School Board approves plan to review administrative support for principals

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edmondssdlogoThe Edmonds School District Board gave the go-ahead to the district’s plan to review and measure the effectiveness of the administrative support provided to principals.

A new system of evaluating teachers mandated by the state was implemented by the district in 2013-14 and because of the complexity of the new evaluation system the district decided to hire support staff – paraeducators (III) and assistant principals – to help support administrators with some of the operational items that are part of the principal’s job.

The district is interested in determining the impact of the support it provided to administrators, identifying areas to assist in the ongoing support of the principal/teacher evaluation system and making improvements to teachers’ daily instruction, according Human Resources Executive Director Debby Carter.

Assessment, Research & Evaluation Director Candace Gratama identified some key areas of evaluation during Tuesday’s board meeting. They include identifying the job descriptions for the paraeducators and assistant principals and the outcomes for those positions, determining the roles of the administration and staff and deciding how the evaluation data is going to be used.

The plan is to use mixed methodology with focus groups, interviews and surveys. The structured interview lasts about an hour and will target 10 schools and include elementary, middle and high schools. Participants would include paraeducators, administrative staff and teachers. Analysis of the data would address student outcomes and compare it to state data. Overall, the goal is to have 800 responses to the survey.

The district plans to start working soon with sites visits to begin next month, the survey in January, analysis in February and a presentation to the board in March. The district also will hire an outside firm to handle the interviews/focus groups and surveys.

Board Member Gary Noble noted that some schools used the paraeducators to provide extra services or services that had not been offered before instead of offloading duties from the principal. Noble was interested in the breakdown on new tasks vs. offloading duties from the principal. He also would like to know how teachers feel being evaluated by the school principal vs. another administrator.

Board President Diana White noted that the quality of the paraeducators varies. Superintendent Nick Brossoit added that he’ll be interested in finding out “what’s been the impact on student learning? Has this made a difference?”

— In the Equity of Opportunity Report, Assistant Superintendent (Elementary) Justin Irish noted that the district plans to look into the issue of elementary student suspensions. Last month the Seattle School Board passed a resolution that called for a moratorium on some out-of-school suspensions for elementary students.

“This is a topic that we will be addressing,” Irish said.

He noted that in some instances suspensions are used as intervention for parent involvement. “If you suspend a student, then it’s required that the parent meet with you,” Irish said. “Principals deeply think about this practice. Nobody wants to suspend. They want the problem solved.”

The district plans to look at the in-school suspension model in which the student is participating in an educational program.

White asked about cultural differences in which some ethnic groups have problems talking with authority figures/principals.

Irish said the goal is to connect with different cultures. Listening to students and having a respectful conversation is important and helps to create a bond.

“I think it’s about relationships and understanding,” Irish said.

Irish reported a uniformly positive response to an on-going professional development workshop on race hosted by the district. Board Member April Nowak said, “It will absolutely change you. … It was amazing.”

Irish attended a meeting with the Equity Alliance for
Achievement Alliance (EEACH) group, which includes parents and other community members who advocate equity and advise the district on looking through decisions through a culture lens. EEACH is trying to figure out how to best interface with the district’s Strategic Direction Groups, Irish said.

–Equity and Outreach Coordinator Karena Hooks reported that she’s hired three Family Engagement Liaisons with two more scheduled to be hired shortly. The five will be involved with the Equity Teams at 14 schools. The district also will be hiring a Family Community Engagement Specialist.

Noble told Hooks and Irish that he and White recently attended a small community forum where some people of color expressed the view that the Edmonds School District was a white district and that its hiring practices were through a white lens.

–Hooks reported that the district has seen a 45 percent reduction (614 to 394) in Becca truancy petition filings. The Becca Law requires the reporting of unexcused absences and the filing of petitions with the juvenile court to reduce truancy.

The district has flexibility in dealing with this issue, Irish said. In addition, there is a shift in the state in how districts engage with families.

–Business and Operations Executive Director Stewart Mhyre told the board that transportation costs are lower this year in part because the district is having problems finding bus drivers. The problem is not unique to Edmonds as other school districts also can’t find bus drivers.

“We are not alone,” Mhyre said. “We’re all in the same boat.”

The lack of buses impacts participation in after-school programs as some students can’t attend if there are no buses to take them home.

Mountlake Terrace High School student advisor Paxtyn Merten said that some students at the Hawkeye, the student newspaper, could not participate after school because they had to take the bus home.

The Board unanimously approved:

  • A revised policy for Programs for Highly Capable Students
  • Project and preliminary budget authorization for the modernization/replacement of Lynnwood Elementary School
  • Project and preliminary budget authorization for the modernization/replacement of Mountlake Terrace Elementary School.
  • A resolution to re-establish the calendar year 2016 Maintenance and Operations Tax Levy for the General Fund.

— By David Pan

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