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Board was urged to support STEM_School : News : Oswego Ledger-Sentinel : Hometown Newspaper for Oswego and Montgomery, Illinois
Board was urged to support STEM_School
Parents, officials cited potential benefits prior to negative vote

by Lyle R. Rolfe


Four Oswego and Aurora residents told Oswego School District Board members Monday night they were in favor of the district joining the John C. Dunham STEM Partnership School, which is under construction on Aurora University campus.

But their pleas fell on deaf ears because the board later voted 6-0 with one abstention not to join the school partnership. (See related article)

Andrea Moga of Aurora spoke on behalf of 84th District State Rep. Stephanie A. Kifowit (D-Oswego).

Moga said Kifowit appreciated Board President Bill Walsh and Superintendent Dr. Matthew Wendt talking to her in advance of the meeting to discuss her thoughts on the proposed school.

She agreed that the state has been irresponsible in not meeting its obligation to fund school districts with General State Aid allocations. However this occurred before Kifowit was elected to state office, she noted.

Moga named several firms including Caterpillar, Exelon, Tellabs, Nicor Gas and Waste Management and said they had made contributions to the STEM school.

"Years ago the idea of STEM was found only in the instruction of the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy (IMSA), in Aurora. Today these companies and many more have identified STEM education as the core foundation for the work force of tomorrow," she said, adding that the state needs to invest more into a work force that the companies will employ.

In her letter Kifowit, said many of the comments and concerns were the same ones she heard in Springfield with the establishment of IMSA in 1985. She noted that the unique opportunity to have the same benefits provided by IMSA is finally being offered to younger students in the Dunham STEM School.

Edward Bugg, Aurora's 9th Ward alderman, said he represented the entire area of Aurora that lies in the Oswego School District.

He said he has been working to get more of the school district involved in projects and programs that benefit Aurora as a whole.

The Oswego School District was not one of the original partners proposed for the school seven years ago, he said. But Mayor Tom Weisner and his staff wanted an inclusive STEM school with four districts from the city, not just East and West Aurora. They wanted Oswego and Indian Prairie involved, he said.

"Since that happened your administration has been involved every step of the way. In fact the agreement you will be voting on tonight was crafted by your school district attorney. Some say education in Illinois is broken, but the STEM school is the exception," he said.

Bugg noted that even though the city is not in the business of education, it pledged nearly one quarter million dollars for the project. Most of the elected state officials in the area of the STEM school are in favor of it, along with the private firms that were mentioned by the previous speaker, he added.

"The founders of IMSA would have loved to have had the sponsorship the STEM school has," he said.

He recalled Oswego starting a dual language program several years ago that many people objected to. It has had an impact on many students that will be with them for life he said.

"And the STEM school will have the same impact, not just on 50 students, but many others when the STEM teachers return to their home schools," he said.

Maureen Sanchez of Oswego, said she wanted the board to know she supports STEM.

"I don't have any of the facts or figures, but I know it's a fantastic opportunity for our kids. If we don't make the changes and make the opportunities possible and start building into and becoming a part of the future, the future's going to pass us by. As a citizen and a parent I think STEM is fantastic," Sanchez said.

"I don't know which one of you wants to vote against, but I hope all of you vote for this which is something that will be fantastic for our kids in the future," Sanchez added.

Russell Pietrowiak of Oswego, a former East Aurora School Board member, said he has a daughter in the Oswego schools who would probably qualify for the STEM program. She's the only girl in her school who is a member of the Robotics Team, he said.

When he asked if she would like to go to the STEM school she said not unless her best friend could go there too.

"I'd like to have the opportunity to have that conversation with her again and be able to give her the opportunity to explore something outside of the traditional classroom setting," he said.

Pietrowiak said he has heard Superintendent Dr. Matthew Wendt talk about a "world class" school system and admitted he is not sure what this is and what it looks like.

"But I get the feeling that STEM is a lot closer to this program. Having this opportunity is outside the bar, it's innovative, it's different. It's the kind of thing that we as a district should be looked upon favorably. It would be an asset not just to our students but I really think more so to our teachers," he said, adding that he believed many of them would want to be part of the program.

"If we say no to his, how do we look to the future? What is the next thing we're going to say no to? What's the next thing we'll say yes to because I haven't heard us say yes to many things that will improve the academics in an outside-the-box kind of thinking," Pietrowiak said.

"STEM is not for everybody, but it is for everybody in our district. It's not for every student or every teacher, but they're all going to benefit down the line," he added.

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