Edmonds School District to test water on floating a construction bond

The Edmonds School District Board learned at a meeting earlier this week that a committee of the district’s Citizen’s Planning Committee (CPC) suggested going out to the voters to ask for more construction money.

Executive Director of Business and Operations Stewart Mhyre told the board Tuesday night that the CPC’s Facilities and Operations Subcommittee made the recommendation at its first meeting of the school year.  Since the state is committed to funding smaller class sizes in kindergarten through third grade, and all-day kindergarten for all students, the district will run out of classrooms, Mhyre noted. While portables and expansion of some buildings are options, he said, changing boundaries will only move the congestion around. This need for space does not arise from immediate student population growth: Mhyre updated the board on the fourth-day enrollment count on which state funding is based, and as of Monday, Sept. 9, the district had increased by a total of 1.3 Full Time Equivalent (FTE) students. (A total of 20,105 were enrolled during the past school year.)

The board gave district staff support to explore with the CPC, focus groups and key communicators in the next month and a half the concept of floating a construction bond in mid-February, linking with the already-planned Maintenance and Operations Levy. This would save on election funds rather than waiting until next year, or the year after that when the Tech Levy expires, pointed out staff.

Another advantage of going to the electorate now, added Superintendent Nick Brossoit, is that many surrounding districts are going to their voters with bonds in February and so there will be lots of media coverage and discussion. He pointed out that the maintenance and operations levy would need a simple majority to pass, while the bond issue would require a super majority. Mhyre stated that the district is trying to keep the new levy rate fairly low so that when it is combined with the existing tech levy and bond rate, it will not rise above $5 per $1,000 of assessed property value.

Along with the need for additional elementary classroom space, the CPC and the district would like to use the money to replace Lynnwood Middle School, Lynndale Elementary and Madrona K– 8. The CPC identified these structures as being most in need for replacement seven years ago and renewed that designation last year. The district currently has the funds to start the planning process if it is given the go-ahead by the board, staff reported.

A major board concern was that voters were promised in the last bond election that district property sales would fund further development. “Can we explain that to our voters well enough? Just like our homes have not gotten back to their former value, our properties have not gotten back to their former value?” board chair Ann McMurray asked. Mhyre pointed out that lease revenue will come, but over 99 years.

Another board concern was that there might not be enough time to build support. Noted Superintendent Brossoit: “I would rather have this information in front of the community. Kids are here and we don’t have a place to put them. Turning down $1.5 million because they don’t have a classroom for all-day kindergarten as they did in Mukilteo this year,” is not a position the Edmonds School District should be in, Brossoit said.

Other information that was shared during the evening:

– During the Student Learning Report, Executive Director of Teaching and Learning Lara Drew celebrated the summer’s PreK-12 Collaborative Learning Institute that reached over 400 educators. This effort helped launch the Common Core standards especially as they align with the newly adopted Danielson Teacher Evaluation Framework.

Regarding the new teacher evaluation system, Drew reported that all staff convened on a non-student day in August to study Planning and Preparation and Professional Responsibilities. In September, staff will take a day to study Student Growth and write specific goals for students. Also on that non-student day, they will learn how to use eVAL Washington, a web-based tool that manages the evaluation process and documentation.

Drew also updated the board on integrating technology tools with the Common Core standards. The tech team she is working with would like to see all students at the secondary level have access to a personal device rather than use the cart or lab model of computer access. Another team goal is to review hardware and software needed to support Common Core Standards and Smarter Balanced Assessment so that all schools are working with the same material just as occurs in a district curriculum adoption. (Smarter Balanced Assessment is personalized on-line testing that evolves as the student responds to questions. Not all students have the same test on their screen.)

With a two-year, $50,000 grant from the Gates Foundation, Edmonds is continuing its Cross-District Coalition sessions with PreK-3 leadership in Edmonds, Everett, Seattle, and expanding to include Highline and Federal Way School Districts. The goal is to engage district leadership and increase their knowledge of the impact that a PreK-3 focus can have on student achievement, Drew said.

Last, she touched on ESD’s five waiver days that it uses for teacher training. The district needs to apply again for this waiver from the State Board of Education for the following year. Staff plans to use the non-student days to work collaboratively around Student Growth as called for the new evaluation system. This will give them time to analyze data in real time and implement interventions for struggling students.

– Assistant Superintendent Patrick Murphy shared that the district plans to hold a graduation ceremony prior to one of October board meetings to celebrate the six or possibly eight students from the class of 2013 who over the summer completed requirements so that they could get an ESD diploma.

Continuing in his briefing on the graduation rate, Murphy informed the board that of the 229 seniors last year that dropped out, only one-third had started in the district as freshman. He added that 57 senior dropouts were new to district in their last year. Murphy reported that in the four-day count of ESD’s 2013-2014 student population, there are 1,906 seniors although they are from different classes. For example, some should have graduated in 2013 but have been retained. 1,500 seniors or 86 percent are on track and on time. Of the 1,747 students in the class of 2014 that came in as 9th graders, 95 have dropped out already and 145 have been reclassified as juniors.

– Mhyre rolled out for the board improvements planned to the former Woodway High School field. When completed in about 18 months, it will have two soccer fields with artificial turf, a walking track, lights, stands and outlines for two softball fields. The City of Edmonds applied for a state appropriation to help fund the project, said Mhyre, and the district will draw funds from its capital projects budget. The Verdant Health Commission may also contribute to the project.

– The new Interim Principal of College Place Elementary, Scott Morrison, came before the board for introduction. Since 2007 he has served as assistant high school principal and has taught in the district since the early 1990s. Board Chair Ann McMurray commented that she “already received positive feedback at Scott’s presence at the school. “ Chris Baily also came before the board in his new role as Manager of IT Operations. He started working for the district in 2007 as a Tech Levy Specialist.

The board next meets on Sept. 24 at 6:30 p.m. at the Educational Services Center, 20420 68th Ave. W., Lynnwood.

— By Eileen Kelliher

KelliherSchool 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.

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