By Eileen Kelliher
The Edmonds School Board at its Feb. 26 meeting received a report on the district’s new teacher and principal evaluation system from Alderwood Middle School Principal Erin Murphy and a principal/assistant principal panel.
Edmonds-Woodway High School Assistant Principal Robert Johnson told the board that implementing the new evaluation system — required by state law — and maintaining it will require more time from administrators than the current model. As a result, the panel recommends that the district hire for each school a Level Three para-educator to help share administrators’ duties so that they can spend more time in the classrooms and in interactions with teachers.
Board member Kory DeMun complimented the panel on its work and expressed the desire that the administrators get proper support while they implement the new system, pointing out that eventually there will be pressure for results measurement. The panel responded that the new system’s first assessment would occur in a year. Board Chair Ann McMurray foresaw that the coming year would be time-intensive with lots of hand-holding by the administrators of staff as they addressed anxieties “in hallways and parking lots.” She added it would “the height of hypocrisy” to ask administrators to take on the new evaluation implementation without proper support when the district is part of a lawsuit against the state for not providing the proper financial support to educate students.
Mountlake Terrace High School student advisor Barbara Biney asked how much the plan would cost. The answer was, a lean budget would be $900,000 to $1 million, while a moderate budget would run from $1.3 million to $1.4 million. Panel members estimated that if the concept is approved, job postings for the 30 or so new para-educators would go out in April or May.
Other items addressed by the board
– Deborah Anderson, Executive Director of the Edmonds Public Schools Foundation, reported on the surplus laptop program, part of the district’s effort to “bridge the digital divide.” She stated that 200 computers have been distributed so far to students, with Cedar Valley Elementary receiving the most, followed by Lynnwood Elementary. In January, the foundation passed out 120 computers to families while dozens of volunteers and staff provided required training and translating. Anderson added that another distribution took place in late February. Nineteen families targeted for the computers have not yet picked them up and the remaining available laptops are targeted for high school students.
– The board unanimously passed a resolution urging state lawmakers to address K-12 funding. stating it “expects the Legislature to adopt a comprehensive system for stable and sustainable revenue that meets the requirements of Washington’s K-12 public schools and students.” You can read the full resolution here.
– Assistant Superintendent Patrick Murphy reported on the increasing high school academic challenges for historically under-served low-income, African-American and Hispanic students. Murphy noted that at an Equal Opportunity Schools meeting he attended with Lynnwood High School’s principal, it was pointed out that students who take college-level classes such as AP and IB are more likely to go to college. With financial help from the Edmonds Public Schools Foundation, soon all sophomores will take the PLAN exam (the lead-in to the ACT exam) and counselors, parents, and teachers will be better able to encourage students who scored well to challenge themselves as they enroll for their junior year, he said. In addition, a new Computer Science AP class is scheduled to be offered at Mountlake Terrace High School, and Lynnwood High School will offer an Environmental Science AP class. MTHS student Biney observed that many students at her school don’t even realize they have honors classes available to them and she would like to see better advertising. Biney said she is taking Honors Biology and talks up this class and others with her peers. She stated that “a lot of kids need that push” from parents, teachers, counselors to take a challenging course.
– District Executive Director of Business and Operations Stewart Mhyre told the board that the Lynnwood City Council just approved a rezone of the old Lynnwood High School site, which moves the process closer to development. Early June is when the city council must take its next action that would allow developer Cypress to build a new Costco. The district’s current bus barn site on the Alderwood Mall’s south side is next in line for development and staff will interview developers this month, Mhyre said. He also reported that all the tenants of the Melody Hill site (right next to I-5, off 196th Street Southwest) are moving into former Woodway High School. In August, the building will be empty and should be slated for demolition.
– Transportation Director Craig Christensen detailed the status of the district’s fleet of 139 busses. While in the past few years 16 routes had been dropped, now that state funding is expected to increase the district will slowly grow the fleet with additional large and medium buses. In fact, Christensen stated, five large buses joined the fleet in February. which will be helpful with upcoming boundary changes. Transportation management has found that small buses are not as practical as they often do not provide enough space to accommodate special-needs students. In the past four years, the district purchased 109 buses. Just this week, three more drivers were added to the district’s existing group of 130, and they drive 41 regular routes and 58 special needs routes, and also help 150 homeless students get to school. In an experimental effort to relieve school administrators of some of their responsibilities as they put in place the new evaluation system, bus drivers and bus administrators are retaining discipline responsibilities for what occurs on the buses. They are calling parents and following up when there are issues, and bus video cameras provide verification if they need it. Christensen believes this will change the culture on the buses so that the students and drivers have more direct relationships and more accountability.
School board contributing writer Eileen Kelliher served as a parent volunteer while her three children went through Seaview Elementary, Meadowdale Middle School, and Edmonds-Woodway High School. She works occasionally as a substitute classified employee for the Edmonds School District.