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Carson considered for closure, all other TUSD schools safe at least this year - thanks to Judy Burns!

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2011-03-09 : TUSD board member Judy Burns came out strongly last night in opposition to closing any more schools for a year, and instead spending the time to redraw boundaries and work with parents and communities.  Adelita Grijalva supported Burns and Hicks voted to at least vote on it; but Stegeman and Cuevas argued that if closure needs to be considered it should be done sooner rather than later.  

Schools Deitz, Dunham, Wheeler and Carson were all on a list for possible closures put together by a task force and TUSD staff.  Of those, only Carson is being considered for possible closure, and the students being sent to nearby small K-8 schools.

Someone in the bureaucracy has it in for Holladay.  Borton added a 3rd grade last year, and now they need to expand.  Someone - who? - had the bright idea to close down Holladay for a year so Borton could move onto their campus during construction.  Huh?  I need to fix my house, lets see, lets put the neighbors in suspended animation while I use their house for a year - whose hairbrained idea was this?  

Luckily Judy Burns came out with a dose of common sense and respect for parents.  Read below for a rough transcript, or listen to the board meeting online at . Thank goodness for open meetings!  

(aside - charters have been putting pressure on TUSD to reform and allow more choice, which is a good thing.  But if one day a McSchools buys up all the local charters, then where will we be?  Not at an open meeting where we can comment and be heard - when was the last time you were at a McDonald's board meeting?)

Presenter (who?) :
[discusses possible closures of  Deitz, Dunham, Wheeler or Carson, reconfiguration into K-8's, and not touching high schools for a year given that there are two 'turnarounds' already going on.  Recommendations come from a task force, TUSD staff, or both]

Borton has been very successful with their magnet program, they are bursting at the seams.  They have 6 portables between the building and play field

two options:

1) deal with Borton by moving them to a closed school, and bringing them back after the renovation is complete.  Holladay bring their primary grades back now make them a K-5

2) staff's recommendation is bring Borton into Holladay, serve Borton-Holladay with Borton's staff, close Holladay for a year...its not a full closure its a temporary closure, there would be no reason to close that school given the growth in that area.

We would...staff would recommend that Holladay be closed lets initiate the closures, initiate the closures that doesn't mean close it.

I've just learned that an alternative plan has been developed, we need to look at the

Judy: Question - school by school what were the lost numbers of students and cost savings.  Not a ball park figure, give it to me school by school.

Presenter: ...conservatively, we lost 100 students.  in terms of the cost..."

Fine, there were other students in schools considered for closure, do we have data on how many students we lost?

There are a couple things.  You've given us two schools that are adjacent to each other, Deitz and Wheeler.  The neighborhoods are bound by 22nd, golf links, wilmot and pantano.  There's a premise in some of the information we got, that it was important to move kids to the extremities of the district in order to retain them.  That's not going to retain them.  I think that putting kids closer to their neighborhood school.  We've got little pockets all ove rthis district
- spontaneous clapping -
that have to be bused to their school...why we have allowed them to continue, we need to eliminate that busing and put the neighborhoods together

Carson is the only middle school in walking distance for tons of kids, and you want to put them on buses to somewhere else.  It makes no sense to me to close a viable middle school..

And this idea of closing Holladay to accomodate some sort of building at Borton.  You wouldn't need those portables if you hadn't put the 3rd grade there...
--clapping and cheering--
..and somewhere along the way it was put that Holladay had to go along with Borton's curriculum, they have been a Fine Arts magnet for years.  What have we done to promote that magnet?

We cannot resegregate the district if we tried, there's not enough white folks out there.  And the supreme court told us that we couldn't force students - this district is desegregated.  There's a few schools on the NE side

I can't even believe we'd even consider - these kids were bused for 30 years, and now you want to bus them further? You want to retain kids, bring them back.  Some kids learned, and some parents learned from a television report last night, about possible closure of their schools.  Whatever dialog has gone on has not been extensive.  People in the know has shown up, but people who put their kid in 4th grade at Holladay this year for the first time, didn't know.  So all this happened before you Dr Pedicone, so I'm not blaming you, mostly this happened last year.  But I would like us to see, now that the discussion has started, not to vote to close schools, but give it a year to gel, and have people give us real input...

Not the data, you want to tell me why people are leaving schools, they have to get on a bus to go to another school - we changed boundaries at some time to accomodate growth, and we put the least resistent people farther away, and the people that were making the most noise where they wanted to go.  You've got to go back to boundaries, and like ...the boundaries are kind of imaginary at this point, you've got open enrollment, you've got magnet, you have charter schools.  Boundaries

I would like to make a motion at this point to Not close any schools.  To go out to the community for the next year...realign boundaries to be closest to the school and their neighborhoods.  Make Robbins a K-8, that is fine; and certainly mothball space that is not being used.

Adelita Grijalva:  I have some concerns. As a board member that was here last year when we closed 9 schools - that was painful, that was devastating to those schools.  I think we need to ask parents whose parents leave grade 5, who don't go to our middle schools, we need to ask them why?  Before we go to K-8's, those might be a good option for some families, but we need to ask those families. I am not comfortable going thru a closure process to explore those options.  It is devastating, we are closing by attrition, because parents are choosing their options now.  We're essentially telling parents - 'well, you may or may not be able to go to this school' but we are eliminating the option of going to other schools.  What are the new charters in the communities we're talking about?  There are charter's going up near our schools - and you can bet that as soon as we talk about closing any schools, there will be a charter popping up next to those schools to take those kids....we don't consider enough, as we should, what are the other options for those kids.

When I looked at the list of parents on the committees, there was only one parent from a school that was going to be closed.

I have huge reservations about talking about closing schools after enrollment.  This is something we could look at over the summer, for 2012...but I want to set these schools up to be successful.  If we say ok Holladay you will be a K-5 next year, are they ready to do that successfully?

For those reasons I won't be able to vote for any closures.

Dr Mark Stegeman:  I'm very sympathetic to Ms Grijalva and Ms Burns concerns...but we know that this is driven by economics, and though we know how hurtful a closure is, we have to look at a domino effect.  Once we begin to move boundaries, does that mean another school will be closed?  What does this do system wide, I want to move that path, we need to have a little bit of a be honest I thought that transition was happening with our post-unitary plan.

Our marketability, there is one closure that could be of benefit to this district, the model, the small learning community model.  Can we bring students back on the Eastside, and that is the closure of Carson, and converting some of those schools around back to neighborhood schools and make them back to K-8.  I think that is a very viable option

In terms of Holladay that is where I talk about the boundaries, I am very empathetic to the community, but if we are going to move with one I think Carson is the most viable plan.  Student achievement...we want to raise student achievement and we want to do that in a less disruptive process

Cuevas?: I'm also very sympathetic with a lot of the comments with Ms Burns and Ms Grijalva...I'm in agreement that the boundaries have been a problem for a long time, and Ms Burns has been pointing that out for a long time.  I agree its crazy the way we've been moving things around...the timing is not perfect.  Ms Burns was the most proactive in trying to shorten that process....this really illustrates Ms Burns point, the boundaries in the SE side are crazy.  I've received a lot of email about this, I haven't read all taht email, I'm going to read it - I've read some of it.  I want the chance to absorb and staff to view that...if that was the end of the community input it wouldn't be enough.  If we vote to continue the discussion it doesn't mean we end up with a closure.  That's not my vote.  I think the SE side is a complicated issue, I'm reluctant to rule out discussion of closure

I'm happy to push the Borton-Holladay issue off, I was reluctant last year but I did vote for it in the end because we test in the 3rd grade and we don't want to switch students right before they test.  

Burns: No matter what you call it, if we vote for any closures tonight, it will drive people away. It will take people who were willing to put their child in a school that we're talking about closing, they will take their child and put them in a charter.  By talking about we are doing it.  By starting the discussion we have 60 days.  Last year most of the schools had decided on mergers, and the the only people we really heard from were from the neighborhoods, saying what are we going

Hicks has not spoken

Ok, but he didn't say he wanted to.

Hicks: as a new board member, and being at the public meetings of those schools, and seeing on the east side the number of charter schools that are popping up, that if we are even giving an inkling of closing a school, that is going to give a flag to the charter schools 'look that is where we can get some students from'.   And I understand what's going on right across the fence, they are going to Sol..right next door to Dunham.  And I don't believe...this has gone thru a process that I feel comfortable with...
I am therefore an opponent of closing of schools.  How many schools did we close last year?  How many promises did we make?  And how many did we fulfill?

We need to ...we are essentially

staff? Stegeman? One thing that's driving me crazy is that we are hearing that there are boundaries on the east side that are a problem but how are we going to fix that?  Converting those schools into K-8 may help us compete with the charter schools.  Maintaining status quo on that side of town is not making us competitive with the charter schools.  I think this would be a much easier process, and I know we need to think this thru, but if we could think of closure of Carson middle school, then the reconfiguration of boundaries would be much easier.  There are many benefits in ...and we know in terms of moving forward it is much easier to convert an elementary to a middle school than the other way (you have to add playgrounds..)

Presenter (??): Well, let me also respond.  Four schools have been mentioned as possible closure candidates on the SE side.  Staff is not recommending we look at Deitz.  That was on the original list.  The board, at some point, I thought we passed this point, we need to determine

one method is the 'secret list' method, and you don't have all the bleeding that occurs during the open method.  If we vote to keep that process alive, that's the open process, there is going to be bleeding during that discussion

And I would still rather do the open process than the closed list process.  The persons who are concerned with the loss of students, with people being scared of their school going away, we have put the SE side on the table.  Everybody knows this is going to be discussed next year, all three of those schools are going to be bleeding for a year - but if we decide now, then we close none or one, and then the other two or three know they won't be closed.  I think staff has done a pretty commendable job of following the model of where they are at.

If we can maybe reach some closure,

Burns:  Are you saying we can't have dialogs with those communities over the next year?  We gave Wrightstown that opportunity and they came to the conclusion that they needed to merge with another school.  We have new administrations that are excellent, we have not promoted the magnet schools involved, we have not

My motion says spend the next year talking to the people involved, I would like to put it to the question

Stegeman No
Burns Yes
Grijalva Yes
Hicks Yes
Cuevas No

Staff may feel they got some input, but they didn't take into consideration ...
and the staff and the task force quite often didn't want the same option.  What was the task force there for?  Why wasn't there agreement?

I don't think it makes the schools bleed.  I think it energizes them.  To ask the district for what they need.  I can't believe people are asking.

Dr Pedicone: Let me make some comments.  Let me commend staff.  We gave them a task, to give us the logic to close some schools, and they did that.  They did that very well.  Let me also say, criticism of administration when the community reads about that - the fact that it means nurses, librarians and all that enters into administrative costs - and also added into that is that we have 99 schools in a district with 50,000 students.  We have too many schools for the size of our district, and that is why..

The benefit of someone new coming in and giving you some perspective.  Last year we had a process that people were engaged in, and people made choices.  And the board came out and said, courageously, that we needed to close some schools and we needed to do things.  The people who were testifying as they did tonight, people didn't feel they had an ear to listen to, there was a trust issue.  I think anything we do must be done with quality.  That means the emotional involvement we have to have to know we have done our work and we've done it well, especially if the governing board feels at least in part, then the hard decisons that need to be made are not only complicated but are eroded.

Before we came in here the only real decision this staff made, was that the logic behind the closure of Carson rose to the level we need to consider.  But the need to listen, the trust build - that we have to consider.  We have a lot of moving parts here.  Two turnaround schools - we have to spend a lot of our time focusing on it.  If we have doubt...we should not move forward.  I understand what Mr Cuevas said about not acting on a school being ...but trust is essential.  We have to make a statement to the community that we have to make school closures.  I'd like to have a comprehensive plan, we're going to bite the bullet and get it done

...So are you making a recommendation, or are you remaining agnostic?

If I were to make a recommendation that I was going to make going into this meeting, it would be to not act on Borton-Holladay, but to

...move to amend Ms Burns motion to say we are not going to close any schools but to  leave the question of Carson open.

Hicks?  Ms Burns raises some legitimate concerns...last year's process was not the best, top down approach...I respect the district level committee, but we need to get down in the trenches and talk to the schools

Grijalva:  Dr Pedicone made a point...I would like to suggest that the spring is a little late.  We should start having these conversations at the beginning of the year.  Then parents have options, they know

Hicks:  Just to clarify, my head's kinda spinning here, I've been up since 4AM this morning...on that second motion does that preclude doing the boundaries

Not at all

Point of order Mr...I don't know if you can amend the motion, with two individuals

You have to substitute the motion...

You take the vote if that passes

You don't have to vote on the primary motion?

The motion on the floor is to substitute for Ms Burns' motion that we will not close any school with the exception of Carson and ...Robbins

Burns: my motion was not to close any schools, expand Robbins to K-8, to adjust boundaries

Stegeman: So the substitute motion says all of these things except it doesn't close the subject of Carson

Burns: I am not going to vote for that substitute motion because it is so late in the year, people will register somewhere else as soon as they read the paper tomorrow morning, that we voted to initiate the closure of Carson.  It may be Basis or it may be somewhere else, but they are not going to stick around til the middle of May to find out the school may be open or may be not.  So I do not support this substitute motion.

Is there further discussion?  (no)

Burns:        No
Hicks         Yes
Grijalva      No
Cuevas:       Yes
Stegeman:     Yes

Add comment, note or news              To contact - general advice

Comments, Notes and News:

2011-03-09 TUSD Strategic Plan 2011-2012
Clarification: the plan being presented at the board meeting was the TUSD Strategic Plan for 2011-2012.  Your comments are welcome, please see" --guest

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