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.

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.

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.  


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. 


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.   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.



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.  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.    


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.


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

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

February 13 Board Meeting Recap

The board meetings are recorded and available at some point after the meeting on the District website.  I will do my best to summarize the meeting, but for the full report you can view the recording when it becomes available. 

All Board members were present.  The meeting was held at the District Office.  

PGS 3rd grade music students performed under the direction of Marie Williams, who also received special recognition, Chinook Region Music Educator of the Year.  

High School Student Representatives reported on the before and after school learning supports at their schools.


Katie Gates on disrespect by students.

Discussed the concern from teachers about the student behavior and disrespect teachers are enduring. Concern that teachers are leaving because of the disrespect from students. The concern is happening at all levels, they don’t feel safe and they will see it every day.

Melissa responded with a comment about Steilacoom SD focusing on Social and Emotional learning, and her disappointment that more parents aren’t at the Candace Lund-Bollinger classes put on by the District. (A list of classes is on the TSD website here).

Superintendent Dotson said he would follow up with Katie.


No comments or questions, consent agenda was approved.


Resolution 06-19-20-Temporarily Altering the Establish Amount of the Unreserved Fund Balance of the General Fund. There was a change in the resolution paragraph, they removed the sentence that said the fund balance would never go below the minimum fund balance. They established a year end fund balance minimum of 4%, this allows them to go down to no lower than 3% if needed. Further discussion will be in the Superintendent report.

Rita expressed concern about going below the 4%. “I find this really upsetting. You know I know it’s an absolute necessity at this point that we have to do this, but I just want to stress how important this fund balance is to the stability of the District and how hard we need to work to bring it back up. Because that is what keeps us going and gives us an emergency fund for things that happen. We all know that they happen, and so I really encourage us to work on that to reinstate this to where it should be.”

Melissa asked how it effects the district bond rating, Jim explained that it is part of the rating, and he met with the Bond council this last week and they will be providing information about that question. (The bond rating affects the ability of our district to sell Bonds). Superintendent Dotson stated that the District is not trying to sell bonds right now, but if it isn’t recovered in the future that might affect the rating.

Rita asked how long this would effect our bond rating in the future.

Melissa asked if they would be able to make payroll every month. Jim stated they will make payroll every month.

Scott asked Superintendent Dotson to explain what the Fund Balance is used for. Superintendent Dotson explained how the fund balance goes up and down throughout the year based on when we get levy payments and when expenses occur. Their monthly payments are not equal. They need to keep the fund balance up to cover the lower payment months. He explained that what most districts like to have in the fund balance is one months expenses. One month’s expenses for TSD would be $7.8MM, so in the months where they get down to $2MM they are in an uncomfortable place. He said they will work to get the fund balance in a better place, in case of unforeseen expenses. The fund balance in good economic times can help cover when you get to lean times so you don’t have to cut programs. They want to get the fund balance back to a place where if they were the economy turns they need to be in a place where they have something solid to take care of the needs.

Resolution 06-19-20-passed.

2nd Reading-Revisions Policy 6220-Bid Requirements passed.

2nd Reading, Revisions policy 1400-Meeting Conduct Sean reminded them of the major changes, they took out the specific meeting times to allow some flexibility. They added a section on study sessions.

Melissa added it allows them to meet in the evening especially for study sessions. The said they would still visit the schools, but not necessarily as a meeting.

Rita asked about how they were going to get site reports from the schools. SI Dotson explained that since they were shifting to evening work sessions, they would have site reports prior to the meeting. They will also have times in the morning to visit the sites.

Revisions policy 1400-Meeting Conduct passed

2nd Reading, Revisions Policy 3131Attendance Area (Intra-District) Transfers A couple changes from the 1st reading, language about non resident students was removed since this is an intra-district policy and that language does not apply. A sentence was added to state that they District will provide applicants with written notification of approval or denial of the application in a timely manner. Rita asked if another boundary revision were to occur, would these polices work or would they need to be changed again. Superintendent Dotson explained that they should work.

The revision dates were also discussed. The date was unclear if that was the only times it had been revised or if that was only the latest time it was revised. Rita also stated there was a time they went through all the policies to update them since they hadn’t been updated in a while.

Policy 3131 passed.

Policy 3141 – Non-resident students. There are no changes with this policy. SI Dotson discussed the Thought Exchange, but did not feel there was any feedback that really impacted the policy. The feedback received was more related to the procedure.

Melissa thanked SI Dotson for facilitating the updating of these policies.

Policy 3141 passed.

The Board took a short break for 10 minutes.


20/21 Budget Development and timeline.

Jim explained that they have been meeting with each building and looking at certificated staff and other staff needs at each of the buildings.

March 12 is the date for the legislative session to end, they are hoping for more equity from the legislature.

March 20th is the departments and building budget allocations will be sent out by Jim. The principals can decide where to put that funding in their buildings.

April 1st is the last day to turn in additional funding requests.

April 15th is the deadline to let the Bargaining Unions know if they will be planning a Reduction in Force. The deadline to send to the affected employees for Reduction in Force is May 15.

Draft Budget available to the public July 10, Final budget adopted August 27.

Melissa asked about the budget work session, they talked about doing that on July 23rd.

Melissa also asked for the budget to be divided by staff and building and staffing levels at each school.

Rita asked what they plan to do with the boundary changes and if the teachers are going to move with the students. Superintendent Dotson explained they are going through that right now, and they have met with the principals at each building and the HR team to start that discussion. He discussed the intersection with the transfer process. He hopes to accommodate all the kids who want to stay. They want to make as few shifts as possible. He mentioned staff additions, to serve all the students.

Rita asked if there was a deadline for students to decide if they are going to stay. Superintendent Dotson explained he would show the timeline in his Superintendent report.

Rita brought up the K-3 compliance, Jim stated TSD compliance is around $237K. He also stated TSD is not in compliance at the moment, they are at 17.4. They are working with HR to look at a couple positions that are split with LAP, and they can move those to help with the average and get it down to 17 so they don’t lose that funding. Jim stated the funds are minimal.

Superintendent Dotson also reminded the Board that the 17 is not an actual number, but an average of teachers, specialist etc to get to that average.

1st Reading, 20/21 School Year Calendar Beth Scouller discussed the proposed calendar for the next school year. Since Labor day is so late, they had the option of asking TEA if they would like to vote to have the school year start a week earlier. The teachers voted not to start early, so school is set to start the Wednesday after Labor Day (Sept 9, 2020 and end June 21, 2021). A few changes from the past practice were discussed. The Wednesday before Thanksgiving is a day off instead of a half day, due to the instructional hours needed. TEA suggested to try to build snow days into the school year, Feb 16 and May 28 would be scheduled as no school days unless there are days that need to be made up for snow or like in the past, a strike. February 16, the day after President’s Day is typically mid winter break, but May 28, the Friday before Memorial Day weekend, has not typically been a day off in the past. The Board was concerned that teachers and students would consider these days off even if they were changed to school days and concern over having a Monday as the last day of school. There was a lot of discussion on this, so there still could be some changes. A copy of the proposed calendar is also available on our resources page.

1st Read Proposed 20/21 school year calendar

1st Reading, Policy 3211, Gender Inclusive Schools Language changed to match practices. A copy of this document is also available on our Resource page.


Enrollment– TSD enrollment is right around the budgeted number, they started out below, rose above it and then dipped below. This is a general trend for enrollment the past several years. A discussion on how numbers are calculated and why Skills Center and Running Start students aren’t counted. They don’t count them in enrollment for budgeting purposes since the money follows the student. They work with FTE(full-time Equivalents) for budget, so part time students are counted as part time for budgeting. Overall they are staying very close to the budgeted numbers.

Fund Balance

Superintendent Dotson showed the graph from last month for the fund balance. The fund balance follows the typical trend lines of previous years. This month they dropped from $4 MM to $3MM, the minimum fund balance of 4% is at $3.8MM. So they have been above that number until this month. Each year there is a dip around this time of year and increases in October and April when they get the Levy money. This year October Levy money was not as much as last year since they put a cap on what could be collected, but April should be higher since they increased the cap. There was also talk of CTE enrollment being higher at the middle level and therefore the amount OSPI distributed was more. This may not be a true increase since CTE courses offered this fall may have been the courses offered in last spring and it may drop in the Spring. TSD predicts (using OSPIs estimator tool) that they will end the year right around the 4%. Superintendent mentioned they like to keep one months expenses in the fund balance and for Tumwater that would be $7.8MM, they are at about $3.8MM. With a bottom out number in March of $1.9 MM or 2%.

Some things they are watching that will impact the budget, CTE enrollment, SEBB payments, any employee over 630 hours will require TSD to pay into SEBB and TSD is planning for an increase in SEEB costs due to this change. Next year bargaining, step increases, increases in Sped and unexpected costs (the car breaks down) are all factors that will effect the fund balance. Superintendent Dotson has mentioned that they intend to work to get the fund balance back up.

Transfer Policies

Both transfer policies were approved. Superintendent Dotson explained the other side of that is the procedures that they have been working on. He mentioned the community was concerned about the order in which transfers were accepted. He mentioned the Thought Exchange and the feedback that was received. He stated he didn’t see anything that changed substantially, there are differing opinions and not everyone will agree. He stated the vast majority seems to continue to lean toward this being the right order. (I wrote a blog with the details you can read here or you can look at the documents on our Resources page).

In summary:

1-full-time staff children, by law, have first priority.

2-intra-district students continuing at the school they are currently enrolled(further divided to give boundary displaced students top priority). A discussion on the boundary changes occurred and Superintendent Dotson felt this procedure would work if another revision were to occur, he also stated this is not a guarantee that they will be accepted, but that they will be given priority.

3-intra-district siblings of students currently enrolled in a school

4-New Intra-district Students

5-Non-Resident renewals

6-Non-resident Siblings

7-New non-resident requests.

If enough spots are not available to accommodate all the applications, a lottery will occur at that level. No more first in first accepted.

Timeline for requests:

March -Most of the requests would be received beginning in March. All the full-time staff, intra-district renewals, new intra-district requests for 1st -12 grades. And then renewals for non-residents. At the end of March they could accept transfers in the order above, employing a lottery if needed.

April-new Non-resident requests. And then at the end of April they should have a good idea of how many spots they have available.

August-Kindergarten requests. The uncertainty of how many Kindergarteners they will have makes it difficult to accept transfers any earlier than August.

Annual Verification

Superintendent Dotson mentioned a lot of concern on the Thought Exchange for annual verification. He was hesitant to employ this as a District wide verification, but the procedures allow for a school wide or a grade level if they deem it necessary. Peter G was mentioned as a pilot school for this project.

Legislative Update

No levy or staff funding bills have moved out of committee before the deadline. Although if the members have a bill they really want to get through, they can deem it necessary to implement.

Senate Bill 6117 is a Special Education Appropriations Bill is part of this session. It is a bill recommended by OSPI which will provide a small increase in funding for Special Education.

There was a bill to correct for districts like TSD who have Senior staff, but are not receiving extra funding, but this does effect the budget Superintendent Dotson said he is watching to see if that bill ends up going anywhere, since it didn’t make the cutoff.

This is a list of bills with cost implications that did make the cutoff:

These are all bills that will cost more money and no extra appropriations for them.

February 27 Work Session

The following list are the topics they plan to discuss at the February 27 work session. Rita asked about adding the Diversity Policy, Superintendent Dotson explained they would need to cut something to add that in. Melissa asked about highly capable and accelerated enrollment.


Scott Killough mentioned that he has not been able to attend many things during the day, but attends things in the evenings. He attended Little Women, Momma Mia, the men’s and women’s basketball games. He is trying to get to each elementary PTA PTO meetings.

Rita Luce-met with legislators. She mentioned Olympia SD possibly changing the school start times. She attended the basketball games.

Casey Taylor-At the board meeting last month, they got to walk around BHHS, and the next day met with Lisa Summers and played some pickleball with the students. He also met with Jeff Broom and walked around THS. Attended basketball games for girls and boys. He attended the legislative conference but was disappointed in the politicians.

Darby Kaikkonen- attended the basketball game, She continues to be part of BMS PTO, She appreciated attending the legislative conference, and plans to visit Lisa Summers at BHHS.

Melissa Beard-She too went back to BHHS the day after the meeting to play pickleball with Lisa Summers. She visited THS for her alumni association, She mentioned she noticed THS had a meeting for Spanish speaking families, this group meets the first Tuesday of each month to help them understand the resources available. Next month they will be learning about Skyward. She attended the Momma Mia and Little Women. Talked about the sign holding for the Levy and thanked the community for the support.

Regular meeting recessed to Executive Session to discuss Personnel Performance, Evaluation or Qualifications for Employment

January 23, 2020 Board Meeting Recap

Casey Taylor, Melissa Beard and Darby Kaikkonen were present. Scott Killough and Rita Luce were not present. The Board meeting was held at BHHS. You can view the recording here. I have summarized a few topics from the meeting.

Superintendent Dotson recognized the Board members for Board Member Appreciation month. The student representatives were also recognized. They were each given a “small token”.

Lily Campbell and Ansley Campbell were recognized for their work in the club they created, the Girls Outreach Club.


Jacob Meyers for Pathways for Hope spoke about the efforts in preventing human trafficing. He invited people to attend their meeting that was held on January 30 to help with child trafficing prevention.


Darby asked Mel to explain a change order. Basically it is something that comes up during a project that will cost more money, and they ok the “change order” to keep the project going with the added cost of what is contained in a change order. Mel gave a couple examples of times it has happened.

Consent Agenda was approved


Resolution 06-19-20-temporarily altering the established amount of the unreserved fund balance of the general fund.  The minimum fund balance is set at 4%, but during this year, keeping the budget as is, the fund balance will go below this set amount.   They hope to end the year at the 4% Fund Balance.  If they keep the language at “may not fall below” then they are in violation because they are below that number.  Superintendent Dotson asked to look at the language and make changes where needed.  He also showed the Fund Balance trends, this year TSD will hit near the zero balance at about $1.4 M in March, but should trend back up in April based on the levy collections.  We should end above the 4% in June.  If they were to prevent form ever going below the 4%, they would have had to make several more staffing cuts last spring.  It would have to cut $2.5 M in cuts.  He was asking to get approval to change the language to be able to go and end below the 4%.  A challenge in ending at the 4%, is that we would be starting 2020/21 school year $2 M lower than TSD started at in 2019/20.  There are some expenses in September 2020, which would put the Fund Balance below that $2 M mark again.  Sean insured that they have money to pay all their bills at this point.

Melissa mentioned that TSD received hold harmless money last year that they will not receive this year.  Based on TSDs estimate of $2.2 MM, the Board decided not to send out RIF notices last year, (eliminating the ability to reduce staff if needed).  As it turned out, TSD only received $200K, Melissa stated that is why they are in this position.   

THS Batting Cage Building: Tim Graham asked for a separate building for Softball and Baseball for practicing in inclement weather. Appears to be just asking for approval to have a community funded project to be built. Board approved the donation and the planning for the new batting cage building.


Revisions to bid requirements in Policy 6220, just updating to follow WASDA policy model created by OSPI to adhere to state and federal regulations. May be added to Consent Agenda with no changes.

Meeting Conduct-1st reading Policy 1400. Changing board meeting times. Superintendent Dotson asked to change the language in the policy to not specify times and dates, leave it more flexible.

Transfer process policies 1st Reading:

Policy 3131 and Policy 3141(both can be found on our resource documents page).  Superintendent Dotson explained the process up to this point; Thought Exchange, Community Work Group (you can check out my previous Blogs on this subject herehere and here).  The Policies were updated to be in alignment with this process, legislative language and what other local districts have in place. This is policy, but there is also a procedure which is written by the Superintendent.  

Legislative Priorities:

Superintendent brought a list of priorities.

Special Education-used ESD language (shortage in Sped Funding). Recommending for Legislation to fully fund Special Education.

Equitable Funding-inequity in funding regionally as well as statewide. Recommending expand the experience factor to reduce inequities, and correct regionalization to provide funding based on an areawide workforce model.

Staffing Enrichment-Increase funding for school nurses, counselors, social workers and safety officers.

Board Committees/Assignments:

Legislative Representative- Rita Luce, renew or update? Tabled since she was not present.

WIAA representative- Casey Taylor

Technology Committee Representative – Casey Taylor

Military Representative – Darby Kaikkonen

Budget Committee Representative- Melissa Beard

Graduation Taskforce – Melissa will talk to Scott Killough?

Replacement Levy Representative – Melissa Beard



Equity Programs – Sean Batstone looked into partnering with SPSCC equity groups, there was a conference Jan 24. Each HS sent a representative to the conference.


Enrollment reports usually include Skills Center Enrollment, but they are separate. Tumwater West and Open Doors also contribute. Funding for Running Start and Skills Center go directly to those programs.

Projected enrollment.
Actual Enrollment

The actual enrollment in December was a net positive 15.4 students.  However, when you look at January, enrollment was a net negative 8.9 students from projections.

January Actual Enrollment

Looking at trends for enrollment it starts low and then increases and then drops down again. Budget should be done with the Skill Center and Running Start numbers removed.

Enrollment trends

They estimate the numbers based on past years. Skill Center stays about 300, Running Start was estimated based on projected enrollment. Running Start is expected to grow. A discussion on conservative budgeting, using conservative numbers for budget purposes.

Superintendent’s Remarks:

The following chart shows the next steps for budget planning to get the fund balance back to where it needs to be.

Staffing. They need to begin early staffing planning. With the boundary changes, staffing changes will need to occur to accommodate those changes.

Transfer Workgroup Update.

Main points in the changes to the policies and procedures.

The main change was the intra-district requests will be prioritized before nonresident requests, this was done based on the thought exchange and community requested that TSD residents should be prioritized above nonresidents.

By law staff would be prioritized first. Then the students impacted by boundaries would be prioritized next. Siblings will be prioritized within each group.

If there are not enough space in each group, how do you decide who gets the spots Historically they have used a first in time. There are problems with determining who is actually first. We need to provide something with greater equity, so if they get to a group without enough spaces to take everyone, then a lottery would be implemented.

The proposed timeline:

New Kindergarten applications would not be accepted until August 1.


The Community Forum held on January 27. Since it was such short notice, they also put out a Thought Exchange for the new procedures. Superintendent Dotson realizes that these policies and procedures will not please everyone. Homeless students are not under these policies.

Casey Taylor asked about staffing, and budget. The timelines are set so that the high schools can have master schedules set so they can determine where they have room or not.

Superintendent has been giving several presentations on the Levy, to get accurate information out there.


Darby -met with District leadership members, attended graduation pathways forum, spending time in schools. Attended the Tumwater-BHHS wrestling match. Her son wrestles as an 8th grader.

Casey -Thanked Ainsley and Lily, thanked Dave Meyer, thanked Jacob Meyer. He met with District Leadership team, thanked the leadership team. Thanked Mel Murray. Was at wrestling meet. He went to girls and boys basketball games.

Melissa- bought tickets for BHHS musical, gave play schedule. The choreographers were highlighted in Thurston Talk. Thanked BHHS leadership for their work with the promoting student leadership with the play.

More Progress with Transfer Review Committee-Was it Enough?

****UPDATED****New information was received.  See highlighted sections below to see the new updated information.

Transfer Review Committee-We Made a Little More Progress-But Was It Enough?

That depends on what you wanted to happen as a result of the Transfer Review Committee’s work.  Here are some of the highlights:

  • Priorities were changed.
  • Application acceptance dates were changed.
  • UPDATED to move ALL intra-district requests BEFORE nonresident requests including renewals.  Not all Tumwater residents will get priority over nonresident transfer students
  • UPDATED to change to a lottery system when spaces are LIMITED.  No changes were made to the inequitable first in-first approved process. 
  • Nomenclature was changed
  • UPDATED-discussion of the addition of dropping off applications at the schools and forwarded to the District Office. All applications must go to District Office.
  • The District can request residency verification from all students if needed.

 As our readers know, I am on the recently formed Transfer Review Committee for TSD.  We had our third meeting on January 13th and made a little more progress so I wanted to provide an update.

Superintendent Dotson provided revised policies and procedures for both the intra-district transfers and the nonresident transfers for our review and feedback. 

The nomenclature was changed to Intra-District and Non-Resident, which reflects the nomenclature in the law.  Intra-District refers to Tumwater Residents who transfer from one TSD school to another.  Nonresident refers to students who reside outside the Tumwater School District area.

I discussed the priority proposals that the group voted on in my prior blog (which can be found here), so in this blog I am focusing on the changes proposed at the most recent meeting. 

The following priority was proposed:

1-Students who are children of a full-time certificated or classified employee and are requesting enrollment in the employee’s assigned school or a feeder pattern school”, have first priority above any other transfer or renewal of a transfer, as required by law (RCW 28A.225.225).

2-Intra-District students who would be continuing enrollment at a site or in a program (this would include students impacted by boundary changes and renewals).

3-Nonresident transfer renewal request. (See update.  Note-this gives priority to non resident students over some Tumwater resident students)

4-Students whose siblings are enrolled at the same site. (See update.  Note-Again this gives priority to nonresidents over some Tumwater resident students.)

5-Other Intra-District transfer requests.(UPDATED-these have been moved to be prioritized over all nonresident requests including renewals)

6-Other nonresident transfer requests.​

The following changes were also included in the procedures:

  • ***UPDATED*** They are discussing the possibility of adding the option of dropping off applications at the schools and forwarding to the District Office. All transfers must go directly to the District Office within the new timelines(details discussed below).  Families used to be able to drop applications off at the schools, but that is not allowed under the new policy.  
  • The nonresident procedures include a requirement that the student must show proof of release from his or her resident district, and submit the proof to TSD.
  • “The District may request verification of residency from all students in a school, grade level, or program when the District determines it is necessary due to space/capacity limitations. Acceptable documents must show the parent/legal guardian’s name and address and must be dated within the past 30 days.  Post office boxes are not acceptable as residence addresses….”

Given the prioritization changes, TSD has implemented different application windows, depending on your status: The proposed application windows for each priority group are as follows:

  • February (3-28, 2020)
    • Full-time staff; new and renewal per RCW 28A.225.225
    • Intra-district students requesting to continue in their current school(includes boundary displaced and renewals)
    • Non-resident renewals (Note this is prior to new intra-district requests)
  • ​March (2-31, 2020)
    • Intra-District new requests**
  • April (April 1, 2020)
    • Non-Resident new requests(grades 1-12)​**
  • ​August (August 3, 2020)
    • Nonresident new requests(kindergarten)​**

**Siblings of current students will be prioritized for acceptance. 

A couple changes I would like to see, but have yet to be addressed
***UPDATED*** to change to a lottery system when spaces are LIMITED.  The lottery system would require a set date for lottery, which I have not heard of a date at this time.  If after a groups application period there is space for everyone, no lottery wold be necessary, it would only take place if there were more applications than spaces.  I would assume they would have a lottery with each group in order of priority if necessary. 

The proposed policy continues to determine priority based upon “time stamping”, with a first in-first approved for transfer requests.  This has been the prior practice, and I believe has lead to one group over another getting an unfair advantage.  This is still a very inequitable method to accept requests,  especially to many underprivileged families.  This may require “camping out” at the District Office the night before to ensure a child is first in line, taking the day off work to get the application in on the day of acceptance, etc.  This is unfair to many families(dual working parents, those with small children and no day care, those who do not know the system, those who are not computer savvy, etc).  Further, serving the earliest applicants eliminates TSD’s ability to look at the group as a whole and decide where students can be placed that will be a good fit for the student and TSD.   

***UPDATED***this appears to be the updated process (or something similar) as far as I understand.   I would suggest using the timeline windows with no preference given to first in time, provided the application is received within the timeline window.  If there are more applicants than spots, a random draw, with no preference to first in time, is the fairest solution.  The District has in the past used a lottery system (all-day Kindergarten before it was mandated, and required at all schools) and it was a far more fair system.  

From the drafted policies and procedures I also did not see any indication of limiting transfers or working towards limiting transfers.  There was also no indication that the transfers be used to bring the enrollment at both high schools closer.  However, I do hope that by pushing the dates out, TSD moves from an “accept all and figure it out later” to a more deliberate process of accepting transfers.

What was discussed:

I had hoped we would address some of the non-resident transfer procedures at this meeting.  The process we used at this last meeting did not lead to much discussion or exchange of ideas as a committee.  It was more of “social media” project.  For example, we read the policies and procedures(not given in advance) and gave feedback such as, questions, what we liked and/or recommendations for each item.  We had about 10 minutes for each step(to read the procedure and policy, discuss as a small group and give feedback).  Then the next group in the rotation would also give feedback or “like” or “dislike” previous comments.  It felt one dimensional and not as constructive and involved as the last few meetings.  Someone asked if we could vote on the comments, and were told we weren’t doing that this time.  There was no open discussion with the group or between groups.  For instance, my conversations were pretty much limited to the 3 other people in my group, and although we did have some good discussions, no one else in the room or the Superintendent heard or participated in our conversation, and I am sure other groups had a similar experience.  We were told the comments would go to an administrative team at the District office who will go through the feedback and decide if they wanted to incorporate any of the feedback or not. This process has begun and some of the committee comments have been addressed-see highlighted updates.  

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

The policies have been updated since the last committee meeting, so I would suggest attending this meeting as the new draft policy may look very different from what the committee saw at the last meeting.  These documents are still fluid at this point and community comment is necessary to make sure they represent what the community desires.  Do you think they have or have not done enough?  Mark your calendars and plan to attend the Community Forum to let them know what you think.  During this forum, the public will be able to see the policy and procedures drafted at the District Office.  This will be your last opportunity to ask questions and to let the Committee and the District know what your thoughts are on the process and the procedures that have been drafted up to that point. The last community forum I was involved in was fairly informal and small group discussion type idea exchange.  Mark your calendars (January 27, 2020, 7-8:30pm) and plan to attend.

Or contact Superintendent Sean Dotson and the Board Members to give them your thoughts:

To see what happened at the first meeting you can read my recap here. For the recap of the second meeting click here.

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


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.  


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:


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.  


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.     


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:



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. 


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.    


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).   



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.  


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.   



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.  


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


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.  


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.  


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. 


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. 


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.  


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.  


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.   


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.  


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.

19/20 High School Class Size Investigated


by Tami Kee

How is TSD doing on class sizes at the High School level? 

Last year I looked at how TSD was doing with class sizes at the high schools.  I thought it would be interesting to see how they are doing this year.  I also completed a couple blogs earlier discussing  the class size in TSD elementary schools and middle schools. For those blogs you can click Elementary, Middle Schools, Last year High Schools.  

A little background….

Unlike class size studies for elementary schools, there isn’t really much out there discussing recommended class sizes for a high school class.  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?   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 BHHS and THS would be considered “overloaded” based on the 27 student maximum? 

Both high schools have several classes that are over the threshold of 27 students, with many over the 30 student threshold too. (Band, Choir, Orchestra and PE were not included in this investigation).  It appears that, for the most part, there are fewer overloaded classes compared to last year, and the average class sizes for the most part are lower with some exceptions.  This could be due to the drop in overall enrollment in the District.  

English, Math, Science, and Social Studies, are, on average, more overloaded than non-core classes.  The following chart was compiled from the data showing the sizes of English classes at both high schools:

The Freshmen English classes are close to where they should be for student-teacher ratios.  The average Freshman English class sizes at BHHS and THS sit at 26.5 and 26.3 respectively.  This is right at the threshold for capacity so it stands to reason that there would be a few classes that go over the threshold based on scheduling the students. So having 17%-29% of the classes over the 27students would be expected.  The Freshman Honors classes have fewer students at both BHHS and THS with average classes sizes of 23.7 and 21.5, respectively.  

The Sophomore English classes are close to where they should be for student-teacher ratios.  The average Sophomore English class sizes at BHHS  sits at 26.6 with 40% over the 27 student threshold.   THS sits at and average of 25.4 with 14% over the 27 student threshold.  These classes are right at the threshold for capacity so it stands to reason that there would be a few classes that go over the threshold based on scheduling the students.   The Sophomore Honors English classes are also sitting right at capacity at both BHHS and THS with average classes sizes of 26.6 and 26, respectively.   BHHS has 33% of their Sophomore Honors English classes at or over the 30 student threshold, this is not desirable since hitting the 30 student threshold triggers the impact pay for the teacher.  

The Junior and Senior English Classes are also close to where they should be for student-teacher ratios.

The average Junior English class sizes at BHHS and THS sit at 24.3 and 26, respectively.  Both BHHS and THS have a few classes over the 27 student threshold and BHHS has 25% over the 30 student threshold.  The average Senior English class sizes at BHHS and THS sit at 24.9 and 24, respectively.  The AP English classes at both high schools have averages between 17 and 22 students, and none of these classes are over the the threshold.  THS has English 101 at the High school with an average of 24 students. 

The same approach with the math classes is as follows:

With Math classes, there are still some classes that are well over the capacity.  BHHS has a few classes with averages over the 27 student threshold and in each of those, with 17%-100% at or over the 30 student threshold in those classes.  BHHS also has a couple classes with enrollment of 12.8 and 14, which is well below the student threshold and not desirable from a budget perspective.  THS has a couple classes over the 27 student threshold and only Accelerated Integrated Math III with 67% at or over the 30 student threshold.  As discussed earlier, having classes at or over the 30 student threshold is not desirable as it triggers the impact pay for the teacher and affects the budget. 

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

Most of the Social Studies classes are below the 27 student threshold with a few exceptions.  For example, Civics at BHHS has an average class size of 28.3 with every class at or over the 27 student threshold.  The same course at THS has an average class size of 26.7 with 57% of the classes over the 27 student threshold.    Psychology is another course where BHHS has an average class size over the 27 student threshold with an average of 28.3 with 67% over 27 students and 33% at or over 30 students.  This same course at THS has an average of 26.5 with 50% over 27 students.  

On the other end of the spectrum are the AP US History classes at THS with an average of 18.3 students, well below the 27 student threshold, which is not desirable from a budget perspective.

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

For the most part, science classes are below the threshold, with many well below the threshold of 27 students.  The only courses above the threshold average are Physical Science classes at THS where 50% of classes are over 27 with an average of 27.1 students and 13% at or over 30 students.   However, there are several science courses at both high schools, with averages as low at 11.5 students per class.  AP Biology, Phyisics, Chemistry, Earth Science, and Enviro and You at BHHS and Honors Chemisty at THS are the smallest class sizes ranging from 11.5 to 16 students.  This is not desirable from a budget perspective.  

Last year we highlighted the over crowding in the Health classes at both high schools.  This year appears to be the same.


BHHS has 44% of Health classes over 27 students with an average of 27 students per class.  In contrast, THS has 70% of its Health classes over 27 students, and 50% at or over 30 students, with an average of 28.6 students per class.  Both schools have more students, likely Freshman, than they have spots in Health classes. 

The primary variables that affect overcrowding are the number of teachers and the number of students, both of which TSD controls to a significant degree.

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 has not been the past practice. 

However, TSD has a Transfer Review Committee formed that is working on some suggested changes to the current transfer processes.  Ideally, the master schedule would be set with the resident students placed, and at a later date, the non resident students placed in classes where available space exists.  

Letting the transfer students in before the spaces available have been determined does not make sense unless TSD decides to add more classes/teachers, which has budgetary impact.  


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 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.  Limited desk space may also pose a challenge if the class sizes are large enough.  Overall, this year there are fewer classes with overcrowding which is likely due to the lower total enrollment, and/or better distribution of teachers and students.

The current budget situation may affect the class sizes in the future. The Board opted to keep using savings instead of making severe cuts this year, which meant TSD ran at approximately a $2 million deficit this school year.  The TSD Board will need to cut at least $2MM from the budget next year to keep from going below the required minimum fund balance(which is required by law to keep).  This may mean class size increases, either by having fewer teachers and/or fewer class options.  

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

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.  

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