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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  1. Breath of Fresh air during Board member comments.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WHAT ARE THE EXCEPTIONS OF NOTE?

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

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

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

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

VIEWS ON THE MANDATE

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

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

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

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

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

ARE SCHOOLS TEACHING SEXUAL EDUCATION AT PRESENT?

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

VIEWS ON THE CURRICULA

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

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

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

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

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

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

CONCLUSION

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

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

HOW CAN YOUR VOICE BE HEARD?

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

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

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

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

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.

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

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.  

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:

creen-Shot-2019-12-17-at-5.10.07-PM

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.  

Conclusion.

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 Scottkee@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 Re-Investigated

Since I wrote the Blog in the Spring about class sizes and noted several classes were above impact, we requested the class sizes for this year to see how they compare.  Since the strike in the summer of 2018, the community has heard a lot of concerns surrounding class size.  This Fall brought on more restrictions with the implementation of the K-3 legislation.  This Blog entry looks at elementary class size in TSD this year compared to last year.  

Starting with a little background.

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, which comes at a cost.  With budgeting, the “impact” number is also an important component.  Having classes at, or over, impact also comes at a financial cost to TSD. From a budgeting standpoint, the ideal scenario would be one where every class is just below impact.   

The contract negotiated between TEA and TSD specifies an ideal maximum class sizes(“impact”), which varies with grades/classes. 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.

lass-size-elementary

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 (this appears to be the total regardless of how many students over impact), or (2)compensate the affected teacher with an “overload payment”(elementary: $22 per day per student over impact).  The wording in the contract leaves it up to the teacher’s discretion which option they choose.

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”

Studies have shown that classes being at or over impact results in a less than ideal learning environment(unless a paraprofessional is also in the class). The Blog I wrote last year sites some of these studies and goes more in depth in this discussion and can be found here.

SO HOW IS TSD DOING ON CLASS SIZES COMPARED TO LAST YEAR?

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

Class sizes from October 2019

creen-Shot-2019-11-19-at-6.26.57-PM

The class counts listed in red are classes that are over impact.  This year we also requested information on how many paraprofessionals are in the classrooms.  In looking at the data, it appears there are only 2 paraprofessionals who are assigned to work in the classes over impact at the elementary level.  Looking at the chart above, there are 17 classes over impact, which would mean most teachers have opted to take the impact pay over having a paraprofessional in their classrooms.  

The chart below breaks down the percentage of classes at and over impact by school.This Fall, 13% of the classes at the elementary level are over impact and another 8% are at impact.  Some elementary schools have more classes at and over impact than others. Last year 22% of the classes at the elementary level were over impact and another 17% were at impact, so the number of classes at impact has significantly reduced over the last year.   PGS has the most classes over impact, followed by LRE and EOE.  All the classes at BLE and THE fall below the impact number set by the TEA contract.  

creen-Shot-2019-11-19-at-5.19.56-PM

It should also be noted, that beginning this fall,TSD was required to have K-3 classes at a maximum of 17 or forfeit significant funding.  Currently, only 3 of the 88  K-3 classes in TSD(3%) meet this criteria in strict application.  This is actually less classes meeting this criteria than last year(11% met the 17 students or less criteria last year).  But as I understand, the legislature put in place some ways around an actual class size of 17.  The school districts are allowed to also count all certificated teachers including specialists as part of the teacher/student ratio.  I am uncertain if TSD was able to get the numbers to work out to be able to receive the additional funding.

THERE ARE DIRECT FINANCIAL CONSEQUENCES WITH HAVING CLASSES OVER IMPACT.

At the time of our records request the elementary schools had a total of 17 classes over impact and a total of 30 students over impact.  So that is 17 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, would result in a total of $660 per day and $118,800 for the school year.  If, instead, TSD paid 17 paraprofessionals the required 2.75 hours in each class the would cost somewhere between $134,000-$185,000.  Notably, these numbers do not factor in the cost of benefits, which is probably at least another 20% or so. Of course, TSD does receive approximately $9,000 per year per student in state funding so it can help the balance sheet to put students in classes over impact.    

In the scheme of an $85 million dollar budget, the financial cost is pretty 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 and a parent’s perspective, studies support the position that another professional in the classroom helps to mitigate 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 continue to be faced with some difficult decisions regarding which of these choices is best for the students in TSD.  It would also be interesting to know which of these classes have out of district students which may also contribute to the over crowding.  We have asked TSD for this data and have been told they do not keep data on which grades in each school out of district students are currently assigned.  This might be data that would be helpful in determining how well we are doing at strategically placing out of district students, but without this data we can only assume a straight percentage which would mean that close to 3-6% of the students in each class are out of district and therefore account for the overcrowding in each of these classes.

As always, we welcome comments and questions.  Email us here.

9/26/19 Board Meeting Recap

Agenda-can be found here.

The time was not published on the calendar, and the agenda had the meeting starting at 8:30 am, I did arrive about 8:45am, but when I arrived they were discussing the unexcused absent policy.  I am not sure of exactly what I missed of the meeting, since they were rearranging the agenda to accommodate those who were listed on the agenda.    I do believe I missed the discussion on Policy 6100 regarding “REVENUES FROM LOCAL, STATE AND FEDERAL SOURCES” found here.  I would encourage those of you interested in the meeting agenda items, to watch for the recording to show up on the website-here.  

I plan to have a couple follow-up blogs about items discussed during this meeting, mainly the need for a new elementary and middle school, so watch for those blog articles in the future.

Policy 3122

The policy can be found here.  The discussion was mainly surrounding what they would count as unexcused absences leading to suspension, and how they would be handling continued unexcused absences.  It is no longer attached to kids who are not attending school(ie home hospital, etc).  They discussed some special circumstances surrounding the policy.  For more information and more of the discussion, please see the video when they publish on the TSD site.

Ballot Measure Discussion

Cory Plager-D A Davidson

It appears DA Davidson was hired to advise the district and board on the types of bonds and levys they could put on the ballot.  He went through the basic types and then talked about application of each one.  The discussion included whether or not they would put together a levy/bond proposal to include both the M&O items and the new school or do one for the M&O and then later ask for the new school.  Below are the slides presented showing the different types of bonds/levys and taxes generated by different types of levys/bonds.

The options available:

The Pros and Cons of a voter approved bond.  The major con they discussed was the super majority.  They would need 60% of the voters to approve, and they have to have at least 40% of the voters who vote in the general election vote on the measure.  A discussion of timing based on which election the school bond would follow.  However, decisions need to be made quickly to get any measure on the February ballot. The filing deadline to do so is December 13, 2019.  

They discussed non-voted bonds.  These have more restrictions and depending on the amount, would require a public hearing.  They discussed using something like this to pay for planning a new elementary school.  

They discussed the success of bonds passing based on having M&O (maintenance and operations) proposals linked to a Capital Project (new construction).  They pointed out that single proposals pass at a lower rate than running multiple proposals at the same time.  I am not sure what their data depicts as far as what areas they encompass:

They also looked at the assessed values in our area.  Notice the upward trend the past few years, with a 7.7 % preliminary growth predicted for our area.  He discussed this possibly being low, since they don’t have all the new construction calculated in.  

The levy that passed a few years ago is set to end, and the funds collected will also decrease.

The tax rate history was also discussed.  The amount TSD has been able to collect in the past was a great deal higher than after the McCleary decision. The “fix” increased the amount from $1.50 to  $2.50, which will start in 2020 and is not depicted on this graph.  Projected collections are in the next slide.

This shows the total increase based on the McCleary Decision fix.

This slide shows the amount collected if they were to put a 2 year proposal together based on different rates.  They are calculating based on a 6% growth (previous slide has a 7.7% growth).  I believe this was a discussion just based on collecting for the maintenance and operations proposal.  

The district has approximately $12 million in maintenance and operations (M&O) costs that they are looking to obtain funds to pay for.   Below is the itemized list of items needing funds:

Each of these items were discussed, student devices include chrome books replacement and new implementation, Staff devices-computers etc will need to be replaced, building and classroom technology.  Also on the list was preplanning and design of a new elementary they discussed how this would be a shortcut to getting the school built faster as this would take a year off the implementation if they ran a separate levy to build a school.  I haven’t looked at the budget approved at the last meeting and am not sure if these are already on the proposed budget or if these are new items.

Superintendent Report 

I will paraphrase his discussion as best as I can.  

He started out with a followup.  He discussed the issued brought up by the PGS staff due to the increased numbers they have experienced this year.  When they first noticed the population growth happening they added another kindergarten teacher and paraeducator positions.  He discussed the strain this puts on the rest of the staff-mainly the counseling staff.  PGS has over 600 students.  The state funds counselors at 1 per 800 student at the elementary level.  Our schools are receiving more than is funded at the state level.  The district feels there is a need and have funded more counselors at the schools.  Adding administrators does take some strain off this need, but is not as good as a counselor.  PGS has a Principal and a full-time Assistant Principal.  They do not have funds to provide another counselor at this time, and they are looking at problem solving in this area.  

Kim asked if the staff from Together which is housed at PGS could offer some services, Sean did say Together does have a site coordinator and that does provide an additional resource.  He did say they were going to look at that option as well to help.

The discussion then turned to the projections at both the elementary and middle level with putting together a bond and/or levy in the near future.  The district is planning on building new elementary school and discussed the possibility of a new middle school.  The slides used in the discussion were put together by Parametrix last year for the Boundary Review Committee.  (I plan to write a blog on this particular topic).  Using these predictions, Sean concluded that “we know we have a need for additional facilities.”  

He discussed the to-do list.  He went through the items on the following slide.  

They discussed the bond to upgrade technology, but mentioned this bond is used up.  So there will be a need to replace and upgrade those devices in the future.  This would be continued implementation to get all the schools to a 1 to 1 ratio on chrome books as well as replacements.  Jim clarified that there is still money in the bond to complete the implementation, but they are going to need to do something to get replacements.  Sean did explain they are looking into the benefit of the  1 to 1 chromebook benefits.  This will be discussed later as they get information about the benefits.  

He discussed the safety upgrades they feel are needed at several of the schools.  Cameras need installation and upgrades, sprinkler systems need installation and upgrade.  Power lines owned by the district need to be replaced.  

If all the projects were to be completed, they would need $12.7 million.  This brought on the discussion of going through with a bond right now to build a school, do you back burner these projects, do you package these with the new school?    A 2 year Capital Levy was discussed to cover these costs instead of running the school bond at this time.  (see slide presentation above).  And then as this expires come back with the bond for the new school.  Trying to keep the tax rate steady.  He discussed putting in the planning for a new school in the capital levy to cut some time off the school being started if they waited to propose the new school levy.  They discussed taking 3 years to get the building built after the bond passes.  The earliest a school being built would be approximately 2024.  

The middle school and high school boundaries were brought up.  Sean did mention that they are trying to address transfer processes before they can go into a secondary boundary adjustment discussion.  They are asking Jim Duggan to again help with the transfer policies both inter district (transfers from other districts) and intra district(transfers within our district).  And in the spring start work on the secondary boundary adjustment discussion with an implementation in the following fall.

They hope to have the transfer policies in place so that families that have been affected by the boundary adjustments can make decisions well in advance.  

Kim brought up her opinion for the need to add a middle school with the elementary also.  (watch for my future blog on this topic).  Trying to keep boundary adjustments off until they add a new middle school.    

It was brought up by Jim that in order to get state funds for a new school you have to have a significant amount of students in portables or you don’t get those funds.  

Mel also brought up that with the enrollment down the state will look at trends, which the last 2 years has been down.  The rest of the board and superintendent seemed to think that this was not the case.  (I plan to discuss this in a future blog).

The discussion led to what they were to propose for the capital levy vs. pairing it with the school bond vs. do nothing.  Kim brought up that if we waited until next year to do the school bond, it would be after a presidential election and therefore would require more voters to validate the vote, which the board or superintendent seemed apprehensive about doing this

Andrea stated she would support the early levy to cover the preplanning of a school.  Rita brought up that this discussion will be a big part of their upcoming budget workshop.  Kim asked to get information on just an elementary school vs an elementary school with a middle school.    

Sean did mention that they would also be looking at what type of bond/levy the board would support.  Rita asked for a prioritized list.

Another elementary and high school were also brought up as possibilities for future.

Some fun facts with numbers in the district presented by the Superintendent:

90.5 -the percentage of the school year remaining.

15,250 – the number of meals prepared by food services each week.

83.1 – percentage of students who averaged fewer than 2 absences a month.

10 – the percentage of instruction missed by students having more than 2 absences a moth.

Board Member Comments

Kim Reykdal

Thanked the EOE principal for being the first to participate in the new system the board is trying out, where they meet with the principal in a work session to get information on the work they are doing.  She has been enjoying watching her daughter play soccer at the middle school. Praised TMS for their fundraising, $20K raised.  She is headed to Spokane for Leg. Assembly to discuss WASDA’s legislative priorities for the coming year.  

Andrea McGhee

She met with the PGS Principal and the counselors to discuss what a day in the life of a school administrator is like.  She met with a couple parent leaders to listen to them about what is happening in their schools.  She attended the Together breakfast.  She thanked Khalia for her time on the board.  She thanked Sean for his efforts.  

Rita Luce

She discussed her previous time at “Leg.” She stopped by PGS.  She also praised the new process meeting with the principal beforehand.  

Melissa Beard (not present)

Khalia Davis (not present, resignation effective 9/25/19).

As always I would encourage you to watch for the video to be posted for those of you to watch as I am sure I missed some items.   We welcome comments, questions and suggestions, just email us as contactus@citizensfortumwaterschools.com

Also, if you have comments or questions specific to items discussed, please email the board members.

Your school board representatives:

District 1

Rita Luce:  rita.luce@tumwater.k12.wa.us

District 2

Kim Reeykdal:  kim.reykdal@tumwater.k12.wa.us

District 3

Andrea McGhee:  andrea.mcghee@tumwater.k12.wa.us

District 4

Melissa Beard: melissa.beard@tumwater.k12.wa.us

District 5: Vacant