Malcolm X Community Members –
I'd first like to thank Joshua Room, Anna Brock, and Michelle Oram (for taking Lead) and the many other active parents, staff, and teachers who have shown up to make a stand on the "School Size/Density" issue at the various School Board events. Below you will find detailed information about the upcoming meeting with research and speaking points... As a busy parent I appreciate the time and effort it take to gather all this information so that I to can be informed on the topic and show up when it counts! - Vicki Davis (etree moderator)
IF YOU ONLY READ THIS FAR, HERE ARE THE TOP FOUR REASONS YOU SHOULD PLAN TO ATTEND THE NOVEMBER 5 SCHOOL BOARD MEETING (more details below):
1) Support Malcolm X staff in their request for additional/proportional staffing;
2) Be sure that the “final” options selected by the School Board to address crowding and enrollment increases do not impair your child’s education;
3) Ensure that the School Board is considering ALL of the information relevant to crowding and enrollment issues; and
4) Comment on the “Recess Restriction Policy” under consideration for use in BUSD.
----and don't forget to vote today!
AND NOW THE DETAILS:
You may recall that we came to you prior to the October 8, 2014 School Board meeting, asking for you to show up to that meeting and voice your support for various preferred “talking points” relating to the topic of surging enrollment in BUSD and its impacts on Malcolm X (currently, and anticipated). Thank you so much to those of you who were able to make it on that occasion.
Now we are back to tell you that the MOST IMPORTANT School Board meeting on this topic to date will be this Wednesday, November 5, 2014. If you are able to attend that School Board meeting, that would be great. As usual, feel free to bring your kids, signs, wear Malcolm X t-shirts, and otherwise make your presence felt. Meeting begins at 7:30 p.m., try to get there by 7:10 p.m. The meetings take place in the Board Room at 2020 Bonar Street. To access the Board Room, go around the corner onto Addison Street (right turn after you pass the 2020 Bonar building), and enter the second walkway.
Why is it so important? A few reasons:
(1) THIS IS A PRIME OPPORTUNITY TO SUPPORT YOUR MALCOLM X STAFF. There are teachers planning to address the Board during Public Comment on the need for a proportional staffing model/formula for all staffing categories impacted by increased population, particularly though not limited to special education staff, literacy coaches, math support, support staff, and so forth, that will equitably provide resources to all BUSD schools. It does appear that we have been heard on this topic, and that steps are being taken in good faith to work out this formula (which will also have to be the subject of collective bargaining), but in the meantime the Board should continue to hear from parents and teachers alike about the need for additional staffing. If you have a personal story to tell about the need for additional staffing, all the better. But regardless, your presence at the meeting is important to (a) “vote with your feet” to keep this issue in the forefront, (b) provide testimony, and/or (c) “stuff the ballot box” so that we can be sure that the appointed teacher speakers get time to speak (you can cede your Public Comment time to a teacher or another speaker if your name is selected).
(2) THIS MAY BE THE MEETING DURING WHICH THE BOARD DECIDES WHETHER OR NOT TO INCLUDE INCREASED CLASS SIZES, USE OF REMAINING FLEX SPACES AS CLASSROOMS, BUILDING PORTABLES, AND OTHER OPTIONS, AMONG THEIR “FINAL” LIST. This is the second of what the Board outlined as a (planned) four-meeting series (October 8 being the first) during which the Board will address the topic(s) of school enrollment, crowding, and the anticipated (further) surge in enrollment expected over the next few years. Whereas the October 8 meeting was dedicated to “outlining the problem,” this meeting is supposed to focus on “possible solutions” (both short-term and long-term). To that end, the Superintendent and the Board have been accepting suggestions from everyone, including the parent community, and the November 5 meeting is where they are supposed to be presenting all of the possible options. (By the way, if you have an alternative suggestion that is not yet represented in the “possible solutions” outlined in the Board packet, you should feel free to submit that by email to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com
You can see the results of that work in the packet of materials put together for the November 5 School Board meeting (called the “Board packet”), available at http://www.berkeleyschools.net/school-board/board-meeting-information/ (the Packet also includes the Agenda). The portion of the Packet focused on “Presentation of Options for Capacity Issues at Elementary Schools” is from pages 46 to 73 (pages 47 to 74 in the .pdf). In case you cannot access the Packet, or do not have the time to read it, the possible options outlined in the Packet are at the end of this email.
The anticipated timeline is that the Board will discuss all of these options at this November 5 meeting, and then narrow the list down to two options for its December 10, 2014 meeting, with a final vote to be taken in January 2015. Therefore, this meeting will be our/your primary opportunity to comment on the options presented, and to state a preference for those options that should (or should not) be included in the narrowed-down list. Furthermore, at the October 8 Board meeting several of the Board members expressed some impatience with this decision timeline (and the constitution of the Board may be changed after Tuesday’s election), so it is always possible the Board will take action sooner. Though it seems unlikely they will make a final decision among the options presented (or not presented, in the event a new idea comes up) at the November 5 meeting, this may be the best opportunity to influence their thinking.
(3) THERE IS A GREAT DEAL OF VALUABLE INFORMATION BEING PRESENTED AND DISCUSSED BEFORE THE BOARD, BUT THERE ARE SOME TOPICS WE HAVE ASKED TO HAVE ADDRESSED THAT ARE NOT YET PART OF THIS DISCUSSION. We are pleased to see that possible solutions suggested by members of our community to relieve crowding next year and beyond, including making use of the Adult School site or other sites to accommodate some of the incoming students, consolidating TKs at one or more sites, are among the list of solutions to be discussed. We are also pleased that a proportional staffing model is now under active discussion. We are less pleased to see options that we tried to eliminate, including using the remaining flex spaces and increasing class sizes, are also still included, though we understand that this is an “everything on the table” moment, so we hope that those will be considered and relatively quickly eliminated. You can help make sure that happens by providing comment on what you see as the problems (e.g., exacerbating density issues, impairing or eliminating enrichment programs) inherent in those “solutions,” even on a temporary basis. (Be aware that many ideas start out as “temporary” solutions but acquire a certain permanence. For instance, does it seem likely that the original intention was to have the portables at Washington or BAM remain in place this long?)
However, there are also two pieces of information that we have requested from the Board/the district that are not presented in this packet.
**The first of these is that we requested (through a Public Records Act request) that the district gather and disseminate any information it might have on the anticipated/acceptable enrollment capacities of the various school sites. When the district responded that no such information was available, we requested that the Board first lay out (whether in a Facilities Master Plan or otherwise) expectations about the student population (the total "load") that each school site is deemed capable of accommodating, and there should be opportunity for public comment on these figures. The lack of adequate prior planning for/consideration of capacity/density issues has been a contributor to our current overcrowded sites. It is not enough to ask only where there are "open" rooms without also asking how additional students will affect capacity/density issues. Yet there is still no information in the Packet on this topic. Admittedly, this is not a “proposed solution,” but it certainly ought to be part of “outlining the problem” with enrollment and capacity. There is some “historical” data on high-water enrollments in the various schools in Attachment C, but this is very rudimentary at best and bears no relationship to present capacity.
**Our second request not yet reflected in the Packet was that staff present the Board (and the public) with a full, fair, and transparent accounting of efforts to prevent unlawful out-of-district enrollment. Whether or not “fraudulent enrollment” is a significant contributor to crowding, suspicions about this topic can often overwhelm reasonable discussions of solutions, and may also impair the next BSEP campaign. It is obviously very difficult to try to quantify the amount of “fraudulent enrollment” that may be taking place (because it is, by its nature, presumably undetected), but it is also not enough to simply say that it is difficult to measure and therefore it cannot be discussed. There should be a transparent discussion of what the district is presently doing to prevent improper enrollment, what other districts do differently (or the same), whether staff in the Admissions Office or elsewhere think more could or should be done, and/or whether additional resources expended in this area could be any part of the district’s response to crowding issues. We can strive for transparency without prejudging the outcome of such an assessment (for instance, even if one does not believe that there is any sort of widespread problem), and not assume that everyone who raises the issue is making class or race assumptions about the topic, even if some are. (There is some information on this topic in Attachment C in the Board Packet – page 66, page 67 of the .pdf, including a brief description of the address verification process and a statement that 20% of address verifications are “not approved,” but it is not clear what this means or whether there is any likelihood that additional resources might increase these numbers or apply them to a broader sample.)
(4) RECESS RESTRICTION POLICY. Finally, for those interested in the topic, this will also be the first meeting at which the School Board (as a whole) discusses the draft Recess Restriction Policy also in the Board packet (http://www.berkeleyschools.net/school-board/board-meeting-information/) at page 74 (page 75 in the .pdf)). Education Code section 44807.5 authorizes California districts to “adopt reasonable rules and regulations to authorize a teacher to restrict for disciplinary purposes the time a pupil under his or her supervision is allowed for recess.” This is BUSD’s first attempt to craft such a policy. Earlier this year, given the lack of a written policy and the process underway to develop one, the district instructed school sites to refrain from using recess restriction until a policy is approved.
SOOOO . . .
PLEASE TRY TO ATTEND THE SCHOOL BOARD MEETING ON NOVEMBER 5. YOU CAN BRING YOUR KIDS. IT'S FUN! BRING SIGNS! WEAR MALCOLM X CLOTHING! BE VISIBLE! BE COUNTED!
(The School Board members have openly admitted that they respond to numbers, so we need to show up in force to get our message across.)
Please try to get there'll early, between 7:00 and 7:15, and sign up for Public Comment. Please mark "Yes" to the question about your comment relating to an agenda item ("Student Population") and submit your Public Comment card to the clerk. YOU DO NOT ACTUALLY HAVE TO MAKE A PUBLIC COMMENT, IF YOU ARE NOT A PUBLIC SPEAKER. You can give your time to somebody else. But it's important that we "stuff the ballot box" with requests for Public Comment. And if you do have a personal story to share about how "density" is impacting your family, all the better.
If you have any questions about attending, need a ride, or want to discuss this topic, please contact:
Joshua Room (firstname.lastname@example.org) Anna Brock (email@example.com) Michelle Oram (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Thanks for listening. Together We Can!
List of “Possible Solutions” identified in the Board Packet (in order of appearance in the Packet):
(1) Utilize additional (remaining) flex spaces or enrichment rooms;
(2) Increase class size to 24:1 in K through 3 classes;
(3) Consolidate the TK classrooms at one or more sites (Hopkins or Franklin being the most likely);
(4) Install portables at one or more school sites;
- Portables at the NW corner of LeConte could be used to expand LeConte or consolidate TKs
(5) Move BTA/Independent Study to Adult School campus (share space with Adult School), use BTA campus as Preschool-5;
(6) Use Adult School campus as shared Adult School and elementary school;
(7) Repurpose Adult School campus (entirely) as an elementary school;
(8) Expand one or more school sites (LeConte, John Muir, TO, BAM, and/or Washington);
(9) Build a new elementary school at the Oregon Street location (currently a maintenance facility);
(10) Relocate REALM Charter School, BTA/Independent Study, and Adult School, use Adult School campus as elementary school;
(11) Build a new elementary school site in BUSD.
Other “Possible Solutions” not presented to the Board (and therefore presumably not under consideration):
(12) Year-round schools;
(13) Multi-track schools (morning school and afternoon school);
(14) Leasing existing private or out-of-district school sites for elementary school.