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D-303 administrator questioned over school merger motivation

GENEVA – Through his questioning of a district administrator, attorney Timothy Dwyer on Monday suggested that St. Charles School District 303 created the enrollment imbalance that contributed to controversial changes at two elementary schools.

“Is this a situation you helped create?” he asked Becky McCabe, an area assistant superintendent for District 303, during a bench trial presided over by Judge David Akemann.

“Because of choice?” McCabe said, referring to a repercussion Richmond Elementary School faced for repeatedly failing to meet academic benchmarks. “No.”

A group of Davis Elementary School parents filed a lawsuit against the district in 2011 over its plan to merge Davis’ and Richmond Elementary School’s attendance areas and to make Davis a K-2 primary school and Richmond a 3-5 intermediate school.

Richmond – which repeatedly missed academic benchmarks before the merger – had its adequate yearly progress status “rolled back” after the reconfiguration. Dwyer, who represents the parents, has asserted the changes circumvented No Child Left Behind regulations.

School district officials have said the reconfiguration helped balance an over-crowding issue at Davis and an under-enrollment issue at Richmond.

Monday, Dwyer questioned McCabe about what preceded Richmond’s enrollment problem. The school, after repeatedly failing to meet AYP, had to offer a choice, meaning parents had the option to transfer their children to a school making AYP. Davis – a school facing overcrowding – was one of the four schools Richmond students could transfer to.

“Why’d you choose an overcrowded school?” Dwyer asked McCabe.

Davis’ proximity to Richmond and the middle school it feeds into factored into the decision, McCabe said. She said state and federal rules indicated District 303 couldn’t make enrollment a reason not to provide choice there.

Referring to a district document that explained the Richmond-Davis plan, Dwyer noted that “Richmond failing AYP” corresponded to the question, “How did we get here?”

Failing AYP, he said, “was the genesis of this plan, right?”

“No,” McCabe said, “consequences of not making AYP caused enrollment to drop.”

The trial is scheduled to resume today at the Kane County Courthouse.

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