The Green Bay School Board this week decided not to pursue a fifth high school as part of a possible April referendum on building projects. A consultant had recommended a fifth high school but the need for one was challenged by former Green Bay East High School principal Terry Fondow in a pair of Media Trackers reports.
Fondow argued that the district used suspect enrollment numbers in internal and public meetings to make the case for a fifth high school. Fondow beat back a similar effort a decade ago. He suspected the motive this time was for a new high school to compete with suburban schools to which Green Bay is losing students through open enrollment.
According to the Green Bay Press Gazette, school board member Mike Blecha and other members claimed there had been little talk of putting a proposal for a fifth high school before voters:
“Let’s put the (building of a) fifth high school to rest for this referendum, so people can stop talking about it or suggesting that we’re talking about it,” school board member Mike Blecha said Tuesday night.
But Fondow says it’s clear from the internal discussions and meetings held last fall that administration was indeed interested in again asking voters for an additional high school. In the Media Trackers reporting, Fondow accused the district of conflating “membership,” which is all the students in the district regardless of where they attend school, with students who actually attend Green Bay schools. Fondow also accused the district of distorting the difference between target enrollment and maximum enrollment at schools in an effort to confuse voters into believing a fifth high school was needed.
In deciding not to pursue a fifth school at this time board members continued to insist there was an overcrowding problem at the high school level and, according to the Press Gazette, suggested the idea of a new high school isn’t dead:
The board agreed to form a task force that will look at addressing short-term needs in the packed school, as well as assessing whether to go to referendum in the next few years for a new high school.
“There’s a concern about Preble,” board member Julie Jansch said. “We can’t keep kicking that can down the road. Whether it’s a new school, we have to figure out the problem on that east side.”
For now, the board is zeroing in on what it considers more pressing needs at east-side elementary and middle schools.
Fondow told me in an email that he believes the board will continue to pursue a new high school in the spring:
Until the BOE (board of education) takes a final action on Jan. 23, I will not be convinced that the 5th high school will not be included in the April referendum. Assuming that the BOE sticks with its current position, my take is that if you had not provided a public forum for a truthful narrative, and if my brother had not challenged the district numbers at their public meetings, the 5th high school advocates would have prevailed. In addition, this issue will never die. The people with a vested interest in development on the far East side of Green Bay, and the administrators and BOE members who believe that a shiny new high school will stem the tide of choice departures from the district, will continue to press for a 5th high school.
Media Trackers will continue to follow this issue and provide future updates.