Background: When our district created John Stanford International School, there was big excitement. This was to honor a fallen superintendent and it was a modern step forward for our district. And, it was a huge success and a highly sought-after school.
But there were a couple of big issues and one secret. The issues were the creation of more of these popular schools AND where do the elementary students go after K-5? I guess when they started JSIS, that seemed far away.
But like all issues, the chickens came home to roost and there was a push for more schools and they were created. And, they finally had Hamilton become the first feeder middle school. That then put pressure on what high school would take these students (middle school is only three years, remember?).
So what's the secret? The secret is that these schools cost more in order to have their program. HR has to work hard to find the right teachers, schools have to work hard to find the right teachers (with some Chinese teachers coming from China and entering and exiting each year), the IAs cost extra money and there are start-up costs. Except for the latter, these are on-going costs.
Now each school is somewhat different. A previous thread explains this but in terms of costs, Beacon Hill and Concord fund IAs through federal funds because of their high level of native speakers. My understanding is that JSIS and McDonald have to fund their own IAs. But JSIS has been around a lot longer than McDonald and have a reserve to draw off of so that they don't have as big a fundraising challenge.
There was discussion around this subject (which I reported on earlier this year) at the C&I Committee. Director Carr had asked Duggan Harmon about the need for IAs. He told the Committee that McDonald did NOT have to have the IAs for the program and that they didn't need to fundraise as much as they may have believed they needed to for them. The district, when they opened the program, did not promise to fund IAs.
At the time, that seemed to satisfy Carr.
A couple of months ago, I read the McDonald website and saw that they were still going ahead to try to raise the money ($300K just for IAs). This is entirely generous and hard-working but, to my mind, misguided. There is no way to sustain that kind of fundraising. I don't think it is right to put that kind of pressure on any group of parents. They need the funds by June 30th in order to hire the IAs for the fall. They appear to have raised about $90k.
Here's what the website says about the need:
IAs not only reduce the student-teacher ratio -- but by adding a second native speaker in the classroom, they make it possible for kids to hear and have conversations in the target language.
We asked our teachers what they needed from us in order to help our kids succeed in math and science. Their answer was clear: we need to continue providing IAs for our classrooms.
Having language immersion at our neighborhood school is a world-class opportunity for our kids. Please speak with your family, and figure out how to give as generously as you can.
On the one hand, yes, it is probably cheaper to invest $2-4k to have your child in a foreign-language immersion public school than a private one. BUT, it's a public school. It runs how it runs on the funds available. And, no family should feel badly if they do not have those kinds of dollars to donate.
Today: So a reader said that he/she had received an e-mail saying the Board was funding McDonald to the tune of an extra $125k.
I checked the website and basically, it explains how McDonald doesn't have the federal funds of some other schools and the reserves of JSIS. The money they raise goes to the incoming kindergarten students and other new students for IAs for those classes.
From the website:
So Here's The Amazing News:
This year only, the Seattle School Board will invest
to help McDonald parents fund 2.5 IAs!
to help McDonald parents fund 2.5 IAs!
"This," writes Director Carr, "is a one-year arrangement."
But our structural challenges aren't going away. Are they?
Imagine if we could create a reserve fund that would restructure our annual fundraising.
Each year, our Immersion fund drive could be aimed at current, enrolled families – parents who have already seen the value of the immersion support staff in the classroom every day.
Incoming Kindergarten families would not have a pay a
thing till after they begin school, and the reserves would cover us in
- Current families would be able to make simple monthly payments year-round, rather than having to write a big check every spring.
This is an incredible opportunity.
McDonald International School is already making a name for itself. Now, thanks to the Board's investment, we have an opportunity to create the strategic reserve that will put our immersion program on solid financial footing, and help ensure our kids' success for years to come.
Fund drives are always challenging. But this year we have a rare opportunity to change the way we will do these things in the future. We have a chance to truly leave this school better than we found it.
We could use the Board's $125,000 opportunity to create this reserve fund, and transform the structure of our annual fundraising for years to come.
They go on to say that they are having a phone-a-thon and hope for 100% family participation and an average of $1k per student.
I am more than a little dumbfounded.
The district has known - all along - the issues around foreign language immersion schools and their costs. They knew this when they opened McDonald. But they made no commitment to making sure McDonald had the same level of instruction - namely IAs - as the other schools. It is the classic of kicking the can down the road. The district either thought they would get by without them OR the parents would figure it out. How's that working out, district?
And now Director Carr feels guilty and is magically going to find $125k for those IAs? I plan on calling her tomorrow and hope that the McDonald PTA Board got it wrong. Or misunderstood. Or that Director Carr knows what pot of money that $125k is coming from.
I am also a little surprised that the McDonald PTA would look at the $125k as a way to create their own reserve fund.
I understand that the IAs make their program more viable. But there are many schools who would like money to make their own programs viable. Is no one at the school asking where the district will find this money?
I'm sure I'll hear an earful and perhaps I have something wrong. But I have been following this discussion and trying to keep up.
I'll let you know what Carr says.