- Posted December 1, 2013 by
Lewisboro, New York
School Closing: Are demographic reports science?
Demographic reports are used throughout the country by school districts to predict future enrollment. Are these projections accurate? Should they be used to close a school?
Richard S. Grip, the demographer, who created the demographic report that supports a school closing was hired by the district to make redistricting recommendations. That redistricting project is a direct result of the dempgrapher's recommendaton to close a school. That inherent conflict of interest was not considered by the district's administation. This is another indication that the science and practise of demography needs to be examined closely - particulary in the case of school closings.
Dr. Gary Gutting wrote this in an opinion in the NY Times regarding social science studies. (NYT 5/17/12)
"Social sciences may be surrounded by the “paraphernalia” of the natural sciences, such as technical terminology, mathematical equations, empirical data and even carefully designed experiments. But when it comes to generating reliable scientific knowledge, there is nothing more important than frequent and detailed predictions of future events. "
In the sleepy northern Westchester town of Lewisboro, NY the steps to close a local elementary school have resulted in a shouting match between a Board of Ed member and a town official, serious questions on finances - the administration reduced their savings projection by $500,000, and much input from the community on the validity of a demographic report.
The Katonah-Lewisboro district is no stranger to controversy. The school superintendent, Dr. Paul W. Kreutzer, was the only superintendent in Wisconsin to support Scott Walker. He was brought to NY with a $245,000 salary over the protest of many local residents and teachers. There is currently a lawsuit against the district and Dr. Kreutzer. He has been accused or angry outbursts and other issues by the union. The allegations include sexual harassment.
The Katonah-Lewisboro school district is a wealthy suburb of NYC in northern Westchester county. It is the home of doctors, lawyers, and other professionals.
Active members of the school district have raised serious and profound questions about the demographic report used by the district. They question both the contents of this report and the board of education's understanding of the report.
The report uses data from 2007-2011 to predict future enrollment. That data was used despite the fact that data through 2013 was available. The area was hit hard by the housing slump and slight recovery was seen in 2012 and 2013.
This iReport shows community members and the district's demographer, Richard S. Grip, commenting on this demographic report.
The community is concerned that a school will be closed based on flim-flam science. Some believe the reason behind the closure is Dr. Kreutzer's desire to further his career.