North County Outlook - Community newspaper serving Marysville, Arlington, Tulalip, Smokey Point, Lakewood

MSD, community discuss SLCs, strategic planning

 

April 25, 2018 | View PDF

Christopher Andersson

Marysville-Pilchuck High School principal Dave Rose talks with Marysville families, community members and Marysville School District staff during a meeting on April 21.

The Marysville School District held their final scheduled public meeting to gather opinion on the structure of their high schools and their strategic vision on April 21.

Many parents and families came out to the district's Tulalip campus at the Francis Sheldon Gym to give their opinions on the current high school choice model and where the district should go in the future.

The last time the district updated their 'strategic vision,' which lays out a plan for the future of local schools, was in 2014, and current leaders hope to update that plan soon.

However, the questions of whether Marysville Getchell High School should continue with small learning communities and whether school choice for high school should remain have been up for debate.

"I think the board wants to see the high school decision as part of the vision. The two are together," said school board president Tom Albright.

"We'll be seeing that as the first step in the implementation of the new vision," he said.

The April 21 meeting was the last in a year and half long process gathering community member's desires.

"I had several people come up to me and say 'make some decisions' and I hear you loud and clear. It's time to do that," said acting superintendent Jason Thompson.

Thompson said that a summary of the meeting will be publicly available in mid-May and that he will submit his recommendation to the board by the end of May about the plan for the high schools.

The small learning communities were one of the more controversial issues, with some families in favor and others against.

"There are a lot of great things that come out of SLCs and I would be glad to have those things continue in whatever system we end up having," said Thompson.

If SLCs and school choice are left behind the district would have to draw up neighborhood boundaries.

That change could save the district anywhere from $500,000 to $1 million in transportation costs.

"That alone would be a huge benefit to our district," said Thompson.

If schools had a better projection of the number of students they are expecting it would be easier to plan out programs and staff as well.

Athletic coaches also have trouble with the current 'school choice' system, said Albright.

"Coaches could talk to kids without being accused of recruiting," he said.

Any changes to schools would not be enacted until the 2019-2020 school year, and officials say that there would be a transition period.

"We're going to make every effort to allow students to stay at the school where they are," said Thompson, although at a certain point that may mean students have to rely on their own transportation.

The district's board of directors plan to receive Thompson's recommendation for high schools at the end of May and come up with a new strategic direction by the start of the next school year.

The strategic vision may have items like goals to increase student engagement.

"Some parents said to us in the research 'well, this is the first time anyone has asked me specifically about what should happen in the schools,'" said Garrison Kurtz, president of Dovetailing, a consulting firm helping with the process.

"We're obviously not communicating the way we would like," he said.

School culture and access to strong role models for all students was a consistent theme as well, said Kurtz.

While many students reported strong relationships with staff, there were many that didn't.

"There were many students, parents and some faculty who said that wasn't what they experienced. That some students felt actively disrespected," said Kurtz.

Finally, equitable schools was a request from the community.

There are perceived shortcomings in both major high schools for the district from some parents and families.

The demographics of children are also not spread equally around the district, which could be fixed with neighborhood boundaries.

If the district moves in that direction, there would be more time to talk about it, said Thompson.

"If we go there, we would want to make sure that those boundaries lent themselves to equity," he said.

More information on the district's strategic vision planning is available at http://bit.ly/MSDPlanning.

 

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