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.

PUBLIC COMMENT

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.

CONSENT AGENDA

No comments or questions, consent agenda was approved.

ACTION ITEMS

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.

OTHER BUSINESS

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.

SUPERINTENDENT REMARKS

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.

BOARD MEMBER COMMENTS

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.

PUBLIC COMMENT

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.

CONSENT AGENDA

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

ACTION ITEMS

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.

OTHER BUSINESS

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

 

SUPERINTENDENT REPORT

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:

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.

Timeline:

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.

BOARD MEMBER COMMENTS

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.

DUAL CREDIT OPTIONS IN THE HIGH SCHOOLS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HOW DO COLLEGES LOOK AT THE VARIOUS DUAL CREDIT OPTIONS.

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

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

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

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

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

WHY DO STUDENTS OPT FOR DUAL CREDIT CLASSES?

Lots of reasons, there is no universal answer. 

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

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

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

As always, we welcome any feedback.




	

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. 

UNDERSTANDING THE NOMENCLATURE
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.

CHANGES IN PRIORITY
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.)

***UPDATED***
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.​

PROCEDURAL CHANGES
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….”

NEW APPLICATION WINDOWS
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:

Sean.Dotson@tumwater.k12.us

Rita.Luce@tumwater.k12.wa.us

Casey.Taylor@tumwater.k12.wa.us

Scott.Killough@tumwater.k12.wa.us

Melissa.Beard@tumwater.k12.wa.us

Darby.Kaikkonen@tumwater.k12.wa.us

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 contactus@citizensfortumwaterschools.com

FEBRUARY 11TH BALLOT—2 LEVIES

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

asic-Ed

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

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

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

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

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

HOW WILL THE PROPOSED CAPITAL LEVY MONEY BE USED?

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

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

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

PO

ARE THE LEVIES NEW TAXES?

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

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

evy-rate

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

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

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

WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A LEVY AND A BOND?  

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

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

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

WHAT IS THE VOTING HISTORY IN TSD

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

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

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

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

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

evy

WHAT HAPPENS IF CAPITAL LEVY IS NOT APPROVED BY VOTERS?

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

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

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

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

CONCLUSION

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

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

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

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

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

Scott Kee

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Dec 12 Board Meeting Recap


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

CONSENT AGENDA APPROVED

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

THREE NEW MEMBERS SWORN IN

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

SECONDARY OPTIONS RENAMED

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

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

FACILITIES UPDATE

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

SD-Property

BUDGET DISCUSSIONS

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

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

und-BalanceDec-2019

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

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

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

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

ENROLLMENT UPDATE

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

nrollmentDec-2019

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

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

SUPERINTENDENT’S REPORT

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

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

CONCLUSION

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

WIAA Classifications

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

HOW DOES THE WIAA CLASSIFY TEAMS?

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

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

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

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

lassifications

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

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

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

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

lassification-table

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

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

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

THS(and/or BHHS) COULD OPT UP.

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

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

IAA-Timeline

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

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

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

COMMENTARY

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

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

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

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

As always, please feel free to contact me with any thoughts or comments.  Scottkee@citizensfortumwaterschools.com

Transfer Review Committee-We made a little progress

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

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

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

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

For the next meeting:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As always, we welcome your feedback and questions.  Contact us at contactus@citizensfortumwaterschools.com

What I learned at the Transfer Committee Meeting

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

Some Things I Learned

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

As always we welcome any comments or suggestions.  Email us at contactus@citizensfortumwaterschools.com

Elementary Class Size investigated 2018/19

4/02/19

With every new Blog entry we have been learning more and more about the ins and outs of how TSD is running.  There are many moving parts and each one is working with, or has an effect on, something else.  One of those moving parts is class size.  Last summer the community heard a lot of concerns, and reduction of class sizes was negotiated at length.  This entry looks at elementary class size in TSD.  

CLASS SIZE CLEARLY EFFECTS STUDENT SUCCESS

There have been many studies on how class size effects student learning.  You can find studies like STAR that show smaller class size results in an increase in academic performance.   The STAR study used 13-17 students or 22-26 students with a full-time teaching aide as a “small class” and 22-26 students as a regular size class.  SAGE was a multi year study that followed students from K-12,  and also found smaller class size increases academic performance, decreased in high school dropouts and resulted in greater retention of teachers.  An interest sidenote is that both studies showed the increases in academic achievement were larger with minority and lower income students.  

Some main points from an article on the STAR study by Jayne Boyd-Zaharias: 

“The state of Tennessee took seriously the findings about the benefit of small classes for low-income and minority children. In 1989, it established Project Challenge, which provided funds to the sixteen poorest counties (based on per-capita income) for reduced class sizes in kindergarten through third grade. This project was not an experiment like STAR; it was a policy application of the STAR findings, and it got excellent results. Charles Achilles, a member of the consortium that created the original STAR design, followed student achievement in these counties (1997)6 and found that “on average , the Challenge systems that started the 1:15 treatment in 1989 ranked well below the state average.  By 1995 they ranked near or above the state average .”

“The benefit of the SAGE program is especially strong for African-American students. In 1997-98, African-American students in SAGE classes increased their average total score by 52 points, compared with 33 points for African-American
students in control schools.These higher scores in SAGE schools narrowed the achievement gap between white and
African-American students;”

“Interviews of teachers and principals, classroom observations, and other qualitative comparisons of teachers in SAGE and regular schools suggest that SAGE teachers know each of their students better,spend less time managing their classes, have more time for instruction, and are more likely to individualize their instruction.”

You can read her full report here. The complete final SAGE study can be found here

Interestingly, class size impact is even more detrimental on lower income and/or minority students.  I found multiple articles on this topic.  While the general consensus is that students benefit from smaller class sizes, with lower income and minority students the benefit is increased significantly.   On the other hand, larger class sizes do not provide an ideal learning environment for students, and the negative impact is increased with lower income and minority students.

CLASS SIZE AND HOW IT AFFECTS THE BUDGET

Class size management is an important component of the budgeting process.  For example, the simplest way to reduce class sizes is to provide more teachers.  With budgeting, the “impact” number is also an important component.  Having classes at, or over, impact comes at a financial cost to TSD.    

Depending on grade level impact numbers at TSD are 22-27 for elementary age.  The following table is from the current TEA/TSD contract from this fall. This is the list of impact numbers at each grade level.  Once a class exceeds this number it is considered at impact.

The contract negotiated between TEA and TSD specifies an ideal maximum class sizes, which varies with grades/classes.  Once enrollment in a class is over impact, TSD is required to (1) provide a paraprofessional in the class for 2.75 hours of the day (it is unclear to me if this is a per student or a total regardless of how many students over impact this would make a significant difference in the cost), or (2)compensate the affected teacher with an “overload payment”(elementary: $22 per day per student over impact).  The wording in the contract appears to allow the teacher to choose which option he or she prefers.  

From contract Article 37.D.2:

“Impact Paraprofessional Time.
The District and the Association are committed to work toward class sizes that do not exceed the class size levels shown in the chart below. If a level is exceeded, elementary teachers shall be entitled to two and three quarter (2.75) hours of “impact paraprofessional” time, assigned to the individual classes that exceed the class size level, unless other creative solutions are /developed at the site. Teachers may elect to receive overload payment or other flexible options in lieu of paraprofessional time


As noted above, classes being at or over impact results in a less than ideal learning environment(unless a paraprofessional is also in the class).  As an example, test scores in the studies cited above increased with the smaller class sizes overall and a larger increase for low income and minority students.  

SO HOW IS TSD DOING ON ELEMENTARY CLASS SIZES? 

See the chart below, the red numbers indicate the class is over impact.  

22% of the classes at the elementary level are over impact and another 17% are at impact.  Some elementary schools have more classes at and over impact than others.  PGS, THE and LR have the highest numbers of classes at or over impact, where MTS, BL and EO have the fewest classes at or over impact. The chart below breaks down the percentage of classes at and over impact by school.

It should also be noted, that beginning next school year 2019-2020, TSD will be required to have K-3 classes at a maximum of 17 or forfeit significant funding.  Currently, only 8 of the 85  K-3 classes in TSD(11%) meet this criteria.  Accordingly, assuming enrollment and class size  are the same in 2018-19 as 2019-20, 89% of TSD classes in the K-3 grades would be over the 17 student maximum.  This topic came up at a recent Board meeting and there was some discussion about how many school districts are opting to forgo the funding as it is not financially prudent to make sure all K-3 classes meet the 17 student maximum.    

THERE ARE DIRECT FINANCIAL CONSEQUENCES WITH HAVING CLASSES OVER IMPACT.

At the time of our records request the elementary schools had a total of 27 classes over impact and a total of 47 students over impact.  So that is 27 classes that either have a paraprofessional or provide extra compensation to the teacher.  Providing the extra compensation to teachers pursuant to the contract is $22 per day, per student, which would result in a total of $186,120 for the school year.  If, instead, TSD paid 27 paraprofessionals the required 2.75 hours in each class the would cost somewhere between $213,000-$294,000.  Notably, these numbers do not factor in the cost of benefits, which is probably at least another 20% or so.   

In the scheme of a $85 million dollar budget, the financial cost is minimal, and probably requires little consideration.  However, the greater cost is to the students in each of those over-crowded classrooms, especially low income and minority students.  While the financial cost to pay a teacher impact fees would be less costly than assigning a paraprofessional in the classroom, from a student’s perspective, studies support the position that another professional in the classroom mitigates the negative impacts of overcrowded classrooms.  I was unable to find a study that investigated whether paying a teacher more to have a larger class also mitigates the impact.  With the current budget situation, TSD schools will likely be faced with some difficult decisions regarding which of these choices is best for the students in TSD.