. Candidate Tom Shafer said he would not speculate on any past board actions or any other candidates, and he refused to say how he would vote on CCPA if elected. Candidate Charles Flamini said he hasn’t taken a position yet, but he would like to see objective criteria in place for evaluating programs like CCPA.
In total, three school board races will likely result in votes to keep CCPA open, and two contested races could produce votes either way. The remaining two races are wild cards, both featuring at least one candidate who hasn’t publicly taken a position on CCPA.
Bob Ogden, a member of Save CCPA with a daughter in eighth grade at the school, says he got involved in the effort to prevent the school’s closure because he feels the district doesn’t have a different plan to close the “achievement gap” – a disparity in test scores based on gender, race and socioeconomic status.
“It’s kind of frustrating when you find something that is actually working and doing what it’s supposed to do, and for whatever reason, it never got the support it needed,” Ogden said.
Ogden says he is frustrated to see some of the district’s budget savings come at the expense of a school that parents and students believe to be working.
“We are too smart to be this dumb about education,” Ogden said. “Our biggest resource is our children. They are our future, and their knowledge and education is the greatest thing we can impart to them, because that’s something no one can take away from them.”
Contact Patrick Yeagle at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Click for a copy of the CCPA closure cost analysis from District 186: http://www.illinoistimes.com/Springfield/file-150-.pdf