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

ATHLETICS AND TRANSFERS

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

WHAT IS TSD’S POLICY ON TRANSFERRING FOR ATHLETICS

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

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

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

IS A TRANSFER STUDENT RESTRICTED FROM PARTICIPATING IN ATHLETIC CONTESTS?

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

ne-year

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

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

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

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

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

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

CAN ATHLETES OBTAIN WAIVERS?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ANALYSIS

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

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

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

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

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

CONCLUSION

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

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

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

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

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

19/20 High School Class Size Investigated

01/01/2020

by Tami Kee

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

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

A little background….

Unlike class size studies for elementary schools, there isn’t really much out there discussing recommended class sizes for a high school class.  This blog mainly addresses the seats available in the classroom(likely around 25-35) and the stated threshold capacity.  Some classes are more intensive, and take more time outside of the classroom, than other classes.  For instance a PE class is less likely than an English class to add a significant amount of time to a teacher with added students.  With not much outside TSD available, the contract between TEA and TSD is used as the baseline for class size in this discussion.

Article 37.E.5 of the TEA contracts states as follows:

“Secondary Class Size and Targeted Average.
 The employee workload in secondary classrooms (except band, choir, orchestra, and PE) shall average no more than 27 students per period, with a class size of 30 for impact. These calculations shall exclude student assistants or peer tutors. If an individual class exceeds the impact level (30), overload compensation will apply. If the overall targeted average of 27 is exceeded, overload compensation will apply. Employees will only receive overload compensation for one of the two provisions, whichever provides the greater compensation.”

So what does that mean?   Classes averaging more than 27 students throughout the day, or a single class over 30 students were agreed by TEA and TSD as the threshold for impact.  From this one can conclude that 27 is the desired maximum in a class.  From a budget perspective, this means that any class over 30 students automatically qualifies for “overload compensation”, and any teacher who has an average of more than 27 students throughout the day qualifies for “overload compensation”.  

What classes at BHHS and THS would be considered “overloaded” based on the 27 student maximum? 

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

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

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

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

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

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

The same approach with the math classes is as follows:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

creen-Shot-2020-01-01-at-9.49.33-PM

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

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

The number of incoming residents students is fairly predictable, and TSD can control the number of transfer students approved.  It would seem logical for the decision on transfer students to be made in the summer(after most “move ins” have occurred), when enrollment is more predictable and TSD knows how many resident students will be in the classes.  Our understanding is that this has not been the past practice. 

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

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

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 HS level.  However, similar to elementary classes, when class sizes increase in a high school class, this can create class management difficulties and increase the work load of the teacher.  Limited desk space may also pose a challenge if the class sizes are large enough.  Overall, this year there are fewer classes with overcrowding which is likely due to the lower total enrollment, and/or better distribution of teachers and students.

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

The raw data from our records report can be found on our documents page, here.

As always Scott and I welcome comments and questions.  Please email us at Scottkee@citizensfortumwaterschools.com

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

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

An analysis of the Performance of TDS Athletic teams

WHAT PROMPTED THIS BLOG

I have been pretty active with both THS and BHHS over the past several years, and have observed hundreds of athletic events.  My overall impression is that THS, and to a lesser degree, BHHS, do not find adequate competition in the EVCO.  I wanted to collect some data, and see if my impressions were supported by the statistics.  Accordingly, I collected the EVCO results for THS and BHHS over the past 3 years(since the last classification was done).  Please note that this analysis only includes EVCO games, and does not include non-league games. 

WHAT IS THE ENROLLMENT OF THE EVCO SCHOOLS

 THS and BHHS are both classified as 2A schools and compete in the Evergreen Conference.  The other 4 schools in the Conference are Aberdeen, Centralia, Rochester and WF West.  Here is the enrollment over the past 3 years for the EVCO schools.  

nrollmentSports

THS has over 200 more students than its nearest peer in the EVCO.  BHHS sits in the middle of pack in 2A, and is about 80 students short of the EVCO average.  

HOW DO THE TSD SCHOOLS PERFORM IN THE EVCO.  

The short answer is exceedingly well.  If things were totally balanced in a 6 team conference, one would expect each school to win about one-sixth(17%) of the conference championships. Things are not balanced in the EVCO.  Over the past 3 years, BHHS won 11 of 56(19%) conference championships across all sports.  However, THS won 24 of the 56(almost 43%) EVCO titles. As a result, the two TSD schools captured 35 of the 56 conference titles(62%), leaving the other 4 schools to split the remaining 21 titles(an average of about 5 a piece).  Here is the chart of the results in all sports for THS and BHHS for the last 3 full years(highlighted years indicate conference championships):

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

On average, BHHS teams win about 56% of their games.   More than expected, but not totally out of the norm.  A 56% win percentage is evidence that while BHHS excels, it is probably getting good competition the majority of the time.  

In contrast THS teams win about 74% of their games, which is much more than expected, and, in my view, indicates an inappropriate level of competition.  A 74% victory rate is indicative of a lack of competition, which, in my experience is pretty common with THS.  Notably, The 74% victory rate includes one team that only wins 5% of its games.  If that team was not part of the calculation, the winning percentage would be around 77%.  

15 of 19 THS teams win more than 70% of their games.  Astonishingly, 6 THS teams win at least 90% of their games.  I know that some of the readers will point to the THS football team, which has been dominant for years.   My personal view is that program is an outlier, and would likely be just as dominant in pretty much any league classification in the state.  However, it is somewhat surprising that teams can exhibit dominance in the manner in which the THS soccer, volleyball, cross country and track teams clearly overmatch their EVCO opponents to a point wherein the results are rarely in doubt before the games commence.    

A COUPLE FACTORS SUGGEST THE DOMINANCE IS NOT SURPRISING

THS has about 20% more students than any other EVCO school, and nearly 350 more students than the average of the other EVCO schools(without THS the average enrollment of EVCO schools is about 892).  The bigger pool from which to compile teams invariably results in more students with talent.   

Similarly, as I will outline in an upcoming blog, THS teams are comprised of a disproportionate amount of out district students, and it is clear that athletes transfer into THS in numbers that are even greater than the already disproportionate amount of the general population.  There are other variables which I have not mentioned.  These could include THS being a preferred location for coaches and boosters, facilities, and proximity to a larger population area(which may avail itself to more resources.)  I am sure there are other reasons which I have not contemplated.  

UP NEXT . . .

WIAA is reclassifying schools, and the re-classifications will be effective for the 2020/21 schools year.  In my next blog, I will look at how WIAA classifies schools, and how the re-classifications may affect THS and BHHS.  

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