Saturday, December 7, 2013

Boundary Changes or Choices?, And Other 12/3 Highlights

This past Tuesday 12/3, we had our first board meeting in a month. Surprisingly, we didn't spend much time on the controversial issues in the news recently: the Evergreen math revolt  is mostly in a stable state with the district continuing to work with affected parents, and the cell phone privacy issue is under review for discussion in a future meeting.   

Probably the most interesting issue at this meeting was the need to change elementary school attendance area boundaries, due to concentrations of new families in the area not matching the locations of schools. Superintendent Scott reminded us that this always creates a lot of controversy, as parents don't like being told to attend a different school than they expected, especially when the new one may be farther away. The staff outlined a process that involves a lot of public notification, meetings with representaiton from affected parties, etc. If we are going to change boundaries, this seems like a good process to me.

But I had a slightly different take on the issue: instead of telling selected parents to move their children, could we provide incentives for voluntary transfers?   For example, I bet many parents would be willing to let their children be bussed farther away for unique opportunities like a dual-language or STEM program, or even just to attend a school with a higher state rating. As an additional incentive we could provide guaranteed transportation from certain high-density neighborhoods (normally students transferring out of their local school are not guaranteed transport.) This would work better if we had more differentiated programs at our elementary schools, but why not consider some new ideas specifically due to this motivation?   And I bet parents would be a lot happier solving this problem through voluntary means than through dictating a solution based solely on residence areas. The staff is going to think further about this idea, though at this point we need to also start the boundary change process regardless.

Other highlights of the meeting included:
  • A review of ELL (English Language Learner) programs and staff development.  Travis pointed out that some major gains by younger ELL students in the past couple of years are not yet reflected in test scores, since students are only tested at certain grade levels, but we should expect some dramatic increases soon.
  • Numerous small policy changes recommended by the OSBA to comply with state law. The more meticulous engineers of the group (Wayne and myself) nitpicked a new proposed policy on harrasment reporting: "In the event the designated person [to receive the report] is the suspected perpetrator, the assistant superintendent of Human Resources shall receive the report." Doesn't this re-create the original problem, of possibly needing to report someone to themselves, in case someone who is under the assistant superitendent of HR & needs to report him?  It would make more sense to state something generic like "the next higher manager in the organization", etc.

  • Our next board meeting is in two weeks, on Tuesday 12/17. Note that both this week's and the next one are full meetings rather than just work sessions, to make up for the lack of a meeting over Thanksgiving. Hope to see you there!

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