Submitted by John Arbeeny.
I attended the 23 May 2022 Clover Park School Board (CPSB) Working Meeting via ZOOM and came away with the following observations. The public is still awaiting minutes from the April 2022 Board meetings after over a month. This delay is unacceptable and unexplainable. For example, draft minutes of the Lakewood City Council meetings are typically published in The Suburban Times within days, not months, of the meetings. This delay in CPSB meeting minutes makes those meetings largely irrelevant to the public that long after the fact. No one reads “old news”.
The following observations were made of the meeting and agenda items.
Meeting sound quality: First and foremost: the audio system worked perfectly via ZOOM for the first time in my memory! Why has it taken so long to accomplish?
COVID mitigation: Dealt with only the physical/disease transmission issues related to COVID in school staff and among students. Nothing was mentioned about COVID mitigation of academic failing especially among those schools which were failing to begin with. Indeed some schools went through COVID and actually improved. Why is that?
To my knowledge none of the administrators of those schools that failed or succeeded despite COVID have been brought before the Board to explain their particular school’s performance during the pandemic. Definition of the problem and potential solutions to COVID academic mitigation exist right in front of the Board’s eyes if only they would demand the Superintendent present the evidence.
Comprehensive Student Counseling Program (CSCP): This encompasses three components: academics, college preparation and Social Emotional Learning (SEL). SEL which is part and parcel of EDI is emphasized rather than academics and college preparation which staff considered done well. This emphasis and assertion of “well done” must be questioned. The glaring omission is vocational counseling since most students will not be attending college after graduation. If all you’ve received is college prep in high school and don’t go to college, you’re not really prepared for life after graduation.
There are currently 1:350/400 councilors per students which is well below recommended 1/250. Much of funds ($2M) for counseling come from the last school levy as it is not funded under basic education. Councilors are important from elementary to high school for increases in math and English scores. How has past counseling policy worked out and how is it any different than CSCP? Those are question yet to be answered.
What are evaluation metrics for SEL? An interesting slide that was glossed over was CSCP membership which included 6 better schools (Harrison, Lakes, Thomas, Beachwood, Rainier, Idlewild) and 2 failing schools (Lochburn, Custer). The question is how these counselor positions will be split up amongst schools that are succeeding vs. failing. Is there an “equity lens” through which upcoming budget allocations will be made?
Director Anderson asked for SEL evaluation metrics and periodic progress reports. I suspect that an alleged declining discipline rate, regardless of how determined, may become that metric with an alleged correlation with SEL progress. Whether actual improvement or perhaps “juggling” the data remains to be seen.
World language grant: $5M to teach Spanish beginning in K-6. It’s “free money” but I have to question why we are teaching a large Hispanic student body to speak their primary language when it is English (another world language) that they desperately need in order to be prepared for adulthood.
Superintendent Banner added data to his evaluation: For the most part he mentioned an administrative list of things he’s done which have little connection to improving academic competence. The point is that the District wasn’t set up with administrative functioning as its prime evaluation criteria. It is the “end product”, educated students prepared for life after graduation that is the metric that matters. That metric, sadly, is a mixed bag with huge disparities within the District that the Superintendent and Board have yet to address.
Banner stressed hiring a lot of teachers and staff “of color” as though that by itself improved anything except the impression of “diversity”. Was it a choice between race and competency? How will he track the impact that colored teachers and staff have on academic competence and behavior other than to pump up the District’s diversity numbers?
Banner claimed that replacing the Lochburn Principal reduced disciplinary action from 29% to 14% without giving a specific reason for the reduction. This immediate turn around sounds more like adjusting the standards than enforcing them.
Banner mentioned Harrison and Lake’s recent academic commendation and hinted that CPHS needs help. This is the first time I’ve heard even an inference that one of our schools is academically in trouble. How about Tyee Park or Park Lodge or 4 Heros or Lochburn or Hudtloff all of which are failing or have taken huge drops in academic ranking state-wide? It is an opening for the Board to demand a review the entire District’s academic performance: the good, the bad and the ugly. CPHS isn’t the only one in trouble.
WSSDA policy: Apparently WSSDA turned down the Board’s $10,000 offer to review District policies with President Pearson stating that the Board would have to find someone else to do it for them. How ironic that after approving the Board review of their own policies that they went looking for someone else to do it for them. This is just plain lazy and perhaps intimidating.
Board policy review is not a matter of “wordsmithing” each and every policy. That’s well beyond their expertise and focus. Rather they should be reading each policy from the standpoint of what the objectives are and whether they support the intent of the Board and the public who elected them and whom they are supposed to represent. The Superintendent has a staff that has the expertise to turn those policy objectives into text that captures that intent.
The “lens of equity”: Mentioned by Director Jacobs and I think an opportunity with CPHS as the guinea pig along with Lochburn and Tyee Park and other schools in ordering the budget priorities according the school need, not race, and not just a straight cut across the board. Across the board budgets are administratively easy to do but don’t do justice to those schools that are struggling. The need must be established and then budget priorities aligned with addressing those needs. That can’t be done until a thorough investigation of school academics is accomplished.
However a cursory look at teacher-student ratios and dollars per student seem to confirm that some of the worst schools already have teacher/student ratios of about 1:14 while successful schools are 1:18. Budget per student also seems to already favor poorer schools ($17,000+/student) versus successful schools ($9000+). Yet despite this favorable treatment failing schools continue to fail while successful schools improve. So perhaps it isn’t more people, money and “stuff” like the latest technology that make a successful school but something more related to the processes employed by those school administrators who are successful. That “something” will require a thorough investigation of school academics.
The Board and Superintendent could learn a lot from interviewing administrators from both successful and failing schools. Indeed school administrators could learn a lot from each other during an “administrator summit”. But that hasn’t happened. Even the past quarterly Board presentations by school administrators have increasingly vanished over the past few years to the point where the Board has no idea how individual schools or the District are performing. Is that unintentional or by design? There are solutions: the Board and Superintendent just need to research, recognize and institute them.
Public meeting vs. Public hearing: President Pearson mentioned something to the effect that the harassment case against Paul will occur in a “public meeting” rather than a “public hearing” as Director Wagemann had requested in writing. This is the same tactic used by then President Schafer the first time around to deny Director Wagemann his prerogative of a “public hearing” as per RCW42.30.110(f) and revised Board policy 1825:
“However, upon the request of such officer or employee, a public hearing or a meeting open to the public shall be conducted upon such complaint or charge.”
President Pearson’s closing statement is convoluted, confusing and violates RCW42.30.110(f):
“Paul you have asked that everything be done in public so just for an update for the next meeting I will get you something in writing. But a formal hearing was requested and the hearing is not a hearing in this scenario. It has to do with how the complaint was sent in but essentially it satisfies the requirement by having an open discussion where you have the opportunity to speak what you want to speak on at the next meeting and of course there’s public comment so anyone who wants to come speak can speak during public comment.”