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 contactus@citizensfortumwaterschools.com

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