OSPI models for what school will look like this Fall?

It has a been a while since we posted a blog and I came across some work OSPI is leading on the plan to reopen schools in the Fall.  I thought this might be of interest to our followers.

We are all wondering what school will look like in the Fall.  Living with uncertainty, and unprecedented change of circumstances, has been hard on everyone. The impact on the educational system has been significant.

TSD, like virtually all other districts in the State, is currently operating under the Continuous Learning model.  For more information on continuous learning, you can click here to see Superintendent Dotson’s message here.

OSPI’s guidelines for continuous learning can be found here.

Everyone realizes things will be much different for the foreseeable future.  Given the exigent circumstances, while continuous learning is a viable option on a temporary basis, it behooves all of us to come up with a more sustainable plan.

To that end, OSPI convened a stakeholder workgroup in May, with the goal of providing recommendations and guidance to school districts as they plan for reopening.  The group includes over 100 members, from many areas within the educational system.  The group is expected to conclude its work in June. The link to the OPSI page regarding the workgroup is here.

The group discussed 7 possible “models” for reopening.  I have summarized the models below, but more information can be found here

  1. Traditional on-site face to face learning.  Like it “used to be.”   The group determined this was not an option. 
  2. On-site learning with split or rotating schedules.  Everybody onsite with face to face learning, but at staggered times so capacity is less than 100%
  3. Split or rotating schedules with distance learning.  A mix of Onsite face to face learning and some degree of distance learning.
  4. Phased in opening.  Districts might commence the school year at different times, as dictated by their local social distancing demands.  Students not in school could be in a “waiting” mode or could be distance learning.
  5. Phased in opening with distance learning.  Same as #4, but with those “waiting” engaged in distance learning. 
  6. Continuous learning 1.0.  This is the current model, which the group determined is not viable.
  7. Continuous learning 2.0.  Improved version of current model.

There are certainly more questions than answers at present.  Any of the options will pose a number of logistical issues, not to mention the budgetary considerations that will need to occur. The good news is that lots of qualified and vested stakeholders are working on solutions, and there also is some time to come up with a sustainable plan that can be implemented during Fall 2020.

As always, we welcome questions, concerns or suggestions. 

March 12 Board Meeting–Board Member Resigns, Coronavirus update and No Discussion on Sex Ed.

This is just a recap of the March 12, 2019 TSD Board meeting.  A couple prefatory notes (1) Unlike most of the Board meeting recaps, I added in quite a bit of commentary, and (2) For some perspective, this meeting was held the night before the Governor shut down schools statewide. 

There were a couple take home points from the Meeting(recorded audio can be found here):

Here are some highlights(with quite a bit of commentary from me):

  1. Rita Luce has retired. Rita served on the Board for over 15 years and the District is planning some type of ceremony.  The TSD Board plans to conduct interviews in early May.  With Rita’s retirement, the Board now has only one member who has served more than 5 months.
  2. As it routinely does, the Board approved the Consent Agenda, which deals with quite a number of significant fiscal issues. As is almost always the case, there was no discussion.
  3. Gender Inclusion policy and school calendar for 2020-21 were each approved without discussion.  I could not find these policies on the TSD website yet, but will get them up when links area available.  The drafts of these items discussed at the last board meeting are pictured in the blog we published from that meeting and can be found here.
  4. There was a first reading of the proposed revised graduation credits.  Each of the Board members who were present seemed engaged, and had questions for Shawn Batstone, who was presenting on the topic.  The version that is being circulated requires 24 hours of credit, but does allow for a waiver of up to 2 hours of credit.  Here is the link to the current requirements.  
  5. Coronavirus—-Sean updated the Board on the Coronavirus. The day of the meeting, King and Pierce County schools shut down until April 24th.  Sean went through many precautions being undertaken by TSD, some significant changes being made with respect to scheduling and building maintenance.  The theme was that TSD, and the other Thurston County Schools, would follow the direction of the Thurston County Public Health Department.   Sean was very thorough, and spent a lot of time talking about various courses of action being undertaken by TSD.

*******As it turns out, the day after the Board meeting all of the Thurston County schools followed suit and announced that all schools would be closed until April 24th.  

Notably, during the public comment period, Tim Voie, (TEA representative) used his time to talk about communication he has been receiving about the coronavirus.  He even pointed out that several of the teachers and other community members have concerns.  Tim expressed the cooperative work going on between TEA and TSD administration regarding potential issues that might arise(like closures).   However, the Board asked no questions of Tim, and engaged in no dialogue about the Coronavirus. 

Sean also talked about the possibility of online learning in the event of a closure, which seems unlikely in the short term given some state and federal requirements.  In essence, it sounds like OSPI is saying that TSD cannot provide online education to some students without provided the same opportunity for all students.  In talking with Sean, it sounds like there are some barriers to implementing an online program districtwide.   At the time of writing this, it appears OSPI is optimistic that a plan may be in place to provide online learning around March 30th

  1. Sex Education Bill—The School Board declined to discuss or take any action, regarding SB 5395

SB 5395 is a controversial bill awaiting the Governor’s signature that significantly revamps Sexual Education for K-12 students.  Here is a link to a recent blog I drafted on SB 5395. 

At least a few schools districts have taken a public position, advocating for their community.  Prior to the meeting, Sean Dotson advised me that the item could be added to the agenda if the Board deemed that it warranted attention. 

I, and many other TSD parents, asked the TSD Board to do the same and address SB 5395.    I received no response from any of the Board Members, which was surprising.  However, once I watched the Board meeting video, I realized the Board is going to take a “wait and see” approach, and does not intend to undertake a proactive approach in the short term.   

This was disappointing to me as I know many TSD families have strong opinions(both in favor and against).  What I do not know is how any of the Board members feel or what any of them would like to see happen.  Many districts have taken an active role in communicating with legislators, the governor and OSPI.  However, we have no indication what advocacy, if any, the TSD Board has undertaken.

I do appreciate the law, if signed, does not go into effect until 2021. However, many TSD families have asked TSD to advocate now, and the Board has declined to do so.  This lack of action is disappointing, especially given the routine absence of substantive discussion by the Board on important topics. 

  1. Breath of Fresh air during Board member comments.

Darby Kaikkonen used her Board member comment time to discuss a review of the attendance policy.  This was a breath of fresh air.  Darby had been reviewing some of the attendance policies, and put forth some concerns.   Sean Dotson indicated that he would work to further this discussion with the Board. 

The Board members routinely use their member comment time to talk about sporting events they have attended, musicals events they have attended, quality time spent in the schools, or other uplifting good events in the TSD community.  While I appreciate there are a lot of great things going on in TSD, we receive such a small amount of information from the Board members that I really appreciate a Board member actually discussing core board member functions(like TSD policies) during member comment time.  I  am hoping Darby has started a trend. 

The next meeting is set for March 26th, but it sounds like it will be done via electronic means.  

Sex Education Bill (SB 5395)-What You Need To Know

SB 5395 makes a few significant changes to the delivery of sexual education in schools and is one of the more controversial bills to be considered in recent memory.  As it deals directly with education, I figured a blog might be of interest to our readers. 

The law on the books at present(which I will refer to as the “2007 law”) was passed in 2007 and can be found here.  https://apps.leg.wa.gov/RCW/default.aspx?cite=28A.300.475.

The current bill(which I will refer to as the “2020 law”), has been passed by both bodies of the legislature, and will be become law absent a veto by Governor Inslee.  http://lawfilesext.leg.wa.gov/biennium/2019-20/Pdf/Bills/Senate%20Bills/5395-S.E.pdf?q=20200308161935

The language in the 2020 law pretty much mirrors the 2007 law with a few exceptions, but those exceptions have become lightning rods when it comes to the discussion.  

WHAT ARE THE EXCEPTIONS OF NOTE?

First, the 2020 version mandates Comprehensive Sexual Health Education(CSHE) in grades 6-12 beginning in September 2021, and grades K-5 beginning in September 2022.  Under the 2007 law, CSHE was voluntary—Districts and/or schools could choose to tackle the subject or choose not to do so.  So, we are going from a “the Districts can teach CSE if desired” to a “all public schools must teach CSE.” Futher, while the quantum of CSE required is vague, the law does say CSE must be “an integral part of the curriculum” at public schools.

Second, the 2020 version requires all public schools to use curricula approved by the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction(OSPI).   At present, schools can choose their own curricula, but that option is limited as the law limits the choices to what OSPI approves.  

For the most part, the remaining provisions of the 2007 and 2020 laws are pretty similar.  The 2020 version has updated some of “medically scientific” and “evidence based” definitions and also requires compliance with RCW 49.60, which is known as the Law Against Discrimination, ensuring consideration of all protected classes of people.  I have heard little conversation about these provisions and they appear to lack any controversy. 

However, the State mandating CSE, while also dictating the curricula, has garnered a lot of attention so I figured it was worthy of a discussion. 

VIEWS ON THE MANDATE

I have my own views, which may be the subject of another blog, but I am going to try and present an objective point of view on this, offering information provided by both sides. 

From what I can tell, the people who are opposed to the mandate rely on a couple primary reasons.  Many people oppose OSPI and the State mandating any specific education, especially on a topic as sensitive as CSE.  They also cite a survey done by OSPI wherein 58% of respondents indicated they felt CSE should not be required in public schools

One of the biggest opponents of the mandatory CSE is Informed Parents of Washington.  https://www.informedparentsofwashington.com/.   The primary argument against the mandate appears to take the position that mandatory CSE goes well beyond what a public school should do, and the bulk of this type of education should be left to the parents.   

Those pushing for the change, led in large part by OSPI, argue that CSE is an important topic in the education of our youth, and a significant number of children do not have adequate resources at home and/or do not receive sufficient education on the topic.   There is also some societal benefit to filling in the gaps with respect to information, trying to make sure that all kids are educated and properly informed, and OSPI is well equipped to be the gatekeeper.  Chris Reykdal, the current Superintendent of Public Instruction does a good job of advocating these positions. 

Here is a recent radio interview with Chris Reykdal tackling some tough questions from a conservative talk show host. https://omny.fm/shows/the-dori-monson-show/superintendent-reykdal-addresses-concerns-over-sex

ARE SCHOOLS TEACHING SEXUAL EDUCATION AT PRESENT?

https://www.seattletimes.com/education-lab/washington-may-mandate-comprehensive-sex-education-for-all-public-schools-what-does-that-mean-and-other-faqs/

VIEWS ON THE CURRICULA

The most vigorous debate has occurred around the curricula.  A District must teach a curriculum approved by OSPI.  Currently, OSPI has approved a few curricula.  That list can be found here.  https://www.k12.wa.us/sites/default/files/public/hivsexualhealth/pubdocs/Reviewed%20Materials%20Consistent%20with%20State%20Requirements%20Rev%2002.07.2020.pdf.  Notably, the selection is limited.  There are about a half dozen approved or partially approved programs, which address varying grade levels.   From what I can tell in an informal survey of those involved, the two most popular choices are the 3Rs and Flash.  A vocal subset of those involved have serious concerns about quite a bit of the material within these programs.

 I believe TSD currently uses Flash for middle schoolers, but could not determine if any of the other curricula are used.   Also, with the 2007 law in place, TSD, like any other district, is free to determine the quantity and content, with the OSPI standards simply serving as a suggested guideline.   That changes under the 2020 law as the parameters within which districts can exercise discretion narrow to a significant degree.

This issue clearly fell along party lines at the legislature.  The Debate on the House floor was interesting. The Democrats pushed the curriculum, and tossed aside consideration of any significant changes.  The Republicans were doing whatever could be done to create obstacles to the legislation passing.   

I watched the entire debate on TVW and the funniest moment for me was when they were debating the content, and a MATURE SUBJECT MATTER—VIEWER DISCRETION ADVISED warning popped up

I did find it ironic that TVW felt the need to warn viewers that CSE material being taught to our children, and debated on the floor, may not be appropriate for its viewing audience. 

There were other comical moments, like when they were discussing an amendment to prohibit the use of Playboy and Penthouse covers(which is actually part of one of the curricula).   That amendment failed.  There was also a 10 or 15 minute debate surrounding curricula which covered “self pleasuring,” and the timing on when that should be covered in the K-12 education.    

CONCLUSION

It appears to me that those who are in favor of the curriculum subscribe to the theories that (1)more information is better, (2)the broad curriculum is a good resource and (3)OSPI provides(or will provide) adequate options. 

Those opposed to the curriculum (1)object to the mature topics being tackled, (2)are concerned that OSPI and the State will dictate unacceptable curriculum and (3)that making CSE an integral part of the curriculum spreads thinner the limited time and resources possessed by Districts.

HOW CAN YOUR VOICE BE HEARD?

It is highly likely that Governor Inslee will sign the 2020 bill, thus it will become law.  Starting in 2021, all public schools in Washington will be required make CSE an integral part of the curriculum.  OSPI will determine which curricula can be used, and while local districts can develop their own curricula, I would think doing so is pretty cost prohibitive so districts will choose from the menu provided by OSPI.  Concerned citizens should contact OSPI and your local schools boards to have voices heard.

The contact info for the the OSPI Sexual Health Program Supervisor is Laurie.dils@k-12.wa.us

You could also contact your statewide legislator and/or TSD School Board members. You can locate their email addresses here.

As always, we welcome comments, questions and suggestions any time. You can contact us at contactus@citizensfortumwaterschools.com

DUAL CREDIT OPTIONS IN THE HIGH SCHOOLS

This blog explores some of the Dual Credit options at TSD.  Dual Credit is any course where students can get College Credit and High School Credit in the same course. Virtually all of the students who obtain dual credit do so through four programs, Running Start (RS), College in the High School (CIHS) Advanced Placement (AP) classes, and Career & Technical Education (CTE). Students can earn credit through one, or all, of the aforementioned.  Students can enroll in more than one type of dual credit course. While there may be some scheduling logistics, student can cross over between programs.   

Having had 2 high schoolers who have gone through THS, I also offer some personal insight regarding experiences from our family.

Advanced Placement(AP)—AP classes are run by the College Board and offer college level curricula, with the option to take a year end examination that allows students to earn college credit.

Students can earn anywhere from 3 to 15 hours of credit if they pass the year end test. The credit earned varies depending on the score, the course and the college(I will use college and university interchangeably within this blog).  Here is a link to the equivalency chart for the University of Washington showing the credit that can be earned. https://admit.washington.edu/apply/transfer/exams-for-credit/ap/

Students generally pay about $90 per class to take the year end test. The class is taught by a high school teacher who has been certified to teach AP classes.  About twice as many students take AP classes as enroll in RS.   

Students are not required to take the AP test, and earn high school credit just like other classes even if they do not take the AP test.  Students can also take the AP test without actually taking the class.

The AP Test is administered by a National Board(like the ACT and SAT).    The cost to the school for AP courses is very minimal, and all the state funding remains at the school. 

Here is a good link with some pros/cons about taking AP classes.  https://www.collegeraptor.com/getting-in/articles/college-applications/pros-cons-taking-ap-classes-high-school/

Running Start—RS was started in the early 1990s and is fully funded by the State of Washington. This program allows juniors and seniors to enroll in college and attend classes on campus(or online) at the college.  RS courses are not on the high school campus. The RS students go to the college campus with the general college population. Most TSD students who utilize the Running Start option attend South Puget Sound Community College(SPSCC). Here is a link to the SPSCC Running Start page.https://spscc.edu/runningstart

Students can attend full time or part time.  If a student attends full time, he or she is not required to attend any high school classes.  Part time RS students are required to attend high school so that they have the equivalent of a full time course load. 

Here are the most recent enrollment stats for the Running Start program.

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RS students do not have to pay any tuition (the State picks up the tab), but do have to pay for their books and any class fees (Usually a few hundred dollars a quarter).

Notably, RS students are treated like college students. Once enrolled, the high schools really have no way to track the students.  Privacy laws (FERPA) restrict information that can be provided to high schools and parents.  Generally, the high school simply gets a report back from the college as to what grades the student obtained that quarter.  Also, based on the FERPA laws, once a student attends a school beyond the high school level, the parents no longer have access to the student’s records.

RS students earn high school credit for college classes.  In fact, one quarter of a five credit hour class at SPSCC is usually the equivalent of one year at the high school.  As an example, English 101 at SPSCC(a 12 week course) is the equivalent of a full year of 11th grade English.  Many students are able to obtain an Associates Degree in the RS program.

Virtually all of the State funding follows the student, so the state allocation for full time RS students goes to the college.  The funds for part time students are prorated between the high school and the college.       

Here are some stats from the SPSCC website promoting the Running Start program.

College in the High School—This program is a partnership between high schools and colleges where college level classes are taught in the high schools.  Unlike AP(where the curricula comes from the College Board), the curricula comes from whatever college with which the high school has partnered.  The colleges TSD schools have partnered with in the past include SPSCC, University of Washington, and Eastern Washington. 

Students who elect this option pay a fee charged by the college. The fee is anywhere between $90 and about $325 per class, and is set by the college.  TSD does not pay any additional costs to the college.  The class is taught by a high school teacher employed with TSD.  Teachers who teach CIHS classes are certified by the college, and teach the college curriculum. 

In speaking with administrators, there appears to be a deliberate effort to expand the CIHS programs.   The logic is that students can take college level classes without having to leave the high school campus, and therefore benefit from the resources at the high school, and remain with their peers for the high school experience.  Further, the state funding allocation remains at the high schools and there are no costs in addition to those incurred with other students. 

Students can take as many, or as few, CIHS classes offered as they desire, with the balance of the student’s schedule being filed by other high school classes.  While students cannot earn an associates degree, CIHS offers the opportunity to earn some college credit(usually 5 quarter credits per course) prior to graduating. 

One of our daughters earned 10 credit hours through Eastern Washington University in a CIHS pre-calculus class and the cost was about $700.  The cost is dependent on the agreement with the colleges. My understanding is that BHHS and THS have both worked out agreements with colleges that have reduced the costs significantly, some as low as $90 per class. 

Career & Technical Education- CTE classes integrate dual credit academics with technical skill development to help prepare students for advanced education and careers related to “professional-technical” occupations. The CTE classes are designed to teach an applicable skill, trade or vocation, with less emphasis on traditional academic learning.   The CTE Dual Credit program helps students transition from high school into postsecondary professional technical programs.   Much like CIHS classes, dual CTE classes are taught at the TSD schools.  There are usually nominal fees paid by the student, and no extra cost to TSD.   Not all CTE courses are dual credit courses. Taking a CTE course is also now a graduation requirement.

High schools and colleges enter in to consortium agreements that ensure courses taken lead to, prepare students for, and some courses can lead to credit for college courses. These courses fall within a career pathway and can move a student towards completion of a certificate or degree in that field.

One of our daughters picked up 12 hours of CTE credit by taking a Microsoft Office class offered at THS through SPSCC when she was a freshman.

ABOUT 39% OF STUDENTS ARE ENROLLED IN A DUAL CREDIT PROGRAM.

Overall, about 39% of students are enrolled in a Dual Credit program at any given time.

The following two charts show the percentage of students enrolled in at least one dual credit program for each of the past 5 years.

While enrollment was much greater in 2015 at THS, and 2015 & 2016 at BHHS, it appears enrollment over the last three years has been pretty stable. 

Some programs are even offered to Freshman(most often CTE). The below charts show the percentage of students at BHHS and THS enrolled in at least one dual credit program.

HOW DO COLLEGES LOOK AT THE VARIOUS DUAL CREDIT OPTIONS.

I do not pretend to have a complete answer, but can offer some personal experience.  From what I can tell, if a student obtains an Associates degree, most colleges in Washington, and many colleges in the region, accept the credits pretty much “as is.”  There certainly are exceptions as I have heard many stories about credits not transferring. 

If a student does not obtain an Associates degree, colleges just gauge the course and credit (in each of the Dual Credit programs) similar to any request by a transfer student.

Our oldest daughter(class of 2017) obtained her Associates degree and her credits transferred pretty much without exception to an out of state public institution. 

Our second daughter(class of 2020) is on track to get her Associates Degree.  During her application process, some of the schools(UW, BYU, Vanderbilt, Stanford) indicated to us that AP classes are more impressive than Running Start or CIHS classes.  They each made clear that RS and CIHS was not a disqualifier by any means, and the dual credit was just a small piece of the puzzle in any application, but AP is preferred between the three options. 

This makes sense as national studies show students who successfully complete AP classes, when compared with students who obtain dual credit through other means, are more likely to have academic success in college. This is obviously a generalization based upon a compilation of individual cases, any of which may be the exception to the general rule.

WHY DO STUDENTS OPT FOR DUAL CREDIT CLASSES?

Lots of reasons, there is no universal answer. 

Dual credit, especially Running Start, is very attractive economically.   Students can essentially get their first 2 years of college paid for and walk out of high school with an Associates Degree.  I know several 20 year old Running Start alums who are walking around with Bachelor’s degrees.

On the other side, it is difficult, if not impossible, for the high schools to track students at SPSCC, and make sure that students are having success and are on track to graduate.    

Dual credit, especially AP and CIHS offer a more academically challenging environment than general education classes.  AP classes are rigorous, often more rigorous than RS and CIHS classes.  I think it is pretty much accepted that the AP curricula is the most challenging of the options.  Of course, success in a challenging curriculum is more likely to lead to better opportunities, especially regarding college preparedness.  

As always, we welcome any feedback.




	

FEBRUARY 11TH BALLOT—2 LEVIES

The TSD Board has decided to run two levies in a Special Election set for February 11, 2020.  We have been receiving lots of inquiries as to what is actually on the ballot, so I figured I would provide a brief outline as to the action TSD is seeking from the voters. According to the TSD website


On November 14, 2019, the Tumwater School Board of Directors passed two resolutions that will place these measures on the February 11, 2020 ballot:

1.Four-year Replacement Educational Programs and Operations Levy. This would allow the district to collect $2.50 per $1,000 of assessed property value for four years, from 2021-2024, replacing the current levy that ends in 2020. 

2.Two-year Capital Facilities Levy. This would allow the district to collect $10M in funding over two years (2021-2022). The estimated tax impact is $.75 per $1,000 of assessed property value.

I will refer to the 4 year levy as the “EP&O” levy and the 2 year levy as the “Capital” Levy.  

HOW WILL THE PROPOSED EP&O LEVY MONEY BE USED?

The TSD website contains the following description of the EP&O levy:  The Replacement EP&O Levy pays for ongoing costs including educational programs and operating costs that are not fully funded by the State. The Replacement EP&O Levy on the ballot will help support: Additional staff (nurses, counselors, librarians, safety & security), Career & Technical Education and Science, Technology, Engineering and Math programs, Special Education, The Arts, Music and Theater, Advanced Placement, and Athletics .

The majority of the EP&O levy money fills the gap between what the State allocates and what TSD pays its employees.  In addition, the State does not fund many other line items that TSD provides, and I imagine families expect.  The below table shows just a few examples highlighted by TSD:

asic-Ed

The McCleary case determined that basic education should be funded at the State level.  In theory, the State Legislature has determined it will provide funds for basic ed, and the local districts should not have to contribute funds for basic ed. 

I doubt the State is providing adequate funding in most districts and there is no dispute the funding provided to TSD is wholly inadequate, at least in relation to historical practice.   TSD employs more people, and pays those employees more, than the state funding model suggests.  TSD taxpayers generally support additional funding, which has resulted in higher quality staff, and better student/teacher/administrator ratios.  

TSD has traditionally used levy funds to fill the gap.  Just to be clear, this was the practice even prior to the McCleary fix and contract negotiations in 2018.  

HOW DID TSD DETERMINE THE AMOUNT OF THE PROPOSED EP&O LEVY?

This one is easy.  TSD is asking for the maximum amount allowed under the law.  TSD voters previously approved levies that were over $3 per $1,000.  However, as part of the McClearly fix, the legislature capped the amounts local districts could ask for and thus TSD was limited to collecting $1.50 per $1,000 starting in 2019.  While this was supposed to be a permanent fix, with some outcry from those involved with education, the legislature capped the amount at $2.50 per $1,000 starting in 2020.  Under current law, TSD could not run an EP&O levy for any amount greater than $2.50 per $1,000.     

HOW WILL THE PROPOSED CAPITAL LEVY MONEY BE USED?

Here is the description of the Capital Levy provided by TSD:

The Capital Facilities Levy will pay for facility improvements and repairs, pre-planning costs for the next new Tumwater school, improved safety and security of our facilities, critical repairs to our buildings, and new technology for our students.

Here is a list of items that TSD is saying would be funded by the Capital levy:

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ARE THE LEVIES NEW TAXES?

Sort of, but the net effect is comparable to what has been collected in past years.  The EP&O levy is a replacement for an expiring levy.  The taxpayers previously approved a similar levy for 2016-2020.  If no action is taken, the levy sunsets so TSD must get voter approval to continue to collect the money.  Almost all districts run levies every 4 years or so.  

While the Capital Levy is a new levy, the rates for the bonds have adjusted, so the net effect if the Capital levy passes is that the amount collected from taxpayers will be very similar to what has been collected in recent years.  Here is a chart TSD used at a recent Board meeting. 

evy-rate

The end result is that if both levies pass, at least for the next two years, TSD will collect roughly the same amount from taxpayers as it has collected in most of the recent years.  TSD has been collecting about $5 per $1000 assessed(a mixture of EP&O levy and Bonds).  The bond rates(green above) that have previously been approved decrease over the next two years.  So, when you tally up the proposed EP&O levy($2.50), Bond($1.75) and proposed Capital levy($.75) the total amount is right at $5 per $1000 of assessed value, which is what TSD has been collecting.

If both levies are rejected, TSD would collect only the bond amount($1.75).  If the EP&O levy is approved and the Capital levy rejected, TSD would collect about $4.25 per $1000.  

As stated above, the EP&O levy is just replacing the old EP&O levy. So, while the Capital levy is a new tax, TSD is banking on the taxpayers being willing to pay the same amount as past years in lieu of receiving a tax reduction of $.75 per $1000 and rejecting the Capital levy.    

WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A LEVY AND A BOND?  

TSD has the option of running levies and/or bonds.  I posted a previous blog that detailed some of the differences, which can be found here.  In simple terms:  

1.LEVIES ARE FOR LEARNING AND BONDS ARE FOR BUILDING.  Levies take care of short term operational needs(think salaries, extra curricular activities, maintenance, technology, etc) and bonds are used to fund long term projects(construction of schools).   

2. LEVIES REQUIRE 50% VOTER APPROVAL, WHILE BONDS REQUIRE 60% VOTER APPROVAL.  

WHAT IS THE VOTING HISTORY IN TSD

Over the past few decades, TSD has routinely asked taxpayers to provide additional funding for education and the taxpayers have consistently approved such requests.   See the below chart—-Since 2003, TSD voters have approved each bond and levy put before them, usually by a pretty healthy margin(even though 2003 passed with just .04% to spare). 

***EP&O used to be called M&O—they are the same thing.  

***Levies are in brown while Bonds are in Green.  

WHAT HAPPENS IF THE EP&O LEVY IS NOT APPROVED?

Significant reduction in staff, program cuts across the board, reduction in services, etc.  A levy rate of $2.50 brings in at least $15,000,000 per year(see chart below).  TSD’s total budgeted income is about $94,000,000 a year, so the income from the levy is about 16% of TSD’s total income.   TSD has made a lot of reductions over the past few years, and I do not believe there is much “fat” left to be cut.  TSD has already burned through its savings.  In any budget, a 16% reduction of income would be felt districtwide.  TSD not passing an EP&O levy would necessitate $15,000,000 in cuts, and undoubtedly result in renegotiation of all employee contracts, drastic changes to many programs, reduction in staff, etc.   

evy

WHAT HAPPENS IF CAPITAL LEVY IS NOT APPROVED BY VOTERS?

Like any budget, the import of the listed items is somewhat subjective.  As an example, the preplanning for a new elementary school is a questionable use of resources as TSD should be at least 5 or 6 years from needing another elementary school.  Another flashpoint is the student devices line items.  The 2014 Bond approved Chromebooks for TSD students.  That 2014 bond was a one time shot and does not cover replacement or repair of the Chromebooks.  If TSD wants the students to have Chromebooks, it needs more money.  

That being said, I am not one to throw the “baby out with the bathwater” and appreciate the taxpayers cannot, and should not, be able to line item veto as part of the voting process.  In my view, the bulk of the Capital levy expenditures fall into two categories: (1)modernizing technology/safety and (2) updating infrastructure which may be beyond its useful life. 

The experience of TSD students could be much different if the Capital levy is not approved.  Could TSD effectively educate students without updated devices and network upgrades?   Would an investment in updated devices and network upgrades prove a valuable investment?  Is updating security within TSD a worthwhile undertaking?  Those questions need to be answered by the voters.  

Similarly, it is possible the outdated infrastructure may still have some functional life.  It is also possible a roof will leak, a boiler will fail and there may be some event wherein a sprinkler system at BLE could have been of great value.   If any of those events(along with others we are not even thinking of) happen, TSD would be forced to find the funds to make the repairs.  This would almost certainly strain the budget and result in some loss of, or at least difficulty providing, services.  

CONCLUSION

Rejection of the EP&O levy would result in drastic cuts felt by every student in some manner.  Rejection of the Capital levy would be painful, but not catastrophic.  I believe TSD hit the sweet spot in not seeking an increase, but also asking the taxpayers to invest essentially the same amounts they have been investing.  Thurston Community Media actually put together a youtube video wherein Superintendent Dotson makes a pretty good pitch for the levies.   

 The taxpayers must decide if these expenditures are a good investment.  As is indicated by the voting history, taxpayers in TSD have traditionally been pretty supportive of levies and bonds.  I have heard that some taxpayers are waiting on the outcome of the transfer committee(which should wrap up its work within the next few weeks), expressing some reluctance to approve more funding if TSD continues to have a liberal out of district transfer policy.    

Further, given some of the “open wounds” in the community as a result of the bargaining negotiations in 2018, the TSD leadership may have to work hard to educate the public about any possible levies/bonds that are placed on the ballot.  I would also suggest that TSD put out some information regarding the work of the transfer committee, as that appears to be an important factor with many voters.   

We encourage all voters within the TSD boundaries to get out and vote on February 11th and let your voice(or vote) be heard.  

As always, we welcome your questions, comments or suggestions.    

Scott Kee

Sunday, January 12, 2020

ATHLETICS AND TRANSFERS

The blogs on WIAA Classification and TSD Athletic performance generated a number of inquires about the policies on transfer students when it comes to athletic programs.  In particular, I have been in Tumwater long enough to hear plenty of complaints that students transfer to TSD, and specifically THS, for athletics.  I prefer data over assumptions or guesses, so I wanted to do some research and see if I could come to any conclusions.   We did some research, and came up with some answers to several questions that we thought might be of interest to our followers.  

WHAT IS TSD’S POLICY ON TRANSFERRING FOR ATHLETICS

I could find no express policy with respect to whether or not transfers for athletics are encouraged or discouraged in TSD.  In fact, TSD’s transfer application does not even have a spot to list the reason for transferring.  While I doubt many people would explicitly indicate a transfer is sought for athletics, there is no opportunity to do so on the application. 

In fact, it appears to me that the coaches and athletic directors have very limited knowledge as to whether or not an athlete is a transfer student.   When I asked, many coaches had no idea whether athletes were resident students or transfers.  From what I can tell, once a student is admitted as a transfer he or she is simply integrated with the rest of the population.  

I am aware that there are rumors of athletes being recruited to transfer to TSD schools.  Our investigation, and my experience, found no evidence of any instance where that occurred.  I am certainly not implying that I conducted an exhaustive investigation, but I am pretty familiar with the THS and BHHS athletic programs and can say I found no basis to support any contention of recruiting.  

IS A TRANSFER STUDENT RESTRICTED FROM PARTICIPATING IN ATHLETIC CONTESTS?

With one limited exception, transfer students face no additional restrictions with respect to participation in athletic contests.  The one exception is that a transfer student is ineligible to participate in varsity athletic contests within 12 months of a transfer.  There  are no restrictions with participation in subvarsity athletics. 

ne-year

Notably, to participate as a freshman, a student must establish residency(or transfer status) at the 8th grade feeder school.  As an example, a student residing in another district who initially transferred to TSD as a freshman would be ineligible to play varsity until the sophomore year.  However, a student who transferred to Bush Middle School as an 8th grader, and then was accepted as a transfer to THS as a 9th grader, would be eligible to play varsity as a 9th grader. 

ARE THERE EXCEPTIONS SO THAT TRANSFERS DO NOT HAVE TO SIT OUT A YEAR?

Yes.  The exceptions are set forth in Section 18 of the WIAA rules.  My experience is that there are a couple commonly used exceptions. 

Students who transfer after attending a private school(Evergreen Christian, St. Michaels, etc) do not have to sit out a year.  So, a student who (1)resides outside the boundaries of TSD, (2) went to private school through 8th grade, and (3) is accepted as a transfer student at TSD would not have to sit out the 12 months.  

Similarly, a student who attended K-8 in a District that does not have a high school(Griffin School District) also does not have to sit out the 12 months.  

There are also other exceptions, but, from what I can tell, the other exceptions are infrequently used.  

CAN ATHLETES OBTAIN WAIVERS?

Athletes can apply for a hardship waiver.  My understanding is that hardships are very difficult to obtain.  In speaking with the ADs, it sounds like hardships are only granted in rare circumstances, usually associated with traumatic life events.  An example provided by an AD was that a student was the victim of a violent crime at their prior school, and thus transferred for safety reasons, so a waiver was granted.   Notably, the waiver cannot be granted if there is any evidence that it is sought for athletic purposes.  In addition, the decision is made by a committee appointed by WIAA, and not by the local school.  I think hardship waivers are few and far between.  

WHAT IS THE RATIO OF TRANSFER AND RESIDENT STUDENTS PARTICIPATING IN ATHLETICS IN TSD?

As a refresher, for most schools in our area about 2-5% of the general population of students at any given high school are transfer students.  The rate at BHHS is about 6%, while the rate at THS is about 13%.   Here is a link to the prior blog discussing transfers.  

In short, the participation rate of transfer students in athletics at TSD was fairly surprising to me.   Let me first say that I found no evidence anyone was breaking any rules.  THS has a policy which liberally accepts transfers, a policy which is not prohibited by TSD or WIAA.  Transfer students go through an application process which was created, and is carried out, by TSD.  A little side note—TSD has formed a committee to review the transfer policy.  For more info on that topic, see the latest blog by Tami.   

I surveyed 5 boys teams and 5 girls teams, with no real preference other than the rosters were easy to obtain and I felt 10 teams was a representative sample.  I picked THS because most of the inquiries we received were about THS, and to a lesser degree, it was easier to figure out transfer/resident status as we are more familiar with those families and have better connections when investigating. 

I obtained the most recent varsity rosters and used public property records, social media and old fashioned one on one conversations to determine how many players did not reside within TSD.  Here are the parameters under which I operated:

—-If I was uncertain, I counted the athlete as living within the TSD boundaries.   

—-Because it was too hard to distinguish via public records, I counted all players living within TSD as resident athletes even though some of them should be at BHHS. 

—-Because the football roster is so large, I just looked at the 21 starters for one of the playoff games.  With all other teams, I used the entire varsity roster.  

—-VARSITY= total # of players on the roster.  TRANSFER=total # of transfer students on the varsity roster

—-I used the roster for the most recent playing season.  

TSD’s general student population is 13% transfers students.  Prior to conducting the research, based upon my general observations being around the programs, I figured the rate at which transfers students participated in extra curricular activities was a little higher than the general population.  However,  I did not anticipate the data would reveal 30% of the athletes on the varsity teams reside outside TSD.   

ANALYSIS

Once again, as far as I can tell, everyone is playing by the rules.  That being said, my opinion is that the data highlights a couple problems that should be addressed.  The most concerning aspect for me is that THS has a pretty significant “double whammy” when it comes to creating a competitive advantage over its peers. 

1.    THS is one of largest 2A schools, so its player pool is already larger than virtually every school against whom it competes in the 2A classification.  In the last go around, THS had the 5th largest population of all 2A schools(about 65 schools in total).  THS has over 200 more students than every other EVCO school.    This time around, it appears as if TSD is very near the 2A/3A line of demarcation(900 students).  The larger pool from which to draw athletes invariably brings more talent to the THS teams when compared with smaller 2A schools. 

2.    Compounding that advantage, THS has an inordinate number of varsity level athletes transferring in, which significantly elevates the talent pool from which it selects its varsity athletes. If 13% of the students are transfers, one would expect transfers would occupy about 13% of the varsity spots.  Transfers occupying 30% of the varsity spots indicates that the rate at which transfers participate is much greater than the rate of participation of the resident students.  This is an advantage is unique to THS given the fact that no other school accepts anywhere near the same amount of transfers.  

This competitive advantage has been realized with an unprecedented success rate, as documented in my blog about the athletic performances of THS and BHHS over the last 3 years(TSD teams win about 74% of their games and have won 43% of the EVCO titles over the past 3 years).   

Another side effect of transfer students occupying 30% of the varsity spots is the realization that many resident students are denied opportunities to participate at the varsity level.  I will note that most THS sports practice a “no cut” policy so that very few students are denied the chance to participate in the overall programs, but there are only so many varsity spots.  There are clearly many varsity spots occupied by transfer students that would otherwise be occupied by resident students.  Many resident students who are playing on the JV or C teams would be playing varsity but for the transfers students occupying those spots.  

CONCLUSION

THS is a popular destination for transfers, and THS routinely accepts transfers at a much greater rate than any other school in the area.  All schools accept some transfers(usually in the 3-5% range) and it makes no sense to strictly prohibit all transfers.  Further, the transfer students should be treated no different than resident students once admitted.  

Once again, I do not begrudge any family for opting to do what is best for their particular student athlete.  An accepted transfer student that earns a varsity spot should not be penalized, or judged, because he or she does not reside within the TSD boundaries.  The data does however highlight the fact that TSD has, likely unintentionally, created a situation that has resulted in a less than ideal environment in some regards and TSD should take corrective action.

It is no secret that I believe THS does not face adequate competition, especially in the Evergreen Conference, and should definitely bump up to the 3A classification.  According to timeline put forth by WIAA, that application must be made within the next week or so.  

While no transfer policy should be driven by athletics, the imbalance revealed by the data in this blog provides yet another reason to develop a more deliberate, and equitable, transfer policy that puts the needs of the resident students at the forefront.  Doing so would undoubtedly result in more competitive athletic contests, which would be better for all the athletes involved.  

As always, we welcome your comments, questions or suggestions.   contactus@citizensfortumwaterschools.com

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.  

CONSENT AGENDA APPROVED

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.    

THREE NEW MEMBERS SWORN IN

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

SECONDARY OPTIONS RENAMED

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. . .

FACILITIES UPDATE

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.  

SD-Property

BUDGET DISCUSSIONS

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.  

und-BalanceDec-2019

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 UPDATE

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.  

nrollmentDec-2019

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.   

SUPERINTENDENT’S REPORT

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.  

CONCLUSION

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.  

HOW DOES THE WIAA CLASSIFY TEAMS?

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:

lassifications

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.  

THE WIAA IS CHANGING THE WAY IT CLASSIFIES SCHOOLS, AND IS MOVING TO A “HARD COUNT.”

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.”  

lassification-table

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(and/or BHHS) COULD OPT UP.

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.   

IAA-Timeline

WHAT LEAGUE WOULD THS PLAY IN IF IT OPTED UP TO 3A?

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.   

COMMENTARY

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.  Scottkee@citizensfortumwaterschools.com

An analysis of the Performance of TDS Athletic teams

WHAT PROMPTED THIS BLOG

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. 

WHAT IS THE ENROLLMENT OF THE EVCO SCHOOLS

 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.  

nrollmentSports

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.  

HOW DO THE TSD SCHOOLS PERFORM IN THE EVCO.  

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):

HHS-Results-2016-19
HS-Results-2016-19

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.    

A COUPLE FACTORS SUGGEST THE DOMINANCE IS NOT SURPRISING

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.  

2019/20 Transfer numbers

I did a public records request  to check in on the number of interdistrict transfer(IDT) students as compared to last year.  I reached 2 overriding conclusions: (1) TSD’s IDT population declined by about 66 students, or roughly 18%; and (2) While all the other TSD schools are getting within the range of their local peers, THS still has a disproportionate number of IDT students, although the number declined significantly this year.

Note—I am sure our followers are fully aware I have strong opinions regarding the decision making process, and logic, with respect to when TSD should or should not enroll IDT students. Here are the links to prior blogs on the topic– IDT counts for last yearBudget Impact of IDT Students and Response to Superintendent Bash’s comments.  Accordingly, while I do offer some opinions in this blog, for the most part I am going to try and not regurgitate information from prior blogs.  

Here are the IDT students by school as compared with last year:

****The chart does not include students at Avanti, New Market or Secondary Options as the Districts have cooperative agreements regarding placements into those schools and they appear to be generally not subject to IDT policies.  

TSD STILL ACCEPTS SIGNIFICANTLY MORE IDT STUDENTS THAN SURROUNDING DISTRICTS

As a reminder, an IDT student is any student who does not reside within the District boundaries. Just to be clear, I did not include Interzone transfers, which are those students who do not attend their home school, but do attend a school within their home school district’s boundaries(i.e a student who lives in Peter G boundaries, but attends Black Lake).  

As you can see, about 5% of TSD’s students do not reside within TSD Boundaries.  This is about double that of the Olympia School District(roughly 2%) and about 5 times that of North Thurston Public Schools(less than 1%).    

While TSD reduced its IDT population this year by about 66 students, there is still a gap before its numbers are comparable to surrounding districts.  

TUMWATER HIGH SCHOOL ACCEPTS IDT STUDENTS AT A RATE THAT IS NOT COMPARABLE WITH ANY OTHER SCHOOL.

THS accepts disproportionately more IDT students when compared to pretty much any other school in the county.   About 13%(153 students) of the THS population is comprised of IDT students.   This is down from 16%(179 students) last year.  I could not get any clarification as to whether or not THS changed its selectivity, although it appears the same timeline was used.  It makes sense to me that, if THS opted to follow the TSD policy, it might ease into the process, and be much more selective with incoming freshman, while not sending previously accepted upper class students back to their home schools  Maybe TSD just didnt accept as many freshman, and we will see a continuing decrease on a year by year basis.  This information is hard to track as I was advised TSD does not maintain IDT information by grade.  

THE NEW SUPERINTENDENT APPEARS TO BE WILLING TO WORK ON THE APPLICATION OF THE IDT POLICIES

Tami and I sat down with Sean Dotson(TSD Superintendent) and Jim Brittain a few weeks ago and discussed the application of the IDT policies(which can be located here).  I came away from our meeting thinking that we are pretty much on the same page on many topics, and I am optimistic that changes will be made.   I think we all agreed on the following:

1.With strategic placement, IDT students can have a positive financial impact;

2.The needs of TSD resident students should take priority over the needs/desires of IDT students;

3. All interzone transfers should be completed before IDT students are accepted;

4. Already accepted IDT students should be allowed to finish out their tenure at their currently enrolled school; and

5.The current policies, are probably adequate.  Any deficiency lies in the application of those policies.

DISPLACEMENT IS SUBJECTIVE

Although there is some discretion in the transfer policies, transfers generally must be rejected when students are “displaced.”  Sean indicated that, at least in the educational system, the term “displaced” is generally limited to those situations when resident students are unable to attend a school.  I am not well versed in the legal definition as it applies to IDT policies. Tami and I pointed out that we believe resident students are displaced when they cannot register for some particular classes, or are required to attend another school in order to take a particular class, or are placed in overcrowded classes, or are denied opportunities for extracurricular activities. 

I remain puzzled why THS consistently accepts so many IDT students.  It is financially taxing on the budget, results in overcrowded classrooms, and negatively impacts resident students. We know around 13% of the population does not reside within the TSD boundaries.  It seems to me an IDT decision should not be made until the master schedule is completed and we know if classes are at capacity.  

While I would never make a contention that extracurricular activities should drive the discussion, it is clear resident students are being denied extracurricular opportunities.  I conducted an informal, and random, survey of some extracurricular activities.  From what I can tell, in most cases, no less than 20% of the spots on varsity sports teams are occupied by IDT students.  At least 2 sports that I know of have more than 40% of starters being IDT students.  This does not surprise me as it is also my opinion, and experience, that IDT families have a higher participation rate in extra curricular activites than resident students.  The above being said, once accepted, the IDT students should have no restrictions on participation, and should be treated like all other students.  However, this is another area where it appears to me the needs of the resident students are being overlooked.    

It also sounds like TSD will move the date back for accepting student transfer applications. Traditionally, THS has started accepting applications in January, but Sean indicated they would not accept applications until the Board considers the committee work(see below)–which is scheduled to finish in February.  I cant imagine any reason TSD would start accepting applications before April or May.       

TSD IS FORMING A COMMITTEE TO MAKE SUGGESTIONS REGARDING THE TRANSFER POLICIES

This is great news.  Tami and I have been encouraging TSD to seek community input, especially from resident families, to determine the parameters around interzone and interdistrict transfers.  The TSD Committee, made up of volunteer community members, is set to meet 3 or 4 times between November and February, and then come up with suggestions.

The Committee will also tackle how to handle interzone tranfers, which has become a pretty hot topic given the boundary changes for elementary schools that have been approved for 2020-21 school year.   I assume, as in the past, TSD will make the work of the committee known during the process so that the general public still has the opportunity to provide input.  

COMMENTARY—PRIORITIZATION IS CRITICAL

TSD is a much desired location for families.  Provided TSD has capacity, TSD should welcome non-resident families into our District once TSD has determined that it has met the needs of resident students.  I am hopeful that the Transfer committee will engage in open and candid discussions surrounding the application of the Interzone and Interdistrict, policies.  The community needs to be heard, and should determine, how TSD moves forward on this particular issue.  If I were King for a Day, I would propose the following.     

1. Offer some priority to children of TSD Staff(this is actually required by State law);

2. Pursuant to the current policy, set some specific parameters with respect to classroom capacity/placement that addresses the needs of resident students(i.e. placement/schedules are done for resident students in advance of accepting IDT students to ensure no resident student is displaced);

3.  Forgo consideration of IDT applications until all Interzone transfers have been considered;

4.  Strategically accept IDT students only when it is financially beneficial under the present funding model;

5. Where IDT spots are available, create some criteria and priority so there is balance and consistency from school to school, especially between the high schools.   

6. Appreciate a nominal number of IDT applicants present circumstances with overriding factors, and should be accepted regardless of the stated criteria

As always, we encourage you to contact TSD leadership, including the TSD Board Members, to voice your opinions.  We also appreciate feedback, and invite others to write guest blogs in the event you are so inclined.  contactus@citizensfortumwaterschools.com