The district created a new Student Assignment Plan in 2009 that was approved by the Board. It was a big change, primarily because the district went from a choice plan to a neighborhood plan. I know that many of you don't like this form of SAP but, at the time, many parents were clamoring for a neighborhood plan because of the assurance of knowing what school their child would be assigned to. The interesting thing I wonder about is that under the choice plan, 90% of people received their first choice. That's a pretty good percentage but was that their desired choice or just the best choice they felt they could make in terms of knowing where their child would be? I haven't heard any numbers on the choice within the neighborhood plan.
Then, with the explosive growth in the district, the plan had to be tweeted and so there was a Transition Plan. What is confusing to me is that the district is still in a growth mode plus opening new schools even after school year 2017-2018. Why they would not continue having a Transition Plan until all those new schools are open is a mystery.
I attended the SAP community meeting on Thursday night at Ingraham. It was very much per the district's distinct manner of holding such a forum - a bare-bones presentation followed by community questions, the majority of which received no answers.
No real answers is the MO for the district so most of the time, you leave these things with even more questions and maybe just one new piece of information.
Head of Enrollment, Ashley Davies, lead the meeting. Flip Herndon was in attendance as were a few JSCEE staffers and Board Director, Jill Geary. There were about 10 parents and me. Here is the link to the presentation.
On a personal note, I will admit I arrived at this meeting feeling more than a little irritated because of what I had learned both from my own research and from others'. I spoke out much more forcefully than I generally do.
- What was presented were just the changes. Ms. Davies said there were no other changes to the SAP beyond these.What I wish staff had done is to present the changes but put up at the website, the complete SAP with redlined changed. It would make it much easier to understand the plan in totality.
- But what also wasn't presented but turns out to be VERY important is the BAR (Board Action Report) that will be presented to the Board next week at the Board meeting. Eden Mack of SCPTA found this:
“The Student Assignment Plan, as approved by the School Board in 2009, continues to serve as important reference tool, containing fundamental definitions and Plan development principles. The provisions of the attached document, the Student Assignment Plan for 2017-18, will prevail in the case of any conflicts with previously approved Plans, boundaries, and/or GeoZones.” (highlight mine)I read this out loud at the meeting and there was dead silence.
Kind of clever, no? Because you'd think that any "conflicts" would be ironed out between what has already been approved and these new changes.
It seems to me that would seem to put a lot of work on the Board to check if there are conflicts and see how the SAP would resolve them.
- Despite the fact that there will be a new high school coming online in just a couple of years, there is no mention of high schools in the changes. I pointed out that for anyone reading the SAP, this might be confusing when those changes came and yet the SAP did not acknowledge that. Page 1 has such a list but does not note this coming (and potentially huge) change.
I pointed this out at the meeting and there was no response.
- Nearly every single place where Spectrum is noted in this document, it is redlined out. Instead the phrase "Advanced Learner" is used.
I pointed this out and said that I believed that Spectrum has been systematically dismantled. I called that dishonest and duplicitous. An Advanced Learning staffer who I did not recognized said that principals had been the ones to make the choice to change Spectrum at their schools.
That really irritated me because it is one more point in a long line of issues that somehow are now the purview of principals. (I had someone at JSCEE try to tell me that principals have always been allowed to make school-based decisions. That is just not true and I am the wrong person to try to gaslight. I've been around way to long.)
I turned to Director Geary and said, "Please hear this issue. Principals across the district are making decisions that parents are questioning. Please ask the Superintendent to make clear what falls under district mandates and then, what decisions can principals make on their own." (I'm not sure that Director Geary appreciated me doing that but this is about the third meeting I have attended where a parent expressed confusion over what decisions principals can make.)
To say that a principal can fundamentally change a district program on his/her own is just baffling. And, they can do it without notice or real discussion. That is exactly what happened to Spectrum in most cases.
My main point is that if the district is allowing changes to happen, then they have to be clear and honest with parents about it. Because if you go to the website, you'd think Spectrum was a going thing which it is not. Again, dishonest. I have to wonder when that (quiet) change will be made to the website so that parents can't claim they read one thing at the website, signed up for Spectrum only to find it completely different than advertised at the website.
What is somewhat funny is that ALO is still there even though, it too, has no real definition and, like many other decisions, is whatever principals chose to make of it.
- I also questioned the issue of Special Education and the notation on page 8 - Students who receive all other intensive special education services are assigned individually based on student needs, and may also apply for assignment to another school offering the same services through School Choice.
The bottom of page 11 says:
Changes not connected to the Open Enrollment process are adjusted as needed. If warranted by student needs, intensive special education services may be added at other times and locations.
I asked, "What is the definition of "intensive" and why isn't it included? Ms. Davies said, yes, they would be working with Special Education staff on that and she pointed out that this was a special interest of Director Geary.
That's fine except staff is presenting this document to parents now. Why wasn't that work already done?
It feels very much like staff uses language that they don't clear define and that may be by design so that they can later change it.
- I did see another interesting term under the "Montessori" designation on page 10.
Leschi offers a blended (contemporary and Montessori) program to all students.
I'm guessing that "contemporary" means Gen Ed as I have never heard that term before.
That section also has this interesting phrasing:
After waitlists have been dissolved, program changes within the same school will be at the principal discretion.
Wait, what? Parents sign up for a program at a school and after school starts, the principal can change the program?
- International Schools seems to now have two sections; international schools and "International Schools with Dual Language Immersion."
I note that they are no longer going to link JSIS and McDonald to B.F. Day.
- Feeder schools. One good point that Eden Mack made was that page 16, which has a chart of feeder schools, doesn't clearly state that Option Schools are feeder schools. Even if enrolling in them is different than your area school, K-5 and K-8 Option Schools are feeder schools to middle and high schools.
One parent asked about the number of classrooms being made available for Licton Springs K-8. She said that there doesn't even seem to be enough for nine grade levels and certainly not room to grow. She said there would be fewer classrooms at RESMS than currently are in use at Lincoln. (Meaning LS would never grow larger than 150 students which makes for an expensive school, for one thing.)
The parent asked what she was missing.
Ms Davies said yes, she was correct on the number of classrooms.
I interjected and said that what Ms. Davies was not saying is that, originally, there WERE more classrooms to be allotted to LS at RESMS. When and how that change happened has never been explained and yet, it will have a dramatic impact on LS.
What this points to me to is that staff doesn't really want to support LS and is likely hoping to be able to point to low enrollment/high cost as a reason to close it, once and for all.
Another issue was around the number of elementaries that will experience splits at the middle school level. Ms. Davis replied that there would be more updates on that issue but did not say when. Ms. Davies did say it was important to note that not all kids at all elementaries are those who live in the attendance area.
Eden Mack asked about numbers for RESMS and Ms. Davies said the Gen Ed number was 666. She said there were about 296 HCC students. The total capacity of RESMS is 850.
What this question brought up for many parents there are the lack of clear numbers. I know from emails that many parents are trying to suss out the numbers and have been unable to get clear information.
One parent raised the issue of her child being at HCC at Hamilton and then possibly having to move in 8th grade. (I did not know Hamilton had 1200 students; they must be packed to the gills.)
Another parent stated that they had liked Spectrum and believed if it was gone that many more students would attempt to get into HCC.
Feb. 6, 2017 - Choice Forms available. That means you can get those forms a week before they are due and start filling them out.
Feb. 13 - Open Enrollment begins
Feb. 24th - Open Enrollment ends
April 17 - You can look up assignments online.