Loyal Heights Elementary needs an additional Kindergarten teacher. There is no need to disrupt every grade level and classroom by creating grade splits when all you need to do is create one new contained classroom.
With details version1. You want us to do what?
Loyal Heights Elementary parents learned late on Friday from a PTA email that at two weeks into the school year, the district wanted to solve our foreseeable Kindergarten overcrowding problem--30, 29, 28 kids per class* respectively--not by adding an additional Kindergarten teacher for which there are the minimum number of students, a room ready to go AND it simply solves the problem. *Maximum should be 22 kids per class
No. Instead they would like us to pull a teacher from our 1st-5th grade ranks thereby forcing split-grade classrooms THROUGHOUT the entire school. It would require all the 400+ kids to be redistributed to likely different teachers than who they were first assigned. High-visibility programs for math and science, would be disrupted and overly complicated by split classes. Splits by their nature also fracture a teacher's time and attention to teach effectively.
You see, for the next two years, we are being housed in an interim location while our neighborhood school is remodeled. Already, this temporary location has come with some significant problems including (but not limited to) close proximity to the freeway overpass which shelters unsafe adults who have wandered onto school property and, in some cases, scaled sections of the too short 4-foot fences as well as the 10-foot chainlink fences surrounding the playground. A non-working security system for the building. A non-working buzz-in/intercom system for the front door. Rampant issues with transportation including ill-placed bus stops, overcrowded buses, erratic schedules and drivers with poor management skills. So layering this disruptive grade split staffing solution on top of all these issues feels abusive.
2. PTA Activate
Within 16 hours of the email blast, 30+ parents and 2 teachers were airing grievances in the Broadview Library Meeting room to School Board Director, Scott Pinkham, at one of his periodic community meetings. I would wager it was probably one of the more 'spirited' meetings he's had. A Q13 reporter and camera were there too.
Here's the video: http://q13fox.com/2016/09/17/31-kids-to-a-class-teachers-say-seattle-kindergarten-is-recipe-for-disaster
What I learned from this meeting is the distressing yet preventable situation our Kindergarten teachers are in now (beautifully articulated by senior Kinder teacher Tricia Lepse in the video) and what impact the split classes will have on the rest of the kids (also beautifully articulated by one of the 3rd grade teachers, Katherine Gaffney).
3. Roll tide: Facebook, Emails, Calls
Through Saturday, Sunday and Monday, parents barraged the district, school board, local politicians, media, anyone who would listen with messages.
And it made me start to feel feisty and emboldened yet heavy. Because I believe in public school. I love ours. I think about how intense and active and resourced our PTA is and how dedicated the Loyal Heights staff has shown themselves to be and I know we are a fortunate school. But how can we be so forsaken by the district? And the answer was because we are 'too fortunate'.
4. District response
"Student counts are linked to funding."
"The formula for determining staffing levels implicitly creates more split grades in order to receive state revenue."
I was deeply struck by how Associate Superintendent Michael Tolley's response reveals that he's less interested in the business of doing what's best for our children and more interested in running a school system like a commodity exchange. Commodities are very similar no matter who produces them and are priced equally and are interchangeable.
Full message below (everyone who wrote in received this):
Thank you for supporting your child’s school and sharing your concern over having the right number of teachers.
Matching the right number of teachers to the enrollment needs of schools is always a challenge.
Right now, the overall enrollment of Loyal Heights compared to projections shows close alignment at best, with possibly a few less overall number of students than projected.
Schools across our state and schools within the district use the same basic method of matching staff to school buildings. Student counts are linked to funding. If more students than planned enroll in a school or district, more staff can be hired to meet student needs. If fewer students enroll and attend a school or district, the district receives less money and must make up the extra cost by cutting a service or program.
Student enrollment in schools across the district fluctuates during the weeks leading up to the start of school and the first few days after school begins. As new students enroll and other students who are not returning notify the district, we review enrollment and staffing needs in every school and across the district. It takes several weeks of students being added and subtracted to determine actual class sizes.
Enrollment and staffing allocations at all schools are reviewed daily by a team of representatives from Seattle Public Schools departments of Budget, Human Resources, Enrollment Planning, School Operations, Capital Planning, Special Education, Advanced Learning and English Language Learning.
By the seventh day of school, enrollment typically begins to stabilize. Using the Day 7 headcount, the team runs the staffing formula and solicits input about classroom configurations and the master schedule from principals to determine if staffing changes are needed. Here is the timeline for the 2016-2017 school year:
· 9/19 principals submit classroom configurations to School Operations
· 9/19-9/22 Budget runs staffing formula using Day 7 student headcount
· 9/23 District leaders review the data to determine possible staffing changes
· 9/26 Communication to principals about staffing changes
Teacher placement can only occur while considering teacher ratios at both the school and district level. This is true for every school in our district. In the case of Loyal Heights, kindergarten enrollment is higher than predicted, and second grade enrollment is less than planned. At the school-level this suggests that more teachers may be needed. Thus the determination cannot be made until enrollment information for the school and for the entire district is reviewed as well. This is simply the standard procedure applied to all schools in the Seattle Public Schools district.
Additionally, the state legislature created new staffing standards. The new ratios provide “use it or lose it” resources. With such restrictions, the formula for determining staffing levels implicitly creates more split grades in order to receive state revenue.
We understand that the start of school staffing is challenging. Even though we are the largest school district in the state, we cannot afford to make incremental staffing changes that add overall cost without associated added revenue.
We thank you for your patience and understanding in this process.
Michael F. Tolley
Associate Superintendent for Teaching and Learning
Seattle Public Schools
5. So....We Rally Tomorrow
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