I want to say upfront - the district created this program and after having sat through the Board Work Session on International Schools, I absolutely see the need for the IAs. If the district wants the program to work, best practices would say have an IA in every room.
However, there are two points to consider here.
The main one is that that despite the popularity of the programs and the desire by many parents for access to them, they are ONLY available to children in certain neighborhoods. This is not the fault of the parents but they also need to understand that they are getting something that other students have no access to. And they need to understand that their program costs more than other programs.
Two, by having an IA in every class, you have just diminished the class size greatly. That is something that MANY parents long for as well.
Here's what Director Carr said (I'm going to answer some of what she says):
The funding you are inquiring about was discussed at three A&F meetings, one whole board budget work session and one International Education work session. It’s no wonder that with that much public discussion it was a bit hard to track the whole conversation. Additionally, this item has been listed on our budget work documents that were used to track the increases and decreases to the budget. All Board members were given the opportunity to signal their support and offer their thinking on several occasions. Many members of the public were in attendance at each of these sessions.
The request for this one-time increase was linked to the decision to shrink the boundaries around JSIS in order to address the chronic over-enrollment. Families that were excluded from JSIS were given the option to enroll at McDonald for the language immersion program. This was a one-time situation to address the late boundary change.
I can only state here that at the A&F meeting I attended there was NO mention of this issue being about the JSIS boundaries.
While the boundary change had the intended impact on JSIS enrollment, there was a significant side effect to McDonald. The McDonald PTA was already drowning in the obligation to fundraise to pay for language immersion IAs. The impact was to add more kindergarten classes to McDonald than expected and planned for in their fundraising plan. This significantly increased the fundraising responsibility on the current families with no advance notice. Because this is a growing school, the base of families expected to raise these funds is relatively small and only a couple of months remained to complete the task.
Again, I understand this but Duggan Harmon said at the A&F meeting that district staff had stated that McDonald did NOT have to have the IAs to have their program. So there is a disconnect between what the was said to parents and what was said at these various meetings.
At the request of the McDonald PTA President, I attended a PTA meeting where they expressed deep frustration and anger, and appealed for help. All were clear they were willing to fundraise but were overwhelmed by the impact of the assignment change. Since it was a district decision to change the boundary, the dollars were offered to pay for part of the impact of the IAs for next year only. It is worth a reminder that this is a neighborhood school and most of the existing enrollment is driven by home address and not necessarily a desire for language immersion programming.
Yes, this IS a neighborhood school but that should change. Additionally, I know that parents in that neighborhood were asked - before McDonald opened - about ideas for programming and most wanted foreign language. To suggest this was forced on them is puzzling to me.
Duggan Harman and the principal have confirmed that the money was included in the school budget and the funds have been allocated to hire language IAs, as was intended. I can’t speak to the statements by the PTA – I would urge you to direct those questions to them. I know that this $110k amount doesn’t cover all the costs of the IAs and substantial fundraising will still be required. As you point out in your note, the total cost is $300k. Even after the one-time district funds this still means a substantial fundraising challenge between now and the start of school.
The amount, it seems, has gone from $125k to $110K. I do not know where the money is coming from within the district budget.
I have heard several different things about the JSIS IA funding so this is all confusing. I probably should call the principal and ask. I take some issue with Director Carr trying to put this in the same category as Cleveland and Rainier Beach. Cleveland is an (open) all-city draw, not a neighborhood school. Rainier Beach is a struggling school trying to get its footing and the IB program should help.
Related, the Board did begin a conversation about the fiscal sustainability of our current language immersion program model in SPS. The need for language immersion IAs is an additional expense that increases the cost of operating these programs beyond our WSS allocation. As previously stated, currently it is either paid for by free/reduced lunch dollars or parent fundraising. The equity of this model warrants further scrutiny as this arrangement could be argued as inequitable and/or unsustainable, especially in a neighborhood school. I expect this conversation to continue as our work progresses. I hope this information helps.
Thank you for reaching out with your questions.
And I appreciate the thorough and quick reply.
I'll point out that McDonald's PTA is doing phenomenal work - they raised nearly $130k to support their school last year. That's a heck of a lot of money for any PTA and for new one it is astonishing. Kudos to them.
Now after I received Director Carr's e-mail, I checked the McDonald website. As you may recall, they were quite excited about receiving $125k and had suggested that "we could create a reserve fund" using the $125k. This suggests that if they did raise the funds, they would keep the $125k as a "reserve" so that the fundraising burden would not be so great on both incoming K families and current families. I absolutely get how worrisome it must be for that community.
But the idea that they could use the money in that way just doesn't fly.
And so when I went back to the website, the wording was changed. It was now $110k and they said that this blog was confused about the reserve. Now a check today at the website shows all the wording about the district's new infusion is gone as is the mention of the creation of a reserve fund.
This is the issue as it stands now with their fundraising at about $90k plus the district infusion of $110 so that makes $200k. They need $100k more by the start of school (and probably sooner as the district needs to hire people). I do not envy their challenge.
But again, this blog looks at most issues at a district-level. While I know it is easy to get caught in the weeds of your school, understand that we are trying to daylight issues that affect the entire district in ways big and small.