Notes from the K-8 Planning Meeting 2/16/10

9:41 am

I attended the K-8 planning meeting on 2/16/10 at Harrison Park and took notes during the meeting. There were approximately 40 to 50 people mostly Faubion, Irvington, Jason Lee, Beverly Clearly, Bridger, and Marysville. The mood of the crowd was collaborative but still concerned. My impression was that the participants wanted to know how to be a part of the solution and that successful neighborhood schools and community pride was strong. I got the feeling from the comments that this crowd was primarily people that chose to stay in their neighborhood schools and wanted the district to hear them and work to address their issues.

There were a handful of principals in the audience and I remember for certain that Woodlawn, Vestal, and Skyline principals were there.  PPS people present that I recognized (I tried to capture every name I heard but know I missed some): Supt. Carole Smith – Xavier Botana – Sarah Allan – Ruth Adkins – Trudy Sargent – Bobbie Regan – Harriet Adair – Sarah from Facilities – Sarah Carlin Ames –Marcia from curriculum and instruction – and also Rob Manning from OPB

Beryl Morrison opened the meeting and introduced Alisa Wood-Walters and asked what our #1 concerns were. A lot of people opened with positives that I did not capture here but the general theme was positive school climate, good teachers, and some programming related positives. The concerns:

  • Upper grade quality programs are lacking
  • Electives and facilities are too small and lack of lockers, age appropriate furniture
  • The perception that Irvington is less than Beaumont – a lack of feeder schools and having a hard time selling the program
  • We can’t offer what a middle school does
  • Would love to have band at Jason Lee and also a science lab
  • Electives, sustainability of programs from year to year such as sports with so much fundraising variability
  • Full time counselors would be nice
  • Losing kids in 6 to 8 because other schools have more electives and it is usually the high achievers
  • 2 programs existing in one school – Odyssey program – losing kids at 6th grade – peer pressure of going to certain schools with bad reputations
  • Direct competition with Beaumont at Sabin – you do not have to lottery in – half the kids leave – in competition with ACCESS program and there is no space and even if kids stayed we would have nowhere to put them – no more room for growth with two growing programs
  • Building up the 6th to 8th component and a program that prepares kids for high school
  • No electives
  • Ockley Green is an Art &Technology magnet with no art teacher
  • 6th to 8th graders do not feel like they are getting the middle school experience
  • A principal raved about AVID at Vestal – they are sending kids to Marshall for band afterschool so parents are relied on for transportation – Vestal seems to have a lot of community partners

Turned over to Sarah Allan and Harriet Adair

  • She told the audience this was a listening session and admitted it had been a long time since K8 discussion had happened
  • At that point we went through the Powerpoint and I did not take great notes because it went by quickly and can probably be seen on the website. There was some interesting data in the Powerpoint that I don’t want to butcher incorrectly here but is all in the presentation.

Next up was a forum to share positives and more concerns after filling out a handout and at that point we lost about 20 people:

  • Older kids and younger kids together is a positive
  • Teacher’s opportunities for collaboration
  • Improved student behavior
  • Great Spanish instructor (can’t remember which school)
  • K-8 model helps keep kids younger longer
  • Feeling welcomed and that kids are ok with parents being at the school
  • Less social pressure
  • Things you can do in a small school you can’t do in a large school – having kids be more a part of the process
  • Sabin SUN offers a transition program – good coordinator
  • A gender imbalance of more boys vs. girls at I believe it was Irvington
  • Kids keep coming back to visit from 9th grade and volunteering at the K-8
  • Having to compete with a myth – people think they know what a certain middle school has because of rumors that are simply not true – parent said that people think Beaumont has shop and home ec but don’t bother to research accuracy of claim.
  • We need support from PPS to do some K-8 PR campaign – all the chatter is about what we don’t have vs. what we do
  • Not sure why we have any middle schools if we want equity
  • No space – kids right on top of each other and band going on in the cafeteria while kids are trying to eat
  • Beverly Cleary – Staff having to travel between two buildings
  • A lot of people are using Title I  to supplement schools and it “looks like”  PPS is giving these things – it is not clear to everyone where the resources are coming from – More funding transparency
  • I gave input on the fact that when schools have space issues the first to go are the kids with disabilities. There is in fact a lack of incentive for principals to keep kids with disabilities in the building because of the way special education funding does not follow the child to their school. Principals that keep kids with disabilities are in essence punished because they have to use general education funding to shore up what special education does not provide.
  • PTA’s are typically only K-3 and how to build this up. I spoke to this gentleman after the meeting and told him that at my K-8 we learned that the best way to get people to show up is to call them vs. mail or email.

Carole Smith closed the meeting

Alisa from the Oregon PTA asked about what future forums should look like and if they should be cluster specific vs. district wide and audience response was both.

Sorry the notes are so choppy but if I did not submit this right now then it would never get done :)

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Stephanie Hunter is a behavior consultant and the parent of a student at Ockley Green. She is active in local and statewide advocacy for children and adults with disabilities, which she writes about on her blog Belonging Matters.

filed under: K-8 Transistion

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13 Responses

  1. Comment from Beth Slovic:

    The idea of a K-8 PR campaign has been tried — in 2008. Ockley Green still has no dedicated art teacher.

    http://bit.ly/bBqvBx

    And a specific PR campaign around SW schools went before that. Kids from Hillsdale Terrace still go to Hayhurst (almost two miles away) instead of Rieke down the street.

    It’s not clear how effective all that was. But who cares!? It was grant money. (Or, at least, the 2008 project was.)

    Cheers,

    Beth Slovic

  2. Comment from Carrie Adams:

    Stephanie, can you talk a little bit more about the concern with the Title I funding?

  3. Comment from Steve Buel:

    Stephanie, nice job of summarizing. I stayed for the first hour and your summary was excellent. Thanks for doing this. Gotta be impressed by the number of school administrators in attendance. Whatever negatives we can ascribe to these people, being afraid of long hours and hard work is not one of them.

    I would point out that if you list negatives then positives of an issue (as PPS did in this meeting) you still need criteria by which to make your judgements. This is one of the major problems with these types of input meetings. If PPS had, as Steve Rawley and I have urged for a long time, a genuine definition of what constitutes a good education then we could actually evaluate what was happening. Now, it is just positives and negatives, but with no criteria to judge their relevance.

  4. Comment from h.j.:

    Here’s one criteria I think we can all agree on as far as middle school kids are concerned: Coming from a K-8, will they be prepared for high school?

  5. Comment from Stephanie Hunter:

    Great point Steve! I did see you there but couldn’t catch your eye and already felt conspicuous sitting there with the laptop so didn’t cross the room to say Hi :)

    Carrie – It was a brief mention of Title I and it was framed around funding transparency. The parent said that she wanted to know what PPS was providing as far as additional electives/programs/supplies and what was being funded through Title I. Her quote was made very kindly but she said in essence that she did not want to give PPS credit for providing the schools things that were paid for by Title I funds. Some parent piggy-backed on this that understanding what Title I could be used for would be helpful but it was a lot of brief crosstalk before we moved on to another person with their hand up.

  6. Comment from Zarwen:

    I hate to say it, but this sounds like an exact repeat of the meeting that was held at Rigler in Feb. 2008. Discouraging that no progress has been made in two years.

    Thanks for posting the notes, Stephanie.

  7. Comment from Steve Rawley:

    Interesting that they’re still “planning” for the K-8 transition. Any word on when the K-8s will offer the same opportunities as 6-8s as promised? You know, instrumental music, world languages, electives?

    Sounds like the same complaints, answered by the same old monkey shine we’ve been hearing all along. Lots of hand waving; no action.

    Sad. PPS is totally missing the opportunity to build trust for HS redesign.

  8. Comment from Rita:

    I’ve been looking on the PPS site for the powerpoint presentation from the K-8 meeting, but haven’t found it anywhere. Anybody find it yet?

  9. Comment from Paul:

    As music teachers, we have been working, prodding the district to put forth some sort of declaration or tangible evidence that it is indeed committed to strong music programs in every school. In this age of site based decision making each school is left too much to chance, whim, or local community pressure on whether or not there is a music class at each school. We see no other way than for some sort of centralized decision making and accountability to these programs so that they will be successful. So far, the district has made no such statement. Until they do nothing will change. I urge parents to continue your support of music and arts education so our kids have the experiences they deserve and equal to their neighbors around the area.

  10. Comment from AnRyBr:

    Rita asked: “I’ve been looking on the PPS site for the powerpoint presentation from the K-8 meeting, but haven’t found it anywhere. Anybody find it yet?”

    I’ve got Sara Allen’s preK-8 ppt files from 2008-2009. I can’t imagine it’s not been updated (?) but can forward this if nothing more recent shows up.

  11. Comment from NePo Parent:

    Thanks for the notes Stephanie. The latest PPS Pulse newsletter has a link with the powerpoint http://www.pps.k12.or.us/news/2772.htm in the recap of this meeting. It’s about half way down the page.

  12. Comment from marcia:

    The last thing we need is more PR fluff to make the k-8′s look better than they are. We have a classroom in a hallway and a staff room consisting of a mircrowave next to the asbestos covered boiler. We have to go to blocks next year, which means lower grades will receive less specials time than the little we already have. No more PR! PLEASE

  13. Comment from Bonnie Robb:

    I agree Marcia! We are sooo overcrowded, a problem faced by many K-8 which is not being discussed. When you have 28-32 students in classrooms in a very high needs school (or any, for that matter) simply because you have run out of rooms, there is a PROBLEM!!! Nobody is talking about this elephant in the room.