I attended Michael DeBell's community meeting. Did anyone attend Sharon Peaslee's? If so, let us know about the discussion.
DeBell's meeting was interesting with the majority of participants from McClure Middle School. They had a variety of concerns including less-than-stellar science program, loss of students from "good" elementaries like Coe, John Hay, etc. from elementary to middle school (thus creating funding issues for McClure) and issues around discipline at the school. (You may recall that I mentioned in the SB meeting wrap-up that a mother from McClure had expressed some concerns around discipline as well.)
DeBell gave the group an update on the SB meeting. He said the MOU that passed had been an addendum to the collective bargaining agreement. He said that 15 schools had expressed interest in the idea. He was fairly blase about it so I mentioned that the vote took oversight away from the Board and left it all in the hands of the Superintendent and SEA.
Michael shook his head somewhat wearily. I think he feels this is an area that is not understood. He said they didn't give up oversight - they can look at the applications and give input and, of course, let the Superintendent know if there are issues at the quarterly evaluation meeting for the superintendent.
I actually do see his point. I don't want the Board doing the application assessment - that rightly should be in the hands of the Super and the SEA. What I want is for the Board (or Board committee) to have REVIEW oversight. One last set of eyes to look at the applications. I have a feeling that 95% of them would pass that review easily especially if the CSA Oversight Committee passed them through first.
Michael is also kind of where Charlie is on these early stages - thinking nothing that dramatic will happen. This process will likely shore up some of our alternative schools. He thinks that the bar is set so high at 80% of teacher approval and the Superintendent's approval that there won't be any askew changes.
But I then said, what about parents? They are not part of this process of approval at all. Michael said they would give input during the design process and that's true but, at the end of it all, parents really have no say in the direction their school will go. I asked Michael to at least direct the Superintendent to please tell principals to make this decision known to parents. He said, "We try to do that."
Frankly, I was a little surprised in a roomful of parents that he didn't say something like "Yes, we should make sure that parents on tours know of this decision because what they tour now might be different by October or December." I feel like a Lorax - who speaks for the parents?
David Edelman, a teacher at Ingraham, said he hadn't been following this much and that it had been in the CBA. He did say that you don't have to be a Creative Approach school to be creative or innovative. He's right and the district will have to be careful in the future about marketing our district. With foreign language immersion, STEM or CAS, other schools might look bland to parents but having a solid academic program and a warm inviting school is a good thing as well.
DeBell also explained that the curriculum instruction waivers vote was postponed. He said there was a debate about funding at the schools. Director Peaslee had put forth an amendment stating that because of inequities of fundraising from school to school, the district should be paying for the materials pertinent to the new curriculum.
De Bell explained that they will compromise this way (as I understand it) - take the average cost of adoption and figure out a per-pupil average cost and that amount goes to a school that adopts this new curriculum. He said it looked like $10 per student and would be fiscally neutral. He said Singapore is relatively inexpensive while Saxon was more expensive.
Then he got into the superintendent search which, again, has taken a new twist. Here's the updated webpage. You can now apply for what they are calling "a 25-member focus group." So they have a search committee, then another committee that includes those members but some others who somehow got invited to talk with the search consultants and now, another group that does NOT include the search committee who will interview the finalists. I STILL do not know who was in the second group or how they were chosen.
A separate thread on this process is coming up soon.
Mr. Edelman gave DeBell a few thoughts on enrollment at Ingraham. He said he was right in his assessment about growth last year. He said that he thought the district's estimate that Ingraham would grow by only 30 students was too low.
The McClure parents expressed their concern over some discipline issues and Michael mentioned that he had heard some similar concerns over the last several years.
One issue is about talking to students about discipline issues (serious matters, not running in the halls) without a parent being notified. Now one parent said the police couldn't get away with that but I think he may be wrong. I am going to ask a couple of people tomorrow about this but I did Google it and it appears a police officer and/or school official can speak to your child without you being present. (I'd like to be wrong on this but I don't think so.)
So going back to the discussion about the ACLU, here's what I was told and what I told my own children. If your child get accused of something serious by a school official, the mantra is, "I want my parents called. I want them here while I talk to you." If your child gets questioned by a police officer, it's "I want my parents or a lawyer." That protect your child because he/she has just asserted their civil rights.
Many school officials find it a useful tactic to bring a child in a room with a couple of adults and start questioning them. Very infrequently, but sometimes, a child might be threatened (you'll be suspended, you'll go to juvenile court, etc). Think of a kid who might be 12 or 13 and how frightening that is.
Tell your child to always ask for a parent to be notified. Even if a parent can't be found (or get there), your child has protected himself and will be able to say later that on that he or she did not want to talk without a parent present.
There was also a latecomer to the meeting, also a McClure parent, who wanted to talk about Special Education issues. She said that the program had been undergoing changes and parents were frustrated. She said that it appeared that at the school level, funding was getting stripped from Special Ed. She said it looked like some schools were hiring dual-certificated teachers rather just a Special Education teacher . She said this type of hiring takes some pressure off of General Ed teachers but puts more on Special Ed teachers.
DeBell said the district had two mandates; to provide the least restrictive environment and to integrate and meet individual needs. He said Special Ed funding keeps going up.
It seems like everyone is frustrated with Special Ed. I wish I had the answers.