Sunday, June 7, 2009

Stacking the Deck in Advance of Future Boundary Wars?

Quietly, tomorrow's School Board FTT Committee meeting has an agenda item entitled "Boundary Definition". This seemingly innocuous agenda item packs a powerful punch if you look closely at how the board (administration?) has creatively defined terms to suit their purposes.

Remember how the board got all starry-eyed and weepy when it talked about "neighborhood" schools? How Smith's Crossing was the perfect place for elementary # 7 (Creekside) because it offered the opportunity for a "neighborhood" school?

Poof! Gone. In this little "dictionary", the district suddenly reverses course and defines "neighborhood" school as, "

"Neighborhood school: the school that is located within the boundaries of the attendance area in which a student resides. An imprecise term ..."

Circle logic! The board will define the boundaries which define the neighborhood schools. Then, if the schoolboard boundaries change (as they do)...whoooooops! Now you have a new neighborhood school. Problem solved.

What's really nice is that it actually can read OK...until those with experience realize that any assumption that "attendance areas" make logical or cartographical sense is just plain wrong. Remember "the finger" the board offered to the community in March 2008?

And that's how they can rationalize that students living in Bristol, who are geographically closer to and who only get to wave at the kids who attend both Bird and Northside --many of which may be actual "neighbors"--, as they ride the bus past BOTH those schools, are assigned Westside elementary as their "neighborhood" school. Granted they live waaaay to far to "hang out" with their friends within that "neighborhood" school.

FTT meeting 6-8-09 6:15 pm

Check out the definitions
We particularly love the clever insertion of the word "ideal" in these definitions. "Ideal" is defined as: something that exists only in the imagination: To achieve the ideal is almost hopeless.

Some of the definitions of note:

Proposed Definition of Terms

I. Terms used in Board Policy JC, School Attendance Areas (K-8).

C. assigned school - the school in which a student is required to enroll because his or her legal residence is within the boundaries of the attendance area of the school.
D. reassigned - changes in the assigned school due to one of the four policy-permitted exceptions to school assignment.
[SP-EYE: so your "neighborhood school is your "assigned" school" unless it is re-assigned". Classic.]

E. enrollment balance - the ideal of creating the greatest amount of equality between class sizes at a grade level across all schools. Because children do not enroll in equal numbers in each grade level from year to year and from attendance area to attendance area, this is a challenging ideal to fully realize. The policy defines three factors (space availability, class size and transportation) that can be used to try to achieve balance.

J. residency [SP-EYE: This should really be renamed "the Welke clause", as it only came into play because John Welke was concerned enough about keeping his youngest child together for ONE YEAR with his older sister that he found a creative way to do so.] - defined in Policy JEC, School Admissions, as the physical location (address) at which a child is an inhabitant for at least 50% of the time, provided the child is not an inhabitant at the address solely for the purpose of participating in free education from the District or to alter his/her attendance boundary in the District. A business address, post office box or sham residence does not constitute residency. In the event the District learns that a child’s place of residency is different than the information provided to the District, the District may charge tuition in accordance with state law, adjust the child’s school of attendance, or take other action authorized by state law.
[SP-EYE] "Free" education? Hello! I
sn't public education supposed to be "free"? Look...whether a kid goes to school A or school B, if it's a public school, there is no charge. So is the real issue here about educating the kids? Or getting state dollars for every possible kid we can??? ]

II. Terms used as part of the "Criteria for Analyzing Potential Boundary Changes" created in 2000-2001.

A. neighborhood - the geographic area assigned to a particular school. An average person, when asked what their "neighborhood" is, might respond with the name of a sub-division, geographic region, street, or landmark. Because of the widespread varied use and potential for misunderstanding, and because it is not district policy, this word should likely not be used.
B. neighborhood school - the school that is located within the boundaries of the attendance area in which a student resides. An imprecise term for the reasons discussed above.
C. greater good - a judgment that one decision or action better serves the broad public interests of education when compared to special interests or individuals desires. Differing priorities and values will result in differing judgments and therefore the potential for conflict is high. The School Board makes the final decision on such matters.

III. Additional Terms suggested for Definition at the Community Engagement Task Force review of the boundary change process on March 5, 2009

A. school equity - the ideal of being just and fair (in contrast to equality which is the ideal of being the same). To illustrate: If school A has a larger percentage of low income students than school B, equity means school A might have Title 1 or SAGE staffing and resources that school B does not have. Unlike the ideal of ‘greater good,’ various federal laws (e.g., I.D.E.A.), state laws (e.g., SAGE) and district policies (e.g., Policy IGBA) regulate application of this concept. However, like the ideal of ‘greater good,’ differing priorities and values will result in differing interpretation of equity and therefore the potential for conflict is high. The School Board is charged with making final decisions on such matters, in accordance with laws and policies.
[SP-EYE- This one is especially interesting. Remember all that talk about achieving soicio-economic Royal Oaks has 10% economically disadvantaged students while Westside has over 40%? Well this cool little definition allows the district to maintain the "inequity" because Westside is a SAGE school. "It's OK if that school is overloaded with economically disadvantaged kids because we run SAGE there." Great...what about kids in grades 4 and 5?]

F. regular instruction classrooms - classrooms sized, designed, and intended for the typical, regular education class. This contrasts with special use classrooms e.g., science labs, music rooms, book rooms, special education rooms, etc. This can get a bit confusing because some schools choose to use currently unoccupied regular instruction classrooms for other purposes (e.g., ESL instruction or computer labs) on a temporary basis until enrollment grows enough to re-claim those classrooms for their designed purpose.

[SP-EYE- Say what? This came about because Bird school was so overcrowded that the principal authorized use of "special" classrooms as actually classrooms. So there are no "special classrooms. So...we're waiting for MORE enrollment before these will ever be used as special classrooms? Who comes up with this stuff? ]