Edmonds School Board hears more concerns about budget cuts

The Edmonds School District Board of Directors considered several topics during its May 9 meeting and heard once again from concerned community members.

Charlie Gaul, a parent of Edmonds School District alumni, said he recognized that the school district cares about its students and called the music program reductions a community problem.

For the third meeting in a row, parents, teachers and students advocated for the reinstatement of music classes that were cut to help address the district’s  $15 million budget shortfall. Many commenters pointed to the district’s recent focus on mental health and the effects that cutting music programs may have in that regard. While the crowd was smaller than previous meetings, its speakers were just as passionate, and they filled the entire 30-minute time slot dedicated to public comments. 

The board also continued its discussion on a new K-5 literacy program. Lisa Gonzalez, executive director of student learning, gave a broad overview of the K-5 phonics and word study adoption process. A total of 842 students tested the new program, and the results encouraged the board to gradually adopt the learning style into schools. A list of related resources — including statistics and study information — can be found here, though the information does not discuss the contents of the program itself. 

A student advisor talked about use of ChatGPT.

Later, board members spoke about a lack of state legislative support for school programs and discussed which future legislative initiatives the district would support, though no decisions were made.

Discussion of these positions related to state legislation generated a conversation about ChatGPT, and board members expressed a range of opinions about the technology. Board President Nancy Katims spoke about a learning plan generated by a local teacher as an experiment, who noted that the plan was surprisingly coherent. One student advisor said it can be helpful to access information using the program, but added it can also take away the point of education if students rely on it to generate essays. Board members agreed to keep an eye on the technology as it develops but noted it will be challenging to regulate.

SEARCH students spoke enthusiastically about their experiences in the working world.

Students from a program called Swedish Edmonds Project SEARCH talked about the practical experiences they accumulated during their internships at the hospital and other local businesses. These students have learning challenges, which can make finding a job difficult. They worked in a variety of positions including dishwashing, cleaning, food service, landscaping and sterile processing. They detailed their application process, the types of work they did and the hopes they have for future employment. 

Finally, the board unanimously approved the use of mastery credits in financial education and adopted a policy that will allow the school district to stock epinephrine auto-injectors for anaphylactic emergencies. This will aid students who are unable to attend schools in fear that they may have an allergic reaction and it is expected to boost attendance. 

— By Jasmine Contreras-Lewis

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