Packed house shows up to support SEE Team

Packed house shows up to support SEE Team

2010-2011 SEE Team students worked to restore Baseball Woods behind RBHS to its native state.

Hannah Pecis, Staff Reporter

At the November 8th school board meeting, there was a pitch made by many students, parents and teachers to try to bring back the SEE Team.  The purpose of the presentation at the meeting was to inform the RB school board that there is a value and a reason that the team should be reinstated. 

SEE stands for the School of Environmental Education. The team was a unique experience for incoming freshmen that inspired environmental awareness, awareness of how interconnected everything is, and that offered a different way for students to learn. The program partnered with the Brookfield Zoo which is right next door to the school. The students who were part of the team would take time out of their day to do field work. They would restore forests, clean natural areas and volunteer in different ways, all somehow relating to the environment.

During board discussion after the presentation, two reasons were referenced for the original cutting of the team.  First, the team involved costs beyond a typical class, notably a number of field trips.  Assistant Principal of Curriculum and Instruction Tim Scanlon, who answered board questions on behalf of the team, also noted that, with RB’s growing class sizes, it would not have been efficient or fair to have significantly smaller class sizes in the team.  With 48 incoming freshman enrolled at the time of the team’s elimination last year, there would have been about 15 students in each SEE Team class as opposed to more than twenty in most non-SEE classes.  SEE Team students take a slate of classes together, including English, math, science, and wellness.

Scanlon also indicated during questioning that the SEE Team would be reorganized if it was reinstated, eliminating its Environmental Enrichment class.  This class served to help the team schedule larger segments of time for interdisciplinary learning, but may have been a road block to enrollment, since it forced incoming freshmen to give up an elective slot in order to join the team.  With the EE course removed, students would only be required to enroll in SEE Team English, math, science, and wellness, courses required for graduation even outside the team.

That aside, parents of SEE Team students, former SEE Team alumni, and community members involved with the team showed up to show their support and talk about why the team should be reinstated. Before the open forum for visitor comments, there were presentations done by several different people. One was done by Tim Scanlon. The next by Jennifer Waldock, Jame Holt, and Daniel Mancoff (the former SEE team teachers). The third presentation was done by Dr. Helena Puche from the University of Illinois at Chicago.

The meeting was so well attended that every seat in the Alumni Lounge was filled and the entire back was filled with standees. There were RB teachers there that were in no way affiliated with the team, former SEE Team members, parents of former members, and even people there that knew the SEE team because the team in some way had volunteered with them or helped them. Supporters of the team also included representatives from the Chicago Zoological Society, a member of the Environmental Protection Agency, a local owner of a green store, and two organic farmers for whom the students had done volunteer work in the past.

As visitor comments began, many people were motivated to speak. Overall nearly twenty parents and students spoke. The speaking just of the people concerned with SEE team took an hour and fifteen minutes. Multiple parents spoke about how SEE team helped their children transition into high school smoothly and helped foster their children’s growing love for different topics and desire to learn. Students spoke passionately about how SEE Team inspired them, made them better people and made their high school lives better.

Every visitor comment save one directly related to the reinstatement of the SEE Team.  The one additional comment was made by a community member advocating the reinstatement of the Math Club, also cut from the school’s programming.

As visitor comments ended, the vast majority of the audience for the board meeting departed as well.  Board members, including Board President Matt Sinde and newly elected Tim Walsh, noted in their comments that they supported the team philosophically, but called on parents, students, and teachers to work diligently to recruit a larger enrollment for the team in 2012-2013.  Walsh, in particular, noted that the team would be much easier to justify with an enrollment closer to 80 than 48.