German Village Gazette

Southside STAY looking to improve local schools


It's a difficult decision parents with young children face in German Village: Stay and send the kids to public schools, spring for a private education or flee to the suburbs.

Matt and Nicole Eshelbrenner, who have an 8-month-old daughter, are sticking around and trying to improve their neighborhood schools in the process.

Matt Eshelbrenner is a founding member of Southside STAY -- Standing Together to Advance Youth -- designed to improve the local school environment.

"The whole idea is a community is only as good as the schools it supports," Eshelbrenner said.

About 25 people met Nov. 1 in the German Village Meeting Haus to further define the group's mission.

Among its objectives is to make Stewart Alternative Elementary School, whose students are accepted on a lottery basis, into a pre-kindergarten through sixth-grade neighborhood school and feeder into the South High School.

Jessica Bennett, another founding member of Southside STAY, said the group recently sent out a survey that indicated 70 percent of parents would move because of the educational opportunities.

"Everybody wants to stay in this area and not because of the schools," Bennett said.

Members of the organization believe greater parental involvement can effectuate change for schools on the South Side, Eshelbrenner said.

"I don't think that anything is wrong with them," he said of the public schools. "I think there's a perception that they're worse than they are."

Outreach is another important component of Southside STAY.

The organization is open to those who live in German Village, Merion Village, Schumacher Place and the Brewery District.

"I think a lot more people are moving down here, but the question is: How do we keep them down here?" Eshelbrenner said.

The idea for Southside STAY started in August as the proposed renovations to Stewart Alternative, which was badly damaged in a fire in July 20101, began to take shape, Eshelbrenner said.

The group has been steadily attracting a bigger audience, with 75 people participating in various discussions over the past few months.

"I think the desire has always been there," he said. "We're just trying to catch up to the wishes of everyone."

The group next meets at 6:30 p.m. Dec. 6 at the Meeting Haus, 588 S. Third St.

The plan is to meet quarterly, with various committees gathering more frequently.