Despite the superintendent's pleas to craft an acceptable 4-year-old kindergarten program for the 2013-14 school year, the Elmbrook School Board Tuesday decided to pull 4K from board discussion until the fall.
While the board did not vote Tuesday, members Glen Allgaier, Kathryn Wilson, Jean Lambert and Meg Wartman each said they did not want to schedule a board session on 4K or spend resources creating a 4K program during the remainder of this school year.
Superintendent Matt Gibson urged 4K adoption as part of a task force's recommendations to solve the district's budget challenges amid declining resident enrollment.
The recommendations called for cutting expenses — by closing an elementary school and increasing class sizes, and increasing revenues by adding 4-year-old kindergarten and boosting open enrollment, Gibson said.
Doing the painful cuts without adding 4K will feel like a betrayal to some residents, particularly those whose children are being redistricted after Hillside closes at the end of this year, he said.
However, the board already has rejected the package approach, deciding to close a school but significantly cut the growth of open enrollment.
Gibson urges compromise
Gibson, who is retiring in June, encouraged the board to hold a work session to find a compromise 4K program — perhaps in two schools instead of five, with fewer teachers, thereby cutting the costs.
"Try to make it your own — to fashion it in a way that it might work for you," he said.
But the board did not bite on his request.
"I feel like we have spent a lot of time talking about this already," Allgaier said. "I don't have any interest in talking about it anymore ... this school year."
Wilson, Lambert and Wartman agreed, with Wartman noting the board's to-do list yet this year was lengthy.
"I would agree there is board support to look at it for 2013-14," she said, adding she personally would need more questions answered in order to support it.
Board President Tom Gehl has said he because resident families are asking for it.
Board member Bob Ziegler said he was "disappointed that we are where we are with (4K)."
Board member Dick Brunner did not speak on the issue.
Those opposed to adding 4K say there is not evidence that it provides a lasting academic benefit, while it increases the local property tax burden.
Election challengers support 4K
Lambert and Wartman are seeking new board terms, and their April 3 election challengers each said after the meeting they support 4K and wished to see more momentum to adding the program.
"It's disappointing that that's their choice," said Lynne Thomas, who is contesting Wartman for re-election. But she added, "I'm hopeful there might be support for it next year."
Paul Byrne, who is running for Lambert's board seat, said he was heartened that the board decided not to take a formal vote against 4K Tuesday.
"No vote is better than a vote 'no,'" he said. "It wasn't killed, so that's better than nothing."