Latino community leaders in Green Bay are calling on the school board to go back to the drawing board on a plan to close several schools, claiming the task force that crafted the current proposal didn’t represent the ethnic makeup of the district.
The school board could vote at a special meeting at 5:00 pm today to close 11 schools in the face of declining enrollment and funding. A 30-member task force came up with the plan. That task force had only one person representing the Latino community, even though more than 30 percent of the district’s students are Latino.
Less than half of the district’s students are white and not Latino.
The proposal, called Schema 12, would close 11 schools as well as the district office in an effort to address a projected $20 million budget shortfall in the 2023-24 fiscal year.
Most of the schools recommended for closure are on the city’s east side, where many Latino families live.
A group of Latino leaders has formed the Northeast Wisconsin Latino Education Task Force, or NEWLET. The organization held a press conference Friday calling on the school board to abandon the current proposal and work together on a new one.
“I think if they had called more people in if they had been more transparent about the process, and … included more stakeholders in the conversation, we could have come up with a very solid strong plan for the district and its success,” said Amanda Garcia, a 2009 graduate of Green Bay East High School and the lone Latina member of the task force that crafted Schema 12. “Ultimately, we want it to succeed … We’re hoping to work with the district to find solutions. We’re coming in peace, and we want to build bridges.”
“The enrollment is really declining on the west side of Green Bay. On the east side of Green Bay, we continue to grow, and we know that Latinos are heavily concentrated on the east side of Green Bay,” ”If you look at any projections for the future of our community, whether it’s Green Bay, Brown County, the state of Wisconsin or the nation, Latinos are one of the largest growing demographics where you go in the US.”
Garcia said the process to reach the recommendation wasn’t good enough.
“We want to hold (the district and school board) accountable. The way that this process evolved and developed wasn’t inclusive of various stakeholders,” Garcia said. “We’re questioning the process, we’re questioning the transparency of the process, we’re questioning the communication of everything because to this day, a lot of the communication is still only available online and in English … We demand that a new schema be developed that is more equitable for everyone.”
Garcia said the task force primarily focused on building conditions, recommending for closure those schools that needed the most repair, without adequately considering the people and families who rely on those schools.
“We already have the oldest buildings, we already have the schools that are under-resourced. We already have very little when it comes to our district, and they’re taking the little bit we have away, instead of investing in those schools and making them successful urban schools,” she said.
Of the 11 schools recommended for closure, three – Doty Elementary, Tank Elementary and Washington Middle – have more than 40 percent Latino populations, according to state Department of Public Instruction data. The district’s most Latino schools – Danz Elementary, Eisenhower Elementary and Sullivan Elementary, with more than 60 percent Latino students – were not recommended for closure.
None of the district’s majority-white schools were recommended for closure.
“The entire process was not human student or family centered. I don’t believe that they understand the human impacts that this will have,” Garcia said. “They’re just seeing a problem in terms of numbers and budgets, and they’re trying to find a solution that way.”
While the board is scheduled to meet today to address the proposal, it could delay the vote, according to a memo from interim superintendent Vicki Bayer. In a memo attached to the meeting agenda, Bayer wrote that the board must make a final decision by January, and that strategies could also include cutting staff, cutting extracurricular activities, freezing salary increases and changing employee benefits.