Plan would turn Imes into traditional school
The Arizona Republic
Mar. 21, 2005

Monica Mendoza 

Parents in the heart of Glendale are fighting proposed changes at Isaac E. Imes Elementary School that call for turning the second-oldest school in the Glendale Elementary School District into a traditional school.

Glendale school board members will study the proposal Tuesday. It would convert Imes into a back-to-basics school where kids wear uniforms and parent participation is mandatory.

Traditional schools around the Valley, including in the Alhambra and Washington districts, are popular among parents and boost student test scores. But Imes parents, many Spanish-speaking, say it is not the right fit for them.

Glendale board members are restructuring the district in preparation for a new school, set to open in August. Glendale Superintendent Perry Hill said a traditional school could attract new parents to the district, where enrollment has flat-lined and forced budget cuts. Enrollment drives budgets because districts are paid per pupil.

A study shows that as many as 2,700 children who live in Glendale's boundaries attend school elsewhere, which means Glendale is losing about $8 million a year, Hill said.

Hill wants to reclaim those students and pump up the budget. Otherwise, the school board faces making drastic program cuts, he said.

Traditional schools follow a back-to-basics philosophy with an emphasis on reading, writing, math, discipline and homework. Teachers follow a lecture-style approach and there is less cooperative learning and hands-on activities, Hill said.

At Imes, 6625 N. 56th Ave., enrollment has been declining for years. Built for 900 children, there are 536 students now, and about half of them are bused in from other areas of the district. Parents of Imes students like the dual-language program, where all children learn in English and Spanish. If Imes switched to a traditional school, teachers would need to reapply for jobs, there would be no busing and there would be no guarantee that the dual-language program would stay intact.

One former Imes student says the dual-language program made her fluent in Spanish and English.

"All my teachers did an incredible job, and now I'm on honor roll and studying French," said Yadira Siordia, 16, a sophomore at Apollo High School. "You take this away from them, and you take their future away."

To many parents, the proposal feels like a blow to the community. They have history together. Many teachers were once Imes students. And generations of families have attended the school. They feel they are being pushed aside to bring in new parents.