Archive for August, 2011
Updated 8:15 a.m. Sept. 1
Bellingham School District Superintendent Greg Baker sent out a message tonight to families informing them that district teachers would be striking starting Friday, Sept. 2.
Bellingham Education Association members met tonight, Wednesday, Aug. 31. I hope to speak with BEA president Shirley Potter in the morning. According to union president Shirley Potter, the main sticking points relate to class sizes and time for professional development and conference time. As part of the district’s plan this year to have elementary schools release early on Wednesdays, the early release days in November for conferences were removed from the calendar. In the past, conference days have been used for both elementary and middle schools.
“We have a shared vision on teaching and learning, and the district is making it almost impossible to implement,” Potter said, adding later “some of the things we’re asked to do are impossible with the number of kids in classes.”
The district letter references salary as one of the sticking points.
Teachers were expected to report to school on Friday for a teacher work day. Potter said teachers will still do whatever district-related activities they had set up for Thursday.
Baker’s message is below:
Dear Families and Community,As we have come to know one another during the last year, I hope you have recognized that one of my deeply held values is to be as open, transparent and consistent in my communications with you as possible. We have just been informed by the Bellingham Education Association (BEA), our teachers’ group, that they will begin a strike on Friday, Sept. 2, a teacher workday. My purpose with this communication is to update you and provide factual information.We look forward to continuing to meet with the association on Thursday, Sept. 1 and will continue through the weekend, if needed, in hopes of reaching a settlement and starting school as scheduled on Tuesday, Sept. 6. We recognize the hardships a delayed start could create and therefore, are sharing this information at this time to allow as much planning time as possible for families to make arrangements, should the school year begin later in September and end later in June. In the event that any changes to the school schedule occur between now and Tuesday, it is important that district families have updated their contact information and notification preferences in SchoolMessenger. Updates will also be communicated at www.bellinghamschools.orgWe have been negotiating for the past six months, working through many issues in the spirit of understanding and responding to each other’s interests, compromising, and desiring to move forward. We are very close to an agreement, but have not yet settled on some remaining issues, including salary.Our offer to our teachers’ association includes:· No salary cuts or furlough days (the district would cover the 1.9 percent salary cut from the state for each year of the agreement);· Other creative ways to use existing resources differently in order to provide additional compensation in each year of the agreement;· An additional one percent salary increase in the second year of the agreement in recognition of a shared instructional vision; a calendar to support collaboration, assessments and family engagement; and other work priorities such as full-time kindergarten, K-5 literacy, online learning and more; and· A pledge to work with staff to respond and address each other’s concerns such as providing more certainty regarding how we report student progress and performance, and engage families in their child’s education.With limited resources and a long list of yet unfunded student learning needs, we need to find common ground related to compensation that we can sustain in the unforeseeable economic future. These economic times and our state Legislature’s decision to cut staff pay by 1.9 percent have made this a challenging starting point for labor negotiations. We are all frustrated by our Legislature’s inability to uphold its paramount constitutional duty: adequate funding of K-12 education.I value all of our employees and our seven labor groups. For many years, we have used local levy funds, generously provided by our community, to make up the state’s shortfall in basic funding for our students, schools and staff. Throughout the summer, we rehired 55 of the 57 certificated staff who received layoff notices in May. We have fabulous classified and certificated employees, and intend to continue to use local funds to expand learning opportunities for students, reduce class sizes, and recruit and retain the highest quality staff. Other school districts are asking staff to take furlough days and pay cuts. We do not want to decrease teaching and learning for our students, and therefore, have not asked our staff to take furloughs, nor the pay cut that the state has delivered.As the first scheduled day of school approaches, communications regarding negotiations can quickly take on an “us-versus-them” dynamic. I encourage our staff, families and community to remember, locally, we are all on the same team when it comes to advocating for the best possible education and outcomes for our Bellingham Public Schools students. Let’s collectively direct our frustrations appropriately at the state Legislature for its growing reliance on local communities to provide what is needed for our children.I will continue to keep you informed as we make progress toward a solution with our Bellingham Education Association.Sincerely,Greg BakerSuperintendent of Bellingham Public Schools
Bellingham School District teacher contracts expire today, Aug. 31, and so far negotiations between the union and the district have not resulted in a new deal.
Bellingham Education Association president Shirley Potter said she couldn’t really say anything about the negotiations until tomorrow. BEA members are meeting tonight to discuss the lack of a contract and what to do.
Potter said she is hopeful teachers will get a contract soon.
Contract negotiations are not considered public and do not fall under the public meeting act.
The last teacher strike in Whatcom County was a year ago, when the Ferndale Education Association voted to strike after contract negotiations failed to bring about a new contract. School started a week late.
In digging through state testing data last night, I discovered something I don’t believe I’ve seen before: 100 percent of students in a grade passing a test.
According to the Measurements of Student Progress and High School Proficiency Exam results, all Lowell Elementary fifth-graders passed the reading test and all Options High tenth-graders passed the writing test. The students were tested during the 2010-11 school year.
Options High, the Bellingham School District’s “alternative” high school, has seen high percentages of students passing the writing test in the past, with more than 90 percent passing in the 2006-07 and 2007-08 school years. But last year about 82 percent of students passed, and in 2008-09, only 75 percent of students passed.
Lowell Elementary regularly boasts high percentages of students meeting standard, especially on the reading test. In past years (as far back as the 2004-05 school year), about 80 to 95 percent of students tested in the school have passed the reading test. But this is the first time I’ve seen 100 percent of students pass.
I’ll be digging deeper into the data today, looking at how many students not only passed the tests, but scored in the highest level. I’m also hoping to look at which schools made the most gains compared to last year, and gather trend data over the last 5 to 10 years,
State Superintendent Randy Dorn just finished discussing the state results from the spring Measurements of Student Progress and High School Proficiency Exams, and one thing is clear: math scores are up for almost every grade.
But despite more students passing math tests, schools across the state are still struggling to meet federal benchmarks, as required by the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (No Child Left Behind).
Across the state’s 295 school districts, more students in grades 4 through 7 passed the math test this spring, with the largest gain in the fifth grade, where the percentage of students meeting standard rose by 7.6 percent. Part of the reason behind the large increase may be due to the fact that students in grade 5 struggled with the test the previous year.
This is the second year students in grades 3-8 were tested on the newly updated state math standards.
For high school students, this was the first year they were tested in math at the end of the school year, after finishing their math class. About 66 percent of students (grades 6-12) passed the algebra 1 test and about 74 percent passed the geometry test (grades 6-12). Students are required to pass one of the tests to graduate; students in the class of 2015 will be required to pass both.
Reading scores were mixed, with the percentage of 6th grade students passing the test increasing by 6 percentage points, and the percentage of 7th graders passing dropping by 7 percentage points.
Writing scores were about the same statewide as compared to last year, but science scores increased dramatically, especially in 5th grade, where the percentage of students passing increased by 21 percentage points.
However, students in grades 5 and 8 were tested on new science standards this time around, making comparisons difficult since the test changed.
I will be spending the rest of the week digging deeper into the numbers for Whatcom County schools, but if you want to look at your school know, click here.
According to the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, schools and districts must make “Adequate Yearly Progress” and show they are working to make sure all students are at standard by 2014. AYP tracks a school and district’s progress in reaching that goal. Across the state 1,388 schools didn’t make AYP – that represents about 64 percent of the state’s schools.
In Washington, AYP is determined by looking at a combination of High School Proficiency Exam and Measurements of Student Progress scores, graduation rates and attendance records. In all, schools and districts must meet standards in 37 categories.
If schools or districts fail to meet standard in the same category for two or more years in a row, they are considered “in improvement” and face possible sanctions.
According to Alan Burke with OSPI, many of the schools that did make AYP are small and therefore didn’t have enough students in some categories to count.
In Whatcom County, all seven school districts and 39 schools (including Lummi schools) failed to make AYP.
I will be spending the rest of the week digging deeper into the numbers, but here is a quick overview of things I noticed in Whatcom County school districts.
More details about AYP will be coming soon.
The OSPI press release is below.
It’s test score day!
The Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction will be releasing scores from the spring 2011 Measurements of Student Progress and High School Proficiency Exams. Data about whether or not schools made Adequate Yearly Progress, as required by the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (No Child Left Behind) will also be released.
I will get something up about how Whatcom County schools and the state did as soon as possible. I will provide more detailed analysis as the week progresses (and I’ve had a chance to look at the numbers more closely). To dig deeper yourselves, click here.
Western Washington University has recently received notice of two grants that will help science instruction: a $138,000 grant from M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust for equipment and science student summer stipends, and a $2.9 million National Science Foundation grant for studying the university’s elementary science teacher preparation program.
The NSF grant, one of the largest grants the university has received in awhile, will fund a five-year study of K-6 teachers in the elementary science program and their success as teachers in the classroom.
The M. J. Murdoch Charitable Trust grant is for the university’s Advanced Materials Science and Engineering Center and will help purchase a turntable laser. The grant also allowed the university to offer stipends to eight students on five research teams this summer. The university is matching the grant with $150,000, which will be used to create an interdisciplinary microscopy center.
The press releases from the university are below the jump.
Ferndale School Board member Troy Clark has resigned from the Ferndale School Board, effective immediately.
His resignation letter was read by board president Lee Anne Riddle during a meeting Thursday night, Aug. 25.
Clark resigned due to increased workload with his job with Grocery Outlet chain; he and his wife have been the operators of the Bellingham Grocery Outlet since 1993.
Clark was elected to the Position #5 seat in November 2009. His term was scheduled to be up in 2013.
Since Clark left mid-term, the remaining school board members are required to appoint someone to his position within 90 days. The school district will have application information and a timeline available some time next week. With past resignations, the board has collected applications from candidates who live within the required school district and school board position boundaries, and then interviewed those candidates.
The Ferndale School Board adopted the $49 million 2011-12 operating budget Thursday night, Aug. 25. All Whatcom County school districts have now adopted the 2011-12 operating budgets.
The budget incudes about $49 million in revenue, about $839,000 less than the previous school year. Expenditures are budgeted to be about $49.7 million, about $436,000 less when compared to the 2010-11 school year.
About 71 percent of expenditures are slated for teaching and teaching support.
Districtwide, there will be the equivalent of about 490 full-time positions, which is about 20.8 fewer full-time positions than the 2010-11 school year. The staff reductions aren’t as deep as district officials previously planned for in May.
Enrollment is budgeted for about 4,908 full-time students, an increase of 67 positions when compared to the 2010-11 budget.
About $2.4 million is expected to be in the general fund at the end of the school year, with $2 million put aside for reserves, as requested by the school board.
To view the budget, click here.
Whatcom Middle School’s community grand opening and ribbon cutting is scheduled for Thursday, Sept. 1 at noon at the school, 810 Halleck St.
There will be tours offered right after the ceremony until 6 p.m. Parking is limited, so people are asked to carpool, walk or take public transportation as much as possible. Halleck Street in front of the school will be available for parking; people are asked to avoid parking in the Bellingham Municipal Court lot.
For more about the school rebuild and reopening, check Sunday’s Bellingham Herald (unless Hurricane Irene causes a lot of damage on the east coast, in which case the story will run Monday or Tuesday)
Bellingham, Mount Baker and Ferndale school districts will have board meetings Thursday, Aug. 25.
The Ferndale School Board will be adopting the 2011-12 operating budget, the last district to do so this year. But digging through the agenda, I also noticed that the board will be authorizing the hiring of several teachers. Of the 17 teachers listed, 13 were part of the “reduction in force” that happened at the end of last school year (that means they were laid off).
The interesting tidbit I noticed in Bellingham’s agenda is a new agreement between the district and the Bellingham Public Schools Foundation. The foundation was working during the last school year to reorganize itself and determine how it could best support the school district. According to the agreement (which is part of the consent agenda), the district will reimburse the foundation up to $25,000 for staff time and “other permissible expenses.” The foundation so far is committed to provide at least $28,200 to the district this school year in the form of events and grants for staff.
The foundation also has a new website. It can be viewed here.
The Mount Baker School Board meeting is also a work session and will start at 6 p.m. in the district office. There will be a special meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 30 to discuss a possible 2010-11 budget extension.