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'School is not the way it used to be' : News : Oswego Ledger-Sentinel : Hometown Newspaper for Oswego and Montgomery, Illinois
'School is not the way it used to be'
Oswego School District chief cites changes in district, education

by John Etheredge


Education is changing and so is the Oswego School District.

That was the message that Dr. Matthew Wendt, school district superintendent, had for representatives from other local governmental agencies during a meeting at Oswego Village Hall this past week.

Wendt said the school district with its 1,800 employees is now the largest employer in Kendall County and is responsible for educating an estimated 17,700 students.

Describing the district's students as its "product," Wendt said they are a "little different" than students from prior years.

"All 17,700 of them are different sizes, different shapes, have different talents, different abilities and also different backgrounds and experiences, and the challenges we are seeing are growing," he said adding, "We are not becoming a wealthier product. We are becoming a poorer product. And our product is bringing different challenges for our faculty at a level we've never seen in the history of education.

"We have issues before us that are not only in the area of special needs, but in the areas of mental health and physical health and so it is a concern of ours," Wendt continued. "School is not the way it used to be and I would contend that school cannot be the way it was and therefore the structure has to change."

Wendt said the new school year should prove interesting and challenging.

"Not only are we charged with educating the students before us, but we have an awesome responsibility to prepare a (school) system for kids who have not yet enrolled in our system," he said.

Wendt noted that next month the school board should receive updated enrollment projections from the district's demographer.

The projections, he said, should show the district's enrollment surpassing 18,000 over the next several years.

Noting homebuilding is continuing in pockets throughout the school district, Wendt said, "Our growth will continue."

The school district encompasses a 68-square mile area in Kendall, Kane and DuPage counties, and Wendt noted that 40 percent of the district's students come from communities located outside of Oswego Township. Included in the district's boundaries is the unincorporated Boulder Hill Subdivision and sections of Montgomery, Aurora, Plainfield, Yorkville and Joliet.

Wendt noted the size of the district and the number of communities it serves poses a challenge to the school district board and staff.

"What might be popular or positive in Plainfield, Aurora may look at it totally different as would Montgomery and Yorkville," he said. "Our board has the challenge of representing multiple municipalities and personalities and expectations."

Despite the challenges, Wendt concluded, "Frankly, I find this the best district in the state for potential and promise. I feel we have the right elected officials in place and the right people."

School board president:
'strong foundation' in place

School Board President Bill Walsh told officials the board's primary goal remains to make the school district "world class."

"We have a strong foundation and we're proud of where we are and what we've accomplished in the last year," he said.

Walsh said he believes the governing boards that serve the community have to be fearless "with respect to what is coming forward." The school board, he continued, needs to adapt to challenges posed by growth, changes in curriculum and finances.

"I believe we are well prepared to do that," Walsh said.

Walsh noted the school district recently received an award for its 2013 fiscal year budget and the district's bond rating has been upgraded.

However, Walsh acknowledged the district continues to be challenged financially, due in part to the state's failure to fully fund its share of local student costs.

"The state has left $11 million on the table the last few years and it's unfortunate because that's an investment in the students," he said.

Concerning the school district's proposed new budget, Walsh said additional tax revenues would come from new homes added to the tax roll over the past year and there will be no increase on existing homes.

Walsh added district administrators are moving forward with developing a strategic plan for the district.

In addition, Walsh said contractors recently completed additions onto Oswego East High School and Oswego High School in time for the start of the new school year last week.

He added, "Both facilities are fantastic, state-of-the-art."

Open houses will be scheduled at both school's in October, Walsh said.

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