May 1, 2017

Dawn Pro Five Oh!

Get the candles and cookies ready, because May is my birthday month, and this year is my Big Five-Oh. Ready to celebrate?

Please Join Me in Supporting the Children's Book Bank!

Choose One or More Options Below to Participate

*Spend 50 seconds exploring the Children's Book Bank's website and learning about their mission

*Spend another 50 seconds reading about the Children's Book Bank's Story Like Mine Campaign

*Bring new or gently used books to my house on or before Tuesday, May 23rd (see below for donation guidelines)

* Purchase a book from my inventory, and both the book and the net proceeds will be donated to the Children's Book Bank (purchase from my online store on or before May 23, 2017 and reference #DawnPro50 in the notes . . . or stop by my house on or before Tuesday, May 23rd to make your purchase--send me a direct email/message and we'll coordinate.)

*Spend 50 minutes helping me sort and organize books on Tuesday, May 23rd (comment below, use the contact form to the left, or send me a direct email/message so we can coordinate schedules)

*Donate new or used books directly to the Children's Book Bank (here is a link to their Multicultural Books Wish List)

*Make a monetary donation to the Children's Book Bank:
  • Fun Fact: 50 cents multiplied by my 50 years = $25
  • Fun Fact: 50 dollars multiplied by 1 for my one and only 50th birthday = $50
  • Fun Fact: 50 cents a day multiplied by 365 for each day I'll be 50 = $182.50

*Spend 50 minutes reading to or with a child or grown-up of your choosing, then spread the word by sharing a selfie on social media to celebrate my Big Five-Oh (#DawnPro50, @DawnProchovnic, FB / @PDXBookBank, FB, Instagram)

Here are My Goals for My 50th Birthday Book Drive (Click Here to See How I'm Doing on Reaching My Goals):

*50 books collected and delivered to the Children's Book Bank

*50 empty book bags funded (each $25 donation supplies 25 ready-to-fill bags)

*50 filled book bags funded (each $25 donation fills one book bag for a child who participates in Head Start)

*50 "50-minutes of reading with a child or grown-up" photos posted to social media and tagged: #DawnPro50 @dawnprochovnic @PDXbookbank

*50 shares of this post

*50 friends, family members, and/or fans who participate in this celebration in some fashion

*One friend, family member, or fan inspired to coordinate a book drive (or other service project of their choosing) for their next special occasion.

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Here are Some Book Donation Guidelines from the Children's Book Bank:

We Need:
Books for babies
Board books
Books about letters, numbers, shapes and colors
Picture books--in hard cover and soft cover
Books about animals
Chapter books for readers from grade K-8

We can't use:
Coloring Books
Text Books
Books from school library collections
Teacher "sets" that have been pulled from the classroom
Encyclopedias
Activity Books
Books for Adults
Musty/damaged Books

In terms of what is meant by "gently used," we say that folks can ask themselves if the book is one that they would think of buying for their own child or one that could be passed on to a friend.

Here is a link to a Children's Book Bank Flyer

*****

So, are you in??

If you need more information to participate, please comment below or send a message via the contact form to the left (or send me a direct email/message), and additional information will be supplied.

Feel encouraged to use the comment section below to share how you've participated or plan to participate, or just to wish me a happy birthday!

Thanks for helping me celebrate the Big 5-0!

#DawnPro50

April 21, 2017

Librarians: Protecting our First Amendment Rights, One Book at a Time

Image Source: Amber's Website
This time last year I used this space to share my thoughts about the importance of voice and my thoughts on Amber J. Keyser's book, The V-Word: True Stories About First Time Sex. In that post, I shared a love letter I wrote to my daughter encouraging her to honor and value her own voice.

Today, I'm using this space to share my thoughts about the importance of using our voices to stand up for our First Amendment rights. The April 12, 2017 edition of the Palmetto Business Daily reports that Amber's book is at the center of a controversy at a library in Charleston, South Carolina. I've pasted below the letter I've emailed to the Library Board of Trustees that will hold a meeting about this issue at 8:00 AM on Monday, April 25, 2017. If you'd like to bring your own voice into the conversation, message me via the comments below or the contact form to the left and I will provide the email address where comments can be sent.

*****

-->

April 21, 2017 

Dear Charleston County Library Board of Trustees:

I am a parent, children’s author, and library advocate. In 2015 I was named Oregon Library Supporter of the Year. I believe strongly that libraries have a duty and responsibility to champion First Amendment rights and to ensure that all community members have unrestricted access to the information they seek. I also believe that parents have a duty and responsibility to set appropriate limits for their own children. These ideas are not mutually exclusive.

I read in the April 12, 2017 edition of the Palmetto Business Daily that your Board of Trustees will be meeting on April 25th to discuss community concerns related to the placement of books that provide accurate and factual information about sex, including, but not limited to The V-Word: True Stories About First Time Sex.

Our society is filled with an abundance of information and images, much of which may not be age-appropriate for any one particular child. There are provocative photographs on magazine covers in the grocery store, explicit videos that are accessed via the Internet and shared on social media, and graphic news stories and programs shown on television. Again, it is the library’s role to champion freedom of speech and uncensored access to information, and it is a parent’s role to set appropriate limits for their own children.

Each parent will navigate these challenges differently, depending on their own values and the maturity of their particular child. Some parents intentionally refrain from watching graphic news stories while their children are in the room, opting instead to chat about world events at the dinner table. Other parents might watch graphic news stories alongside their child, and have a rich conversation afterwards. Some parents turn off the news completely to protect their children from the troubling truths in our world, and some children hunger for information nonetheless. The public library serves all of these children and all of these parents.

I write books that incorporate AmericanSign Language (ASL), and even this seemingly innocuous subject can stir different comfort levels in different parents. Some parents acknowledge the research that early exposure to sign language enriches and stimulates verbal communication, while other parents fear that sign language is a verbal language inhibitor. Some parents consider ASL as an important part of their family’s culture, and other parents consider ASL an inferior substitute for verbal language. Some parents contend that sign language should only be taught via three-dimensional formats such as in-person or through videos, while other parents strictly forbid screen time. Some parents have never considered teaching their child a second language, and some children are curious about ASL nonetheless. The public library serves all of these children and all of these parents. It would be a disservice* to the general public and an affront to the First Amendment and the ideals of free speech and unrestricted access to information if the library were to avoid displaying my sign language books in a prominent location for fear that they might be seen by a child whose parents were uncomfortable with my treatment on the subject.

I would urge you to resist the temptation to censor controversial materials from your library shelves. I would also urge you to resist the temptation to hide books that provide accurate and factual information about sex, such as The V-Word, effectively making it more difficult for the young people for whom these books are written to find them.

I applaud the librarians who continue to stand up for the First Amendment, freedom of speech, and unrestricted access to information. I encourage you to support them in fulfilling their important role in our democratic society.

Sincerely,

Dawn Prochovnic, MA
Founder of SmallTalk Learning
www.dawnprochovnic.com

*This word was inadvertently mis-spelled in the original letter.
 
*****

Again, if you'd like to bring your own voice into the conversation, message me via the comments below or the contact form to the left and I will provide the email address where comments can be sent.

April 18, 2017

26 Ways to Incorporate Alphabet Signs into Your Story Times (#26)

I've had my nose buried in book-related projects, and that has resulted in some extended gaps between blog posts. Thanks for your patience, dear readers. At long last, here is the culminating post for my series on enrichment activities to incorporate alphabet signs into your story times:

26. ABC Sign with Me (aka, Anything Goes!)

Photo Credit: Independence Public Library
ANY alphabet-related learning activity you currently enjoy can be enriched by incorporating the alphabet signs into the activity. If, for example, you like searching for the letters of the alphabet on road signs during car trips, you can add the alphabet handshapes to this activity (assuming you are a passenger and not the driver, or course). If you like stacking alphabet blocks, or sorting alphabet magnets on the fridge, or putting together alphabet puzzles, add the alphabet handshapes to your play activities. You can even add the alphabet handshapes to learning activities that don't directly involve the alphabet. For example, in this picture, I'm focusing on the signs for colors, but since many of the signs for colors involve the handshape for the first letter in the color word, it makes it easy to incorporate the handshapes for letters of the alphabet along with signs for colors.

To help you get started, here are some links to web sites that have some alphabet-related learning activities. Try adding the alphabet handshapes to some or all of these activities:

Alphabet Activity Links: 








I'd love to add to this list of links. If you have a favorite website that incorporates alphabet-related learning activities, share it in the comment section below, or via the contact form to the left. Here are some additional helpful resources to support your interest in signing the alphabet:

Helpful Resources
:


ASL Alphabet Glossary from my publisher's website (use this link to download the activity packet for younger children, and the alphabet glossary from my books is included in that packet)


The sign for Alphabet

A to Z Sign with Me

Abdo Publishing Group
Please contact Dawn using the form to the left if you'd like to receive reduced pricing on books in the Story Time with Signs & Rhymes series. This offer is available to workshop participants, consulting clients, and subscribers to this blog or Dawn's social media accounts.  

If you'd like to be on the mailing list for the next offering of my online class: Sing, Sign and Story Time for Professionals, please use the form at the left to send me your contact information. 

Please share your own ideas and experiences in the comment section below, and subscribe to my blog to receive more ideas over time.  Happy Signing!

January 18, 2017

2016 Year End Post, Albeit Belated

I took a break from blogging after the election. I spent time grieving. I spent time reflecting. I spent time taking positive ACTion (and will continue taking positive ACTion in the days and weeks and months ahead).

Today I listened to President Obama's last Press Conference as President of the United States. He opened with a statement about the important role of a free and vibrant press. He said, "I spent a lot of time on my — in my farewell address talking about the state of our democracy. It goes without saying that essential to that is a free press. That is part of how this place, this country, this grand experiment of self-government has to work. It doesn’t work if we don’t have a well-informed citizenry, and you are the conduit through which they receive the information about what’s taking place in the halls of power." (Quoted from the full transcript from the New York Times.)

There are many things the recent election has illuminated for me. One of those things is how much I value a free and vibrant press. I now subscribe to several news sources, and I encourage others to do the same. I have also implemented a new practice in my home, whereby I ask my teenager to read and discuss one credible news article a day. Hopefully this practice will support his development into an active, engaged citizen and a critical consumer of information. I've been very proud of the way my son has risen to this challenge I've placed before him, and his insights and opinions have challenged me to be a more critical thinker as well.  

As President Obama answered the last question at the Press Conference, he acknowledged that parents generally like to brag about their children, then he gushed about his own daughters, saying, "But man, my daughters are something. And--they just surprise and enchant and impress me more and more every single day as they grow up." It is no secret that I am a big fan of President Obama; his delight for his children is one of the many reasons I admire him so.

I too like to gush about my children, and my annual holiday letter is one way that I do that. Although it seems that fewer and fewer people send annual holiday greetings, I treasure this tradition each year. Both the receiving of cards, letters, and photos from friends and family near and far, and the preparation of my own annual update. Each year I try to provide a relevant update embedded in some creative format (here are examples from 2012 20132014, and 2015)This year I leaned into the "news" theme:




In the coming year, I will continue to give my time and attention to the local and national issues that compel me, and one of the issues I will more actively advocate for and support is a free and vibrant press. A logical extension of my longstanding advocacy for Strong School Libraries and information literacy, don't you think? 

November 8, 2016

I'm So Grateful That I Live in a Country Where I Can Speak My Voice

Image Credit
Today is Election Day.  I've always considered it a privilege to vote, but this is the first election in which I've felt such an urgency to vote.

I live in a vote-by-mail state. I completed my ballot and hand-delivered it to the election office over a week ago. Later today, I will put on a pantsuit and gather with my family and like-minded friends to watch the election results come in.

Not only do I appreciate my right to vote, I'm also extremely grateful that I live in a country where I can safely and freely give voice to issues of importance to me. I consider it an extension of my civic duty to contribute my voice to local and national issues. I care deeply about my country. Our country. And, I care deeply about my community. Our community.

Since I'm not standing in line today to cast my vote, I felt it was important to spend some time giving voice to a local issue that has been of ongoing importance to me: My local school district's high school boundary adjustment and the resulting transition process for our local high school students. Here is the letter I wrote to my school district's Superintendent and School Board members earlier today:

*****
Dear Mr. Grotting and Members of the School Board,

My heart is heavy today. Not only are we at the climax of an anxiety-ridden and divisive election cycle (both in terms of elected offices and school-funding-related ballot measures), but impacted students in the Class of 2020 have just received formal, personalized notification that they (or their friends) will no longer be attending the high school they currently call home. For some students, this letter in the mail was the first solid reality check that the changes they’d been hearing about were real, and the changes were happening to them, and/or their friends.  

While students and adults in our community watch and wait for what will happen locally and nationally as a result of the election, students in the Class of 2020 have the added burden of processing personal and individual loss related to their own high school experience. Although you are clear in your communication that plans are underway to support students and families through the boundary transition, where you and others have fallen short is with respect to the support that students need right now. Their loss is immediate. It is happening during an already stressful time in our community and in our world. It is happening while they are navigating high school mid-terms for the very first time in their lives. It is happening while they participate in awards ceremonies for fall sports teams that they won’t be returning to next school year (and in fact will be competing against next school year), and it is happening while they are preparing for try-outs for winter sports teams that they will only get to play on for one year. 

I appreciate your acknowledgement that students will need support as they navigate into their new school next year, but equally importantly, they need transition support right now, as they process the loss of their team, their mascot, their school colors, their school fight song, their current teammates and coaches, their newly minted favorite teachers and favorite school traditions, their longtime friendships, and their recently developed friendships and first loves. These students are processing a long list of personal losses, and they are processing those loses today

Last night I observed a student, who will not change schools, answer call after call and message after message from friends who will be leaving their beloved school next year.  These friends' emotions were raw and immediate. There was anxiety. There was anger. There was sadness. There were many “what if’s and what about’s.”  Yes, these kids are resilient. Yes, these kids will survive this transition and the losses we adults have burdened them with, but WE need to acknowledge their losses and we need to offer them support and opportunities to process these losses. There Their world is a now world, and they are processing loss, right now. How are WE helping them navigate the questions, concerns, and sense of loss they have today

I am also  disappointed (and sadly, a bit cynical) that the recent communication mailed to impacted families did not clearly indicate the sibling rule guidelines. Some of the students who received formal and personalized communication from the District yesterday will have the opportunity to claim the sibling exemption, but the personalized communication that they received offered no indication of this. I want to be certain that students who qualify for exceptions and exemptions receive every opportunity to exercise those exceptions and exemptions. I would also like to call for public oversight and for a transparent and accessible process for grievances and appeals to ensure that students of color, students with limited means and limited home support, and students with specialized academic circumstances (and not just specialized athletic circumstances) receive equitable treatment under the exemptions and Administrative Transfer rules. We need to ensure that students’ needs are genuinely put first during this transition. 

Lastly, I would like to call for a full, complete and transparent public debriefing of the boundary adjustment process, and I would like the Board to call for a comprehensive and transparent District assessment of what has been learned through this boundary adjustment. What worked? What didn’t work? What will WE do differently next time and what will WE repeat? What did our learning community gain from the experience? What did our learning community lose from the experience? Likewise, I would like call for the School District to utilize the opportunity of this boundary change to gather and analyze data about the actual impacts of the transition on the Class of 2020 for the duration of their high school experience. For example: Their graduation rate as compared to other classes before and after them; their participation levels in extra curricular activities; their receipt of District and regional awards (academic and athletic) as compared to classes of students before and after them; their acceptance into college and their scholarship earnings as compared to classes before and after them; and their collective responses to mental health-related surveys as compared to classes before and after them. I would like to see the information gleaned via this debriefing, learning assessment, and data collection/analysis be used to provide foundational guidance to future high school boundary adjustments and to other district-wide initiatives.

Thank you for listening, considering, and hopefully acting on my concerns. 

Sincerely,
Dawn Prochovnic

Parent, Community Volunteer and Voter

 *****

Raise your voices my friends. Each voice matters. Each vote matters.

P.S. For those who are interested in the Beaverton School District boundary transition process, the District's transition plan is here and the District has indicated that the implementation details will (eventually) be here.

October 12, 2016

Oregon Reads Aloud Hits Book Shelves

Photo Credit: Stephanie Shaw
Yee-Ha! I've been having such a grand time participating in special events to promote Oregon Reads Aloud, a keepsake collection of 25 read-aloud stories for children, written and illustrated by a trove of talented Oregon authors and illustrators. It is a celebration of all things Oregon and a tribute to 25 years of SMART's (Start Making a Reader Today) work empowering children to read. It's due for release October 18, 2016.

My contribution to this collection is FIRST DAY JITTERS, a crisp, rhythmic story about the anxiety and excitement of starting school . . . in the Pacific Northwest! This rhyming read-aloud offers opportunities to introduce children to American Sign Language and hands-on, STEM-friendly activities and objects such as geodes, fossils and compost. I am so excited about this book. I know in my heart it will play an instrumental role in empowering young readers.

Please contact me if you'd like to invite me to visit your school, library, or community organization.

Oregon Reads Aloud is available everywhere books are sold, beginning October 18, 2016. Here are some links to get you started:

Amazon

IndieBound


Need more persuading? Here are some links to recent media coverage:

Book Blast Promo

News Channel 8 Story (10/11/2016)

The Oregonian's Coverage (10/11/2016)


Here are some fun photos from recent Oregon Reads Aloud events and celebrations:

Many Fellow Contributors
Powell's Book Signing for SMART Kids, October 11, 2016 


SMART Kids Hearing Stories from Oregon Reads Aloud
Powell's Books, October 11, 2016

Book Signing at Graphic Arts Books' Booth at PNBA, October 2, 2016


My Oregon Reads Aloud Event Hat,
With Images of Favorite Books That Were Read Aloud to Me When I Was a Child

September 28, 2016

Beaverton School District Boundary Adjustment Transition Plan Should Be Amended

Wow! I've been quiet for a long time. That's not like me, you might say. True, true. I have been busy summering, (more on that another time), and adjusting to the reality that I now have two kids in high school (a freshman and a senior). I've also been actively advocating for the students in the Beaverton School District.

I have posted below my most recent letter to the Beaverton School Board. Final decisions re: the high boundary adjustment process (which I've discussed previously here, here and here), are expected over the next few weeks.

It is my hope that the Beaverton School Board does the right thing for students and amends the current boundary transition plan to allow all students, including the Class of 2020, the opportunity to start and finish at the same high school.

If you'd like more information about the Beaverton School District High School Boundary Adjustment Process, you can find that here.

If you'd like to share your views with School Board members, you can find their contact information here.

The school district's Boundary Advisory Committee will be meeting tonight (September 28, 2016) to provide their input and review public input (however no additional public testimony will be allowed at tonight's meeting). The School Board is slated to discuss this issue at an upcoming meeting in October (however, the date for that meeting has been changed at least once, and I'm not currently 100% certain when it is).


The short story is that I want all students in our school district to be able to experience the benefits associated with continuity in their high school experience . . .  and the Beaverton School District seems to think it is adequate to simply mitigate the risks associated with disruption instead of avoiding the risks altogether.  I disagree. Although the District holds most of the cards on this issue, two things I can do are 1) Use my voice to raise concerns before all decisions are final and 2) Support students through the disruptions that adults seem ready to impose on them. I will do both. The letter below is one way I have brought my voice into the conversation. 

*****

Dear Members of the School Board, 

Thank you again for your careful consideration of the boundary-related issues in our school district. 

I am writing to you today to ask that you reconsider your approval of the current high school boundary transition plan.  

There were two objectives that you established at the outset of the High School Boundary Adjustment Process: 

*Relieve current and projected future overcrowding with a five-year horizon, and targeting 90% capacity or less.
*Minimize transitions for students. 

Our school district has fallen short on the objective of minimizing transitions for students, particularly for the Class of 2020. Under the current boundary adjustment transition plan, students in the Class of 2020 who are impacted by the boundary adjustment, but who do not qualify for the sibling rule, will be asked to change schools next year. Although my own two children will not be asked to change schools as a result of the boundary adjustment, I continue to press this issue with the school district because I strongly support the notion that all high school students should have the opportunity to finish at the same high school in which they started. Board Policy JC gives the superintendent authority to allow this to happen where and when possible ("At schools impacted by redrawn attendance boundaries, where and when possible, the superintendent may allow students to remain at their current school for one or more years to complete the highest grade level or levels offered.”) I ask that you direct the school district administration to innovate and find a way to make this possible for all high school students, including the Class of 2020. 

I recently gave testimony at a school district listening session and shared that I've heard district administrators' arguments that the Class of 2020 must transition to their new boundary school during their sophomore year to allow the newly built school enough attendees to operate successfully. I’ve also heard district leaders say it is simply not possible to allow members of the Class of 2020 the option to remain in their school of origin. I wondered aloud if these same people would have thought it impossible to put a man on the moon? Or impossible to develop a polio vaccine? Or find a cure for cancer? The students we are educating today are the citizens of tomorrow who will find the cure for cancer. Can we not set an example for these students by saying, “WE are Future Ready, and WE can find an innovative solution that will allow students in the Class of 2020 the option to remain in their school of origin and still have adequate enrollment in our new school to open it successfully." It may be challenging. It may be be complicated. There will likely be added short-term expense. But, it is possible, and it is important.

The most impactful study I’ve read about the importance of continuity of school was conducted by the National Institutes of Health (2012). Here is a link to the study:  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4279956/ . Although studies on this topic are typically focused on the impacts of family-initiatived mobility (i.e. due to changes in housing, jobs, etc.), this particular study aimed to normalize the data for other elements of instability often found in individual students who are impacted by higher mobility (for example, poverty). 

What stood out for me in the research, is that the same types of mobility issues that are seen as concerns for individual kids who "switch schools” are the same general concerns that I and others have expressed re: the boundary-related transitions. The NIH study findings indicate that, "school mobility presents disruptions in social relationships with peers, teachers, and other important adults.” Likewise, the NIH study cites other research findings (see Parker, Rubin, Erath, Woislawowicz & Buskirk, 2006, cited in the NIH study) that indicate that "negotiating peer relationships is a central developmental task of middle childhood and adolescence, and school changes that disrupt these relationships likely impact student school engagement, behavior, and motivation to succeed academically.”)

What also stood out for me in the research (all of the research I read on mobility, not just this one study) is that researchers were looking for ways they could support kids through family-instigated mobility (i.e. mobility that the schools couldn’t control or necessarily stop from happening). This begs the question as to why our school district would knowingly create mobility disruptions for students when there are other options. I am hard-pressed to find convincing evidence that we are doing what is best for students when we ask them to disrupt their social relationships with peers, teachers and other important adults just as they are beginning their high school careers. It seems clear that the school district’s current transition plan is essentially a business decision, and the Class of 2020 will shoulder the cost of doing business. That is not okay.   

Under the current transition plan, students in the Class of 2020 will experience disruptions in their social relationships with peers, teachers and other important adults. I understand and agree that kids are resilient. I also understand that shifting students en masse is not exactly the same as individual students "switching schools." However, it is telling that the school district plans to build in the same types of supports for boundary-adjusted kids that the research suggests is of benefit to individual students facing “mobility-related” disruptions and transitions due to "switching schools.” I should also note that to my knowledge, the school district has not disputed that the transition being asked of the Class of 2020 will be disruptive, nor has the District provided evidence to suggest that there are not risks associated with disrupting students in the midst of their high school experience. The District's messaging has been focused on their confidence that the risks can be managed. It is my argument that if the District understands that this type of disruption has risks that need to managed, we need to step back and ask ourselves, “Why are we willing to subject a group of students to these risks?” and “What innovative solutions could we employ so as to avoid subjecting a class of students to these risks?”    

If we shift our thinking from, “There is no way we can afford this” or “There are too many logistical issues," to instead saying, “Let’s find and/or develop an innovative solution to this problem,” we can right this wrong. Innovative ideas might involve utilizing the transportation system that is in place for Options Schools. It might involve surveying students and families about their transition needs and preferences via their home room teacher and/or their google account and a QR code. Maybe it involves giving kids access to a TriMet bus pass. Maybe it involves allowing kids from across the District to Opt In to the new school in order to adequately populate it. There are options. WE need to focus our Future Ready minds on modifying the boundary transition plan such that all students have the opportunity to start and finish at the same high school.

Please do not rest with the belief that the current administrative transfer process is an adequate or appropriate solution for this problem. The administrative transfer process involves red tape, annual uncertainty for each individual student, and it also comes without the support of transportation, which creates equity issues. 

No matter what actual boundary lines our District finalizes, some families will be pleased, and some will not. But there are some families whose high school students will be directly impacted during the transitional years. I ask that you amend the transition plan to include a provision that allows these families the opportunity to make a transition decision that is best for them. 

Sincerely, 

Dawn Prochovnic
Parent of two Beaverton High School Students
(who are not currently slated to change schools via the boundary adjustment)