At 8:06 p.m., near the end of Tuesday night’s school board meeting, a staff member in the back of the room screamed and Nick Brossoit, superintendent of the Edmonds School District, smiled and held his arms up in the familiar touchdown sign. They had both just seen the preliminary results from the special election on Tuesday for the first time and realized that the district’s replacement levy and construction bond measures before voters — Propositions 1 and 2 — would pass.
“I can hardly contain my enthusiasm,” he said. “I am giving a huge degree of thanks and appreciation to our community. We appreciate the support.”
School boardmember Kory DeMun echoed this appreciation. “I would like to thank the Edmonds School District voters for supporting us,” he said. “Ultimately, it’s the voters that decide on this and they deserve our thanks.”
The meeting ended in cheers and applause regarding the passing of the propositions, but this was not the only cause for celebration. Earlier in the agenda, Scott Barnes, the district’s visual and performing arts manager for the Edmonds School District, presented certificates to 23 students who will represent the Edmonds School District in the All State Honors Music conference in Yakima this weekend.
The board also recognized Cynthia Nelson, technology director for the district, for having recently earned the Consortium for School Networking’s professional certification as a Certified Education Technology Leader. To receive this certification, she has to have demonstrated a mastery of a rigorous set of national standards outlining the skills and knowledge of a school district technology administrator, as well as a demonstrated leadership, vision and strategic thinking.
After the celebrations, the board was presented with a brief update by the Equity Alliance for Achievement (EAACH). Justin Irish and Karena Hooks, of EAACH, told the board that they had a meeting last week discussing the undoing of institutional racism and what that means for their actions going forward. They are looking closely at discipline and building cultural awareness into the schools. They are also looking at recruiting more diversity to the committee.
“We’re not just talking about people of color,” Hooks said. “We’re looking at income gaps and other identities. There are definitely some populations that are not represented.”
Bernadette Merikle, partnership director for Equal Opportunity Schools (EOS), presented the board with an update on the EOS grant and actions being taken within the district.
Three of the comprehensive high schools in the Edmonds School District have already taken EOS surveys to provide data regarding student demographics and their achievement and motivation to take AP and IB courses. (Meadowdale High School will be the control group for the district and therefore has not started any EOS surveys or actions.)
The survey also looks at other factors trending in the schools, such as adult encouragement to take and succeed in higher-level courses and if students have the information they need to sign up and register for these courses properly.
On average, seven out of 10 students do not feel they have an adult encouraging them to take these higher-level courses. Mountlake Terrace High School is an outlier with only four out of 10 students lacking adult support.
At all three schools, the survey showed that the availability of extra homework help would push students to take more of these higher-level courses.
Now that the survey has been completed and analyzed, EOS is moving into phase two of its program: targeted recruitment of under-represented students likely to succeed to take AP and IB courses.
Following the EOS presentation, Assistant Superintendent Patrick Murphy discussed recommendations on alternatives to suspension. He emphasized that this is a rough draft to be reviewed by the board, then reviewed by EAACH, then discussed with regards to budget. But this draft does represent some of the ideas that the regarding desired changes.
The draft was presented as three guiding principles. The first, climate and prevention, included ongoing professional development among staff, expanding health supports for students and families, and adopting positive behavioral intervention programs outlining positive rules instead of “don’t” rules.
The second guiding principle included strategies for maintaining clear, appropriate and consistent expectations and consequences for student behavior. This includes a district-wide handbook recommending consistent consequences, the implementation of an in-school suspension, and an expectation that truancy or attendance problems should never result in suspension from school.
The third — equity and continuous improvement — involves an annual district-wide meeting with staff, parents and students to evaluate goals and recommendations and maintaining consistency with tracking and implementing discipline across all schools in the district.
The draft also lays out a three-year goal. In academic year one, starting in fall of 2014, the target is to reduce incidences of suspension by 50 percent. In years two and three, the goal is to reduce suspension incidents by 25 percent each. This means that at the end of year three, the district hopes to have 844 or fewer suspensions. Last year, there were just over 3,000.
Murphy also presented information on the growth of the district’s e-learning program. As of Feb. 9, there were 310 students enrolled in the program. Fifty-four are full-time e-learning students.
The board voted unanimously (minus Susan Phillips who was excused from the meeting) to pass a resolution authorizing the district to enter into an interlocal cooperation agreement with Snohomish County for Edmonds Student Support Advocate Program, which will provide prevention and wellness services to students at a high-risk for drug and alcohol use or mental health issues.
The board also unanimously authorized Brossoit to sign a Purchase/Sale Agreement for the district-owned property commonly known as Former Evergreen Elementary, located on 237th Street Southwest in Mountlake Terrace.
Finally, the board unanimously approved the adoption of the GamePlan Elementary Music Curriculum.
“I am astonished at what the district has been able to achieve without a curriculum,” said Boardmember Ann McMurray, a former music parent, said. “This is a testimony to the entire system that has come together to provide funding when we just didn’t have it from the state. I am very pleased to see this particular proposal and pleased to see the modest amount that it represents.”
– Story and photo by Natalie Covate