Q & A with School Board Candidates; Important August 6th Primary Will Cut Candidate Pool by Two

It’s summer. The days are warm and long.  The kids are home.  Vacations might be the most important thing on your mind, but it’s also primary election time.

In the Snoqualmie Valley there are four candidates are vying for the North Bend District 4 Snoqualmie Valley School Board seat – and the election is just over two weeks away.  Ballots for the August 6th primary election were mailed on Wednesday, July 17th, 2013.

Although the candidates must reside in District 4 to run for that particular seat, ALL Snoqualmie Valley voters elect the candidate. The two candidates receiving the most primary votes will move on to the November general election.

The candidates agreed to answer four school-related questions, giving voters a better idea of where they stand on some issues facing our district.

The questions and  the candidates’ answers will run in a 2-part story, with two question being answered in each article.  For more information about the candidates you can also visit the online voters’ pamphlet.

Here we go…

1)  As the long-term placement of 9th graders at a traditional 9-12th grade high school or in a separate freshman campus affects the components of future SVSD facilities planning and future capital bonds, where do you believe 9th graders ultimately belong: at a 9-12th grade campus or on a separate 9th grade campus and why?

Marci Busby:

marciI believe our 9th graders belong at the Mount Si Freshman Campus. Systematic intervention in a designated space WILL make a difference for kids. I think our talented Mount Si staff will set a new definition of flagship school with the education they will provide SVSD kids. 

There are campuses across the country where the ninth grade is separate and they produce stellar graduates. There are freshman academies like ours, but also successful 7-9/10-12 or 9-10/11-12 split campuses. Achievement can have flexible roots. Schools which succeed do so because they are part of a greater vision and dream which is given logistical support – those that have poor results (in ANY configuration) often lack that vision, dream or support. 

We have a vision and dream. It is my job to give support. I embraced this vision four years ago when the board first talked about the components of a freshman campus. I saw the wisdom in removing a class, in order to free up space for potential construction opportunities. I am proud that our administration included STEM as part of this dream far before it was on most people’s radar and that they have been methodically implementing it into our curriculum. 

Scott Hodgins:

scottMy definition of a comprehensive high school is a single campus, grades 9-12, where the entire high school program is available to all grade levels. I support the goals and objectives of the “Freshman Learning Concept” to reduce dropout rates, and in my own words, provide a focused learning and safe environment for our freshman to ensure their success. 

However, I voted for the creation of the freshman campus for one reason only; to temporarily relocate a specified population from the main campus to allow for the high school buildings to be fully renovated providing an 21st Century educational program.  The renovation will be accomplished in phases over a 4 to 5 year schedule.  Having approximately 25% of the high school population, one grade level, temporarily located at a Freshman Campus allows for the District to manage the renovation without disrupting of the learning environment. 

Ultimately, I intend to relocate the 9th graders back to Mt Si High School, preferably in the first phase of the renovation. The goals and objectives of the Freshman Learning Concept will remain intact at the main campus. This also allows for Snoqualmie Middle School, now the Freshman Campus, to return as a middle school. 

Stephen Kangas:

stephenThe primary reason is that we should not harm our middle school students by using Snoqualmie Middle School as a 9th grade only campus, without the certainty of a replacement 3rd middle school building.  In addition, the majority of 9th grade-only campuses in WA & nationwide have failed, and few remain. Many of those 9th graders repeated 9th grade, or have unusual difficulties in 10th+ grades for both social and academic reasons. The concept remains a risky experiment. 

Therefore, our 9th graders belong with 10-12 graders in a comprehensive single campus until such time that enough best practice data for 9th graders is known to mitigate risk of failure of a separate 9th grade campus AND we have FIRST gained voter passage of sufficient capacity needed for our other elementary, middle, and high schools AND we have solid district-wide support for the concept.  In the meantime, it is beneficial to continue addressing the unique needs of 9th graders’ transition into high school begun two years ago and which seem to be delivering positive results. 

David Spring:

davidI believe that our high school students should have the opportunity for four full years at a comprehensive high school. I am therefore opposed to a separate 9th grade campus that is not on the main high school campus.

There are many reasons that a separate 9th Grade campus has never succeed in our State (or in the nation). The primary reason is that it deprives 9th graders of activities they need to get into a good college. It also is too disruptive in that it requires students to learn new routines in both the 9th and 10th Grade. It also increases the dropout rate by making more difficult for 10th graders to make up classes that they may have failed in the 9th Grade. 

 

2)   The Snoqualmie Valley School School Board is currently working to develop a long-term strategic plan.  Do you believe the district needs one?  If so, what should it contain?  If no, then explain why not?

Marci Busby:

I look forward to solidifying a long-term strategic plan. I hope that it provides broad direction for instruction, budgeting, facilities and community partnerships. It should contain measurable goals, but should neither micromanage nor be expensive to monitor. It should have flexibility to change when laws do.

Please note, we could not be experiencing our increasing district and student success without strategy nor planning. As a district we have a Mission and as a Board we develop an annual budget. The Superintendent of Public Instruction has an online report-card and we have a new district score-card. In a district reliant on site based management, each of our schools has a Learning Improvement Team (LIT) which produces their unique School Improvement Plan (SIP). Schools, PTSA’s and district administration utilize this strategic document for planning and guidance. 

The district has a collection of documents already containing goals, plans, and metrics. It is not that we lack strategy, planning or reporting; it is that we lack a single document specifically named as such. Through re-tooling, revising, and combining existing works we can then add new materials. Ultimately, along with district and community input, we can quite easily align these to a strategic plan format. 

Scott Hodgins:

Absolutely.  I fully support the Board’s vision for a long-range strategic plan. I  believe that all decisions related to teaching and learning should be consistent with the plan. In my opinion, the primary focus of the SVSD long- range strategic plan is to implement teaching and learning goals consistent with the National Common Core Standards. Board policy 2423 which I helped conceive is a critical first step in developing a District strategic plan.  It establishes clear coursework pathways and benchmarks to measure whether the District’s annual educational objectives are being achieved. The strategic plan should also address capital improvement needs, curriculum adoptions and operational objectives, to name only a few,  that support the District’s educational goals and objectives.  

Stephen Kangas:

First, let me state that SVSD school board or administration are NOT currently working on a long-term strategic business plan.  Instead they have been focused on a sub-component of a strategic plan: the long-term facilities plan.   Any organization that operates without a good strategic business plan is like a commercial airplane pilot flying to a destination with no map and GPS to guide them, resulting in the wasted time, money, resources, and failures we have witnessed here in SVSD. 

Unlike many of our sister WA districts, SVSD has not invested time in a written, refined, and approved strategic plan.  A good plan addresses 6 key components: Vision, Mission, Strategy, Priorities, Budget, Metrics; Vision is a forecast of the future (eg, enrollment, college entrance requirements, jobs/careers, state funding/mandates, etc), Mission is a specific and clear statement of the purpose of the district (eg, academic preparation of students for success after graduation), Strategy is the detailed “road-map” of how the Mission is to be accomplished over the Vision time-frame with imperatives, objectives, milestones, schedules, required resources, risk management, etc, Priorities makes clear the order in which resource investments are made, Budget is the specification of required money and their sources for funding the plan, Metrics is the specification of how progress will be assessed, monitored, and reported.

David Spring:

I have many times pleaded with the school board to develop a better long term plan. It will be impossible to get the community to support any capital bond plan unless the community understands how this plan will affect their kids – now and in the future. Our past school board has instead put forth plans that were patchwork plans without any long term structure. I also believe that plans need to be based upon reasonable enrollment projections and honoring State laws regarding enrollment projections and State matching funds. If I am elected to the school board, there will be a clearer long term plan. 

Comments

  1. Stephanie Hager says

    I think those who assume separating 9th graders over the “long term” is ideal, and say that there are campuses across the country where the ninth grade is separate, need to know that the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics worked alongside a few of us to develop a spreadsheet that shows about .006% of high schools are ninth-grade only buildings, located off-site from the high school (with 11 or more students) for the years 2010-2011 (the most recent yr they have data).

    Yakima’s West Valley Freshman Campus is on the list and is included in that calculation, however those students share a parking lot with their high school. An administrator there tells us it’s a 4 minute walk which students take for classes, assemblies and athletics. The spreadsheet has 128 ninth-grade-only, off-site campuses in the United States. As Scott Hodgins mentions, moving students for the sake of redeveloping and modernizing our high school makes sense to me. Moving them away permanently – no. We’ve learned enough to know this isn’t a great idea for it to be an indefinite plan.

    Do we really want to be a 3-year high school community? Lake Washington, Northshore and Tahoma/Maple Valley have all either made the transition to 4-year high schools, or are currently underway in doing so. Why would we go the other way in our long term planning?

  2. Anne Stedman says

    If you read the information from the HSEC report, you will learn different reasons for failures of other freshman campuses.  Most were purely facilities moves with no change in programming/delivery.   The kids were just moved to another building.  But another common reason was the preconceived belief that the concept would fail and, for most, it was a self-fulfilling prophesy.   I believe we are headed in this same direction.  Some on our board are already writing their “I told you so” speeches, completely disrespecting the years of hard work by many that have gone into bringing it to life.   The question you should all be asking is “what did I do to contribute to its success?”  That answer should be “EVERYTHING” – not because you believe or don’t believe in it personally, but because it’s the direction the study group voted to go and the board approved.   And if it fails, every pointer finger should be first aimed introspectively to explore individual contributions to its demise and the huge financial and community support implications of that end result.   

    The freshman campus model the HSEC penned out, and what the district staff has made bloom from that seed is like no other program out there.  Our freshman campus is in close proximity to the main campus and the students feed into one High School.  We added programming changes by implementing STEM, philosophy changes regarding the special challenges and opportunities to engage students in their pivotal freshman year, all to address the concerning trends brought to our committee that needed to be solved.   There is no basis for predicting how SVSD’s will fare other than what collective energy is given to making it succeed – or fail.  

    The “comprehensive 9-12 high school” comments also have me puzzled.  We have had a 9-12 comprehensive high school program in a single building and many freshmen have continued to get lost in the shuffle, then struggle and fail.   Digging out becomes too overwhelming for them.   Maybe if staff had not had to spend so much time defending the Freshman campus, they could have started work on some fail safes for this group while they were still all in one building.  Regardless, opening the freshman campus has no bearing on the “comprehensive 9-12 HS curriculum” for the students.  Where they are learning is just geography.  What they are learning and being supported in their learning are key – as well as what we are doing differently than those before us to make it succeed.   

    Blatant lack of support from some on the board, and the sharing of opposing perspective within the community, result in still having “questions,” for sure. They are also feeding a toxic divisiveness within this valley that will make it hard to pass any kind of bond, no matter its size or validity.   It is fueling animosity and mistrust among individuals and communities that permeate and make hostile even the most banal of school related social media posts.   

  3. Stephanie Hager says

    Yes! Supporting the freshman center and assisting with its success is spot-on, and I also think that a plan which perhaps relocates the center to its high school campus only further strengthens the freshman program the HSEC sought to accomplish. These new courses and pathways available to students now and over the next decade, are starting to blur the lines of which year certain courses are taken. It seems as though a plan which positions the freshman kids and their teachers within walking-distance (through say a parking lot or a corridor) to Mount Si High School’s fantastic programs would make these programs/classes accessible to all of our high school-aged students over the next 20-30 years. I am appreciative of the work done by past committees such as the HSEC, and today am looking to the future and wondering – can we take this great 9th grade program and center, and move it one-day to its high school campus.

  4. Anna sotelo says

    How many decades will we have to refer to work done by the HSEC from several years ago?

  5. More information can be obtained from my website: http://busbyforkids.com/living-snoqualmie.html

  6. Mike Racine says

    Thanks “Living Snoqualmie” for this information. Filling out my primary ballot and it was helpful.

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