Dec 12 Board Meeting Recap

This blog is just a quick recap of some highlights from the December 12, 2019 Board Meeting.  When doing these updates, I generally only cover the action items(which is a minority portion of the meeting).   The full audio recording can be found here.  


As it routinely, does, the Board approved the “Consent Agenda.”  Frankly, I am unclear as to the process with the Consent Agenda.  The items are never discussed during the meeting, but do appear on the approved minutes.  The content is mostly employee changes and general financial data.  I plan to do some investigation and will provide clarification in a later blog.    


The Board welcomed Casey Taylor, Scott Killough and Darby Kaikkonen as Directors.  They join Rita Luce(joined 2005) and Melissa Beard(joined 2016).  


Mel Murray led a committee to make recommendations to the Board regarding renaming the school and building formerly known as Secondary Options.  As recommended by the committee, the Board approved naming the building THE TUMWATER LEARNING CENTER and renaming the school CASCADIA HIGH SCHOOL.   

That was it for action items, but there were some interesting reports. . .


Mel Murray seems to be a great asset for TSD.  He has a wealth of knowledge, manages multiple projects at the time, and is really good at providing simple and understandable information without oversharing.  Nothing overly groundbreaking in Mel’s report, but he did share a slide showing the vacant property TSD currently owns.  I thought it was worth sharing.  



The Board did spend 45 minutes or so talking about budget issues.  Jim Brittain and Sean Dotson did most of the talking, while the Board members asked questions and sought insight about some of the difficult financial decisions the Board must make over the course of the next few months or so.  As many of you know, I have been critical of the Board in the past due to what I perceive as a lack of interest in the financial matters of TSD.  This meeting was refreshing, and I hope the discussions continue.  

As a reminder, the projected deficit during the 2019/20 school year is about $2.5 million, meaning TSD budgeted to spend about $2.5 million more than it will receive in income.  Compounding the financial difficulties, as part of the budget crisis last year, the Board approved a resolution where the minimum Fund Balance(TSD’s Savings account) was set at 4% of the total budget(about $90 million).  Here is a chart showing the historical level of the fund balance.  Note the current fund balance is several million dollars less than prior years.  


In essence, TSD must have about $3.5 million in savings at the end of each year.  Sean advised the Board that, without significant and immediate reductions in spending, it is highly likely the fund balance will be less than $3.5 million at the end of the 2019/20 school year, and most certainly will dip below that level during the first few months of 2020. 

The Board discussed some priorities, but appeared unwilling to direct Sean to make substantive reductions at present. It sounded like Sean is going to come back to the next meeting with some options for consideration by the Board.

Because TSD started with a much lower fund balance from a historical perspective, it does not have the luxury of running at a deficit in the upcoming years.   Unless there are additional funding resources, TSD will need to cut at least a few million dollars from its budget just to break even next year.  

Last year, the Board did not take action until it was much too late and the options became limited.  The Board continually deferred any decisions with the hope that TSD would have an enrollment upswing, or the Legislature would provide more funding, neither of which occurred.  With the Superintendent change, and three new Board members, I am hopeful this Board will be more proactive.  Difficult and undesirable action is inevitable and it is my hope they get to the discussion promptly.      


Enrollment continues to be a “hot” topic at the Board meetings.   Enrollment at TSD has consistently decreased over the last 2 years, and appears to be on a pretty level trend.   TSD’s enrollment currently sits at the same level as 2015/16.  Notably, enrollment traditionally decreases throughout the year.   Here is a chart showing enrollment numbers since 2013.  


Enrollment is one of the most crucial components of the budget as virtually all of the state funding is tied to the number of students enrolled(Enrollment does not affect levy funds as TSD gets the same amount of levy money regardless of enrollment)

I am curious about the staffing levels at TSD.  Like many operations, TSD largest expense is staff costs(well over 70% of the budget).  It is difficult to make substantive changes to the budget without considering staff expenditures. TSD will have to navigate this very trick terrain in the upcoming months. I wonder if the staffing levels are closer to 2017/18 levels(when enrollment was at 6800) or in line with 2015/16 levels(when enrollment was where it sits today—about 6500).   I plan to do a blog on the topic within the next month or so.   


Sean’s reports are pretty direct.  His primary focus was seeking some clarity from the Board as to what they wanted him(and TSD) to focus on during the next legislative session.  Sean suggested that TSD should try to focus on the same topics as statewide organizations(OSPI, WASDA, ESD 113 and WEA), and pool resources.  This makes sense. It sounds to me like the organizations are all going to try and convince the legislature that there are still inequities, and state funds do not approach that which is necessary to educate students.  

Sean also indicated he had talked with multiple legislators, many of whom indicated that the State Transportation Department will “occupy most of the air in the room” with respect to budgeting, and education would not receive much attention at all.  


That is it for now.  Tami or I will continue to provide routine updates regarding what happens at the Board meetings.  

WIAA Classifications

There has been a lot of talk in the community about whether or not Tumwater High School is going the stay in 2A or move up to 3A.  I had a pretty good idea how the WIAA classifications worked, and figured the topic might be interesting for a blog.  This is a short blog about the basics of how WIAA classifies schools, and the impact of that classification on THS and BHHS.  


The Washington Interscholastic Activities Association(WIAA) has divided high school competition into 6 statewide classifications, primarily based upon net enrollment. 

Net Enrollment is calculated every 4 years, and the calculation excludes seniors.  As an example, the net enrollment at THS was 950 at last count(2015/16), even though the total enrollment at THS(including seniors) was about 1250 students.  BHHS had a net enrollment, for classification purposes, of 726 students, while its total enrollment was around 865. 

The current classifications which are effective from 2016/17 through 2019/20 can be found here. With very limited exceptions, each school plays all of its sports in the assigned classification.  The classifications are done in 4 year cycles, with this year(2019/20) being the last year of the prior classifications.  WIAA will rework the classifications effective for the 2020/21 school year.  

When the last classifications were done in 2016, THS was the 4th largest 2A school, while BHHS fell in the middle of the pack.  Here is the  current classification list of 2A schools:


Schools can “opt up.”  Opting up allows a team play in a higher classification.   As an example, during the last go around, one school with 1A enrollment(Archbishop Murphy) opted to play in the 2A classification.  13 teams with 2A enrollment opted to play 3A the last go around.  Notably, of the 13 3A schools that opted to play up, only one of them had an enrollment greater than THS and about half of them had an enrollment greater than BHHS.  


WIAA has traditionally tried to divide the schools evenly in each of the 6 classifications(one-sixth in 4A, one-sixth in 3A, etc).   WIAA has about 390 participating schools, so each classification has about 65 schools.    The largest 65 went to 4A, the next largest 65 went to 3A, etc.  There were obviously some exceptions that I will not go into. 

Starting with the 2020/21 schools year, instead of using the “one-sixth” method, schools will be classified based upon fixed parameters, or a “hard count.”  


Under the prior system, there was some uncertainty with respect to those schools that were close to the threshold as they could not conclusively determine where they would fall at the end of the day given the classifications were based on which “sixth” you fell in as compared with the other 390 or so schools(top sixth, second sixth, etc). 

With the changes, a school can look at its count, and, with some certainty, understand where it will be classified.  The adjusted net enrollment counts were available November 25, 2019.  I have not obtained any official counts, but it is my understanding that the count for THS is somewhere around 875, with 900 being the cutoff for 3A, so THS would remain in the 2A ranks.  I am uncertain of where BHHS sits, but am confident BHHS remains somewhere between 450 and 899, thus it will remain 2A.  

When the classifications are done, the number in each group will likely be uneven.  For example, there could be 70 4A teams, 60 3A teams, 65 2A teams, etc.


THS has a choice to make.  THS could play where it is classified.   After all, WIAA has determined schools with 900 or fewer students should be in the 2A classification.  On the other hand, THS could opt up.  Opt ups appear to be liberally granted.  If a school wants to compete against larger schools, the WIAA routinely consents.  

If THS wants to opt up, the deadline is January 10, 2020. The reclassification process is set to be complete by January 26, 2020 when the WIAA Executive Board meets.   



THS would need to affiliate with a league in which to play in 3A sports.  As I pointed out in my prior blog, THS currently competes, and pretty much dominates, the Evergreen Conference(EVCO).  Most of the local 3A teams(including Capital, North Thurston, Timberline, Shelton, and Yelm) play in the South Sound Conference(SSC).   THS could likely affiliate with the SSC.   The SSC also includes Gig Harbor, Peninsula, and Central Kitsap.  THS now travels as far as Aberdeen, Centralia and Chehalis. A move to the SSC would be beneficial for travel to some degree: most schools would be closer, but the longest road trips would be a little longer. 

The competition would definitely be more appropriate, and I am confident THS would not win 75% of its games and 50% of the Conference championships in the SSC.   


As a parent of THS athletes, and someone who closely follows many of the THS(and BHHS) teams, I hope the leaders at THS decide to opt up to 3A.  My reasoning is twofold:

1. COMPETITION:For competition purposes, the SSC would be significantly better as THS clearly has inappropriate competition in the EVCO.  Many THS teams are rarely challenged in league play, and as I pointed out previously, THS teams win nearly 75% of their EVCO games.  This is disheartening for the opponents, who often know they have no chance of success.  The process also is often detrimental to player and team development as it is difficult to improve in the absence of “like v like” competition.  I appreciate there are many high schools game across the state where the competition is imbalanced.  However, the manner in which THS dominates the EVCO pretty much across the board is unique from my perspective.

2.COMMUNITY/TRAVEL:  I would love to see THS participate in a league where there predominately Thurston County Schools.   The travel would be simpler(and more cost effective), the attendance/gates would be larger and the community feel would be enhanced.  I have coached in the community for years.  I watch athletes from different schools play together on recreational and competitive teams throughout the year, and would love to watch them square off on the field/court much more frequently.   

Ultimately, the decision as to whether or not THS opts up will likely be made by the THS administration.  If you want your voice heard, you can contact the THS Dean of Students Director, Tim Graham,  or the THS Principal, Jeff Broome 

As always, please feel free to contact me with any thoughts or comments.

2019/20 Middle School Class Size Investigated

How is TSD doing on class size at the Middle School level? 

A previous blog discussed the class size in TSD elementary schools and High Schools.  Unlike class size studies for elementary schools, there isn’t really much out there discussing recommended class sizes for secondary classes. (you can read the latest blog on elementary class size here). This blog mainly addresses the seats available in the classroom(likely around 25-35) and the stated threshold capacity.  Some classes are more intensive, and take more time outside of the classroom, than other classes.  For instance a PE class is less likely than an English class to add a significant amount of time to a teacher with added students.  With not much outside TSD available, the contract between TEA and TSD is used as the baseline for class size in this discussion.

Article 37.E.5 of the TEA contracts states as follows:

“Secondary Class Size and Targeted Average.
 The employee workload in secondary classrooms (except band, choir, orchestra, and PE) shall average no more than 27 students per period, with a class size of 30 for impact. These calculations shall exclude student assistants or peer tutors. If an individual class exceeds the impact level (30), overload compensation will apply. If the overall targeted average of 27 is exceeded, overload compensation will apply. Employees will only receive overload compensation for one of the two provisions, whichever provides the greater compensation.”

So what does that mean?   A teacher having classes averaging more than 27 students throughout the day, or a single class over 30 students, were agreed by TEA and TSD as the threshold for impact.  From this one can conclude that 27 is the desired maximum in a class.  From a budget perspective, this means that any class over 30 students automatically qualifies for “overload compensation”, and any teacher who has an average of more than 27 students throughout the day qualifies for “overload compensation”.  

What classes at BMS and TMS would be considered “overloaded” based on the 27 student maximum? 

Both middle schools have several classes that are over the threshold of 27 students, with many over the 30 student threshold. (Band, Choir, Orchestra and PE were not included in this investigation).

The following chart was compiled from the data showing the size of English classes at both middle schools:

BMS and TMS both have several English classes that would be considered overcrowded using the 27 students per class as the line where a class is “overloaded”.  Most classes have an overall average below the 27 threshold with the exception of BMS 7th grade English and BMS 8th grade Honors English.  

6th Grade English.  BMS has 30% of their classes over 27 students and 10% at, or over, 30, where TMS has 11% over 27, and no class at 30 or over. The overall average 6th grade English class size at BMS sits at 25.9, and at TMS it is 24.8.   

7th Grade English.  BMS has more 7th grade students than it has room for.  BMS has 88% over 27 and 50% at or over 30 students.  The average class size for 7th grade English at BMS is 29.3, which is above the 27 threshold.  TMS has 22% of its 7th grade English classes over 27, and none at or over 30, with an average class size of 23.2.  

TMS does not have any 8th grade Honors English classes over 27, with an average class size of 24.  In contrast,  every 8th grade Honors English class at BMS is over 27, and 67% have 30 or more students, with an average of 30 students per class.   The average for the classes at BMS indicates there are more 8th grade Honors English students than there is room for at BMS  The 8th grade English classes at BMS only have 17% at 30 with an average of 21.5.  It might be possible to have added an Honors class and taken away a regular English class to alleviate this, but there are a few things that would have to align to make that a workable possibility.

The same approach with the math classes is as follows:

With Math classes, the more advanced math classes are overloaded.  For instance, at both BMS and TMS the 6th Compressed Math(BMS only), 7th grade Compressed Math and the Integrated Math are significantly overloaded with averages all over 27. Almost every level of math class have a number of classes with more than 27 students.

*Although, I could not locate the data for TMS 6th grade Compressed Math, it appears that course is not offered at TMS.  TMS 6th Grade Math have 67% of the classes with more than 27 students, and 17% with 30 or more students and an overall average of 28 students.  BMS has nearly 30% of the 6th grade math classes with 30 or more students.  

The Integrated Math classes at BMS all have more than 30 students, with an average of 32.5 students.  TMS is slightly less crowded with an average of 28.5.  Both schools have more students taking Integrated Math than they have space.

The same approach for Social Studies classes at both middle schools is as follows:

With Social Studies classes, the data seems to follow the English data for both BMS and TMS.  Meaning, the courses for each grade are overloaded if the English classes for that grade are overloaded.  

For example, 20% at BMS and 44% at TMS of the 6th Grade Social Studies(SS) classes are over the 27 students threshold. 

7th Grade SS is greatly overcrowded at BMS as were the 7th Grade English classes, with 75% of SS classes over 27 students and 63% at 30 or more with an average class size of 29.1.  This would suggest BMS has more 7th grade students than they have space if several of the core classes are overloaded.  7th Grade SS at TMS are also overcrowded with 50% over 27 students and 13% with 30 or more students and an average class size of 27.1.

BMS also has several 8th grade SS classes over the 27 threshold (44%) and 33% at 30 or more students with an average of 25.6 students.

The same approach for Science classes at both high schools is follows:

The science classes also follow trends from the data above. 

BMS has 67% of 6th Grade Science classes over 27 and 33% at 30 or above with an average of 28.6.  There are more 6th grade students than they have science class space.  TMS is a little better, but still has 56% of the 6th grade science classes over 27 with an average of 25.7.

As the previous core classes also indicated there are more 7th grade students at BMS than there are space in the core classes.  At BMS 44% of the 7th grade science classes have more than 27 students and 33% have 30 or more students with an average of 26.8.  Again TMS is a little better with 25% of 7th Grade Science classes over 27 and an average of 26.6 students.  Both are approaching an average number of students that would make it impossible to keep class sizes below the threshold without adding more teachers and cost. 

BMS is also has 44% of 8th Grade Science classes above 27 students and 11% at 30 or above with an average of 24.9.  TMS is much better with no classes over 27 students in 8th Grade Science and an average of 23.6.

From the data above it is clear there are more students in each grade at BMS than spots available in most of the core classes.  Similarly, TMS has several core classes that are overcrowded but to a lesser degree than BMS.

In looking at other classes taken by students, there is a clear overcrowding of these classes also.  This further supports there are more students at the middle schools than they have space.

This conclusion is highlighted when looking at the Health classes:


BMS has 88% of its 6th Grade Health classes over 27 students, and 63% at 30 or more students, with an average of 29.1 students per class.  BMS also has 50% of its 7th Grade Health classes over 27 and 25% at 30 or more, with an average of 26.9.  BMS has 38% of 8th Grade Health classes over 27 students with and average of 26.4.

It is always going to be that there are some hours during the day where a course may be more crowded than another, however, when the average number of students is more than the threshold, or very close, it is more likely to have several classes that are over that threshold.  The charts above are a good example of this happening in our schools.  BMS clearly has more students than it has spaces, unless they hire more teachers at a cost or overcrowd the classes and over work the teachers, giving them a little extra compensation.

The variables that effect overcrowding are the number of teachers and the number of students, both of which TSD controls. 

The number of incoming residents students is fairly predictable, and TSD can control the number of transfer students approved.  It would seem logical for the decision on transfer students to be made in the summer(after most “move ins” have occurred), when enrollment is more predictable and TSD knows how many resident students will be in the classes.  Our understanding is that this is not the current practice.  However TSD is in the process of changing the transfer practice.  I have written a couple blogs on the process up to this point.  You can read them here and here

Since TSD does not keep track of the which grades the non-resident students are in, it is difficult to say exactly how much of an effect this has had on the class size.  For example, BMS has 23 non-resident students and TMS has 27 non-residents, these non-resident students could be split evenly or all could be in one grade. Without the data collected and stored, it is impossible to know which is accurate.  This would make a significant difference in the class sizes if they are all in the same grade.

In my opinion, letting the transfer students in before the spaces available have been determined does not make sense unless TSD decides to add more classes/teachers at a cost.  Transfer students can be helpful to the budget if placed in classes that have available spaces.  TSD has not made adequate effort to place non-resident students where we need space until the last couple years (and, it appears, only at the elementary level).  There still needs to be improvement at the elementary level, as well as the secondary level.  I am hopeful they are going to implement some changes so that we see less overcrowding and non-resident students are used to fill in gaps, not add to the overcrowding in our already overcrowded classes.  


The TEA contract allows for classes to be overloaded as long as the teachers are compensated, which may not be a bad option at the MS and/or HS level.  However, similar to elementary classes, when class sizes increase in a high school class, this can create class management difficulties and increase the work load of the teacher.  Also, with the move to a more inclusive environment(SpED), class management will continue to deteriorate if class sizes do not go down.  Limited desk space may also pose a challenge if the class sizes are large enough.  It would appear that either a misappropriation of classes/teachers has occurred or a miscalculation on the number of students attending the middle schools. 

The miscalculation is evident with each grade at BMS and TMS.  

The raw data from our records report can be found on our documents page, here.

As always Scott and I welcome comments and questions.  Please email us at

An analysis of the Performance of TDS Athletic teams


I have been pretty active with both THS and BHHS over the past several years, and have observed hundreds of athletic events.  My overall impression is that THS, and to a lesser degree, BHHS, do not find adequate competition in the EVCO.  I wanted to collect some data, and see if my impressions were supported by the statistics.  Accordingly, I collected the EVCO results for THS and BHHS over the past 3 years(since the last classification was done).  Please note that this analysis only includes EVCO games, and does not include non-league games. 


 THS and BHHS are both classified as 2A schools and compete in the Evergreen Conference.  The other 4 schools in the Conference are Aberdeen, Centralia, Rochester and WF West.  Here is the enrollment over the past 3 years for the EVCO schools.  


THS has over 200 more students than its nearest peer in the EVCO.  BHHS sits in the middle of pack in 2A, and is about 80 students short of the EVCO average.  


The short answer is exceedingly well.  If things were totally balanced in a 6 team conference, one would expect each school to win about one-sixth(17%) of the conference championships. Things are not balanced in the EVCO.  Over the past 3 years, BHHS won 11 of 56(19%) conference championships across all sports.  However, THS won 24 of the 56(almost 43%) EVCO titles. As a result, the two TSD schools captured 35 of the 56 conference titles(62%), leaving the other 4 schools to split the remaining 21 titles(an average of about 5 a piece).  Here is the chart of the results in all sports for THS and BHHS for the last 3 full years(highlighted years indicate conference championships):


On average, BHHS teams win about 56% of their games.   More than expected, but not totally out of the norm.  A 56% win percentage is evidence that while BHHS excels, it is probably getting good competition the majority of the time.  

In contrast THS teams win about 74% of their games, which is much more than expected, and, in my view, indicates an inappropriate level of competition.  A 74% victory rate is indicative of a lack of competition, which, in my experience is pretty common with THS.  Notably, The 74% victory rate includes one team that only wins 5% of its games.  If that team was not part of the calculation, the winning percentage would be around 77%.  

15 of 19 THS teams win more than 70% of their games.  Astonishingly, 6 THS teams win at least 90% of their games.  I know that some of the readers will point to the THS football team, which has been dominant for years.   My personal view is that program is an outlier, and would likely be just as dominant in pretty much any league classification in the state.  However, it is somewhat surprising that teams can exhibit dominance in the manner in which the THS soccer, volleyball, cross country and track teams clearly overmatch their EVCO opponents to a point wherein the results are rarely in doubt before the games commence.    


THS has about 20% more students than any other EVCO school, and nearly 350 more students than the average of the other EVCO schools(without THS the average enrollment of EVCO schools is about 892).  The bigger pool from which to compile teams invariably results in more students with talent.   

Similarly, as I will outline in an upcoming blog, THS teams are comprised of a disproportionate amount of out district students, and it is clear that athletes transfer into THS in numbers that are even greater than the already disproportionate amount of the general population.  There are other variables which I have not mentioned.  These could include THS being a preferred location for coaches and boosters, facilities, and proximity to a larger population area(which may avail itself to more resources.)  I am sure there are other reasons which I have not contemplated.  

UP NEXT . . .

WIAA is reclassifying schools, and the re-classifications will be effective for the 2020/21 schools year.  In my next blog, I will look at how WIAA classifies schools, and how the re-classifications may affect THS and BHHS.  

Transfer Review Committee-We made a little progress

As our readers know, I am on the recently formed Transfer Review Committee for TSD.  We had our second meeting on December 9th and made a little progress so I wanted to provide an update.

We took what we discussed at the last meeting and made some decisions for recommendations for Superintendent Dotson.  He plans to take our recommendations and draft a policy for Inter-zone transfers.  We have yet to delve deeply into the nonresident student policy, which I hope will be done at the upcoming meetings.

Sean Dotson asked the group to approve(via a vote) some basic principles which surrounded prioritizing transfer requests.  These are the suggestions from the committee(as I understood them), which will be presented to the Board for consideration:

  • Changing the nomenclature to match what is in the statutes.  “Inter-zone” student instead of “intra-district” student and “non-resident” student instead of “inter-district” student.
  • Give School Staff children first priority, before any transfer student, including inter-zone and nonresident renewals, siblings etc. 
  • Give all inter-zone transfers priority over any non-resident student, including renewals, siblings, etc.
  • With-in the inter-zone transfers, give students displaced by the boundary change priority over other transfer students.  However, the priority only applies to students currently enrolled in the schools and lasts only until those students finish 5th grade since the middle schools and high school boundaries were not changed.  As an example, a transfer student at the elementary school would be given no priority when applying at the middle(or high) school, with no priority to siblings who are not currently enrolled in the elementary school.

For the next meeting:

I hope we address some of the non-resident transfer procedures at our next meeting.  I am hopeful that the District is trying to address the concerns brought up in the Thought Exchange.  From the comments and ratings in the Thought Exchange it appears that the general desire was to limit and possibly phase out most non-resident transfers to the extent possible. The committee has yet to delve into that work, but I am hoping to get there.

As a side note, in our meeting, the comment was made that “since the State gives us money for the nonresident transfers shouldn’t we just accept as many as apply?”.  If you are still unclear about how the funding for students works and how non-resident students impact the budget you can check out Scott’s blog from a few months ago, here.  In short, the per student cost TSD reports to OSPI is about $2000 higher than what the state actually provides to the district per student.  The district fills that gap with levy funds collected from Tumwater taxpayers.  While the manner in which TSD has accepted non-resident students in the past has had a negative effect on the budget, with a more deliberate process, strategically placed non-resident students could actually have a positive effect on the budget.  Scott and I are optimistic that such a result will be part of the a product of the transfer committee’s recommendations.  

Superintendent Dotson indicated he would work on drafting some policies and procedures consistent with the above and we will discuss those policies and procedures at the next meeting which is set for January 13, 2020.

In the interim, I would welcome any input for consideration by the Committee.

The Community Forum is scheduled for January 27, 2020 from 7-8:30 at Tumwater Middle School.  

During this forum, the committee will present its original recommendations.  This will be your opportunity to ask questions and to let the Committee and the District know what your thoughts are on the process and the procedures we have drafted up to that point.  Mark your calendars and plan to attend.

To see what happened at the first meeting you can read my recap here.

As always, we welcome your feedback and questions.  Contact us at

What I learned at the Transfer Committee Meeting

It has been a couple weeks since the newly formed Transfer Committee met for the first time.   With the first meeting, the committee addressed the first task–inter-zone transfer procedures.  The transfer process is a pretty hot topic and I am going to try and blog about the meetings.  

Some Things I Learned

  • The committee has about 20 members, including the Principals from each of the ten schools in the district, a few community members and other district employees.  Sean Dotson led the discussion, which was done in the large group, and then small groups of 4 or 5.   
  • Past practice appears to be that the Principals are the primary decision maker as to  acceptance of transfers.  In listening to the principals, a few of the elementary schools are denying several applicants, while the high schools accept most applicants, with the decision based primarily on capacity determined by the Principals.    
  • The first meeting focused mainly on the Intra-District Procedures.
  • Policy vs Procedure.  The Board sets policy, while the Superintendent implements the procedure, which does not require Board approval.  With the Intra-district transfers, the committee is unlikely to deal with the policy, and will focus on the procedure.  This makes sense as the policy is very vague and provides a lot of discretion.  
  • Prioritizing.   It seems one of the focal points for the committee will be developing priorities as to transfers.   Based on the conversations, it appears interzone transfers(Tumwater residents who want to transfer to another Tumwater school) will get priority over those students that are seeking to transfer from out of district.  Within the interzone transfers, it also appears likely that those affected by the recent boundary changes may get some time limited priority if the they want to remain with their prior school.  
  • Reasons for transfer.  Historically, the application allowed space for a reason the transfer is being requested.  However, a few years ago TSD moved to no longer asking for a reason.  There were several principals that pointed out the potential dilemma over deciding the importance of one student’s need over another(i.e. is one family’s reason more important than another family’s reason).   Accordingly, TSD no longer asks for a reason and, unless the principals have some knowledge about a particular situation, the basis for a transfer request does not seem to factor into the decision.   
  • Timing.  The applications have been routinely time stamped, and TSD’s procedure mandates a response within 45 days.  Some of the TSD schools have accepted applications as early as mid-late January.  Accordingly, there has been some benefit to being “first in time” with an application.  There was some discussion about inequity with this process as those who have more resources may be able to get in line first.  Some people also pointed out that the timing is really irrelevant, so it makes sense to just have a deadline and then consider all applications at the same time.  If the reason for the transfer is not considered, and the timing does not matter, maybe a lottery makes sense. If you have 20 applicants, and 5 spots, put all 20 names into a hat and draw 5 out.  
  • The next meeting is December 9th.  The slated topics are the Decision Principles–Keeping commitments to already enrolled students, fiscal impacts, and applicable state and federal laws which affect transfers.(2)Priorities——Inter-zone, boundary affected students, Non-resident, renewals vs. new requests, siblings.  If you have anything you want me to take to the committee, please feel free to let me know.  
  • Mark your calendars for the community forum on January 27th, 7-8:30 pm at Tumwater Middle School.  The Committee will be there taking comments from the public.

As always we welcome any comments or suggestions.  Email us at