May 2, 2016

Library Advocacy Summary Post

This past weekend I visited Springfield, Oregon to give the keynote address for an Oregon Association of School Libraries (OASL) regional conference. I gave a spirited talked entitled, "Library Evangelism 101," in which I shared the learnings from the School Library Advocacy effort in the Beaverton School District. In my opening remarks, I warned folks that I would talk fast, share an abundance of information, and potentially overwhelm them in the process. I'm pretty sure I accomplished all three!

I tried to reassure folks that it would not be possible to incorporate all of the ideas I talked about, and encouraged participants to try to identify one or two or three things they could personally incorporate. It was exciting to hear people percolating with ideas. I look forward to hearing the action items that people commit to and follow through with. Case in point, just last week I heard about another school library advocacy effort in the Eugene area that got off the ground after I gave a similar talk at the OASL state meeting last fall. I genuinely believe that if we each plant and nurture a few seeds of library advocacy in our own areas, the results from our collective advocacy efforts will be bountiful.

I realized after wrapping up my talk that although I've written several posts about School Library Advocacy, I've not yet created a summary post for this topic. A summary listing is below:

Why I'm Passionate About School Libraries (Sept 28, 2014)

I Am  Library Evangelist and You Are the Choir (April 23, 2015)

Oregon Library Supporters of the Year (May 15, 2015)

School Library Advocacy: An Update (Oct 6, 2015) and

Summary of School Library Advocacy Effort in Beaverton, Oregon (Glog Summary) (October, 2015)

Engaging Parents and Community in Library Advocacy Efforts (November 6, 2015)

Please get in touch if you'd like me to present "Library Evangelism 101" in your area. (If you'd like a preview, click here for an article that I wrote for the SchoolLibraryAdvocacy.org blog that touches on a couple of the topics I address in the workshop). If you'd like to access the slides for "Library Evangelism 101," please send me an email, or message me via the contact form on the left side of the blog.

I'd love to hear about the school library advocacy efforts in your own area. I hope you will share what's going on in your area in the comment section below.

April 26, 2016

Beaverton High School Boundary Adjustment Process, Continued

Image Source: Beaverton SD Website
Earlier this month I wrote about my displeasure with my school district's approach to a high school boundary adjustment process. This week the outgoing Superintendent made his recommendations to the School Board. The School Board will soon vote to ratify the Superintendent's recommendations. And so I write again:

April 26, 2016

Dear Members of the School Board,

Although I did not speak at last night’s Board meeting, I attended the meeting to listen and to learn, much as I attended nearly every Boundary Adjustment Committee meeting over the past several months.

We heard again at last night’s Board meeting that Policy JC reads in part, "If the objectives were met and the criteria were reasonably applied, the Board shall approve the attendance plan."

The policy does not read, “If reasonable people took on a difficult task and did the best that they could with the time and resources made available to them, the Board shall approve the attendance plan."

Similarly, the policy does not read, “If the Dr. Withycombe says that the BSD has the best Technical Team and Boundary Adjustment Committee he has ever worked with, the Board shall approve the attendance plan.” 

And most certainly, the policy does not read, “If Dr. Rose can ask Robert (or the Technical Team or the Boundary Advisory Committee) how the criteria were applied to a particular map and if Robert (or the Technical Team or the Boundary Advisory Committee) can answer those questions to Dr. Rose’s satisfaction, then the Board shall approve the attendance plan.”

The policy says that you must determine "If the objectives were met and the criteria were reasonably applied.”

I do not envy your position. If I had to make the difficult decision that you are charged with, I would need to be able to compare one map to another  (e.g. the springboard map to the final recommendation map, or to the various BAC maps in between) and reasonably understand how the final map is a better overall map than the maps before it in terms of meeting the objectives and applying the criteria. Despite my own high level of engagement in all aspects of the boundary adjustment process that were made available to the public, I’m not able to do this. Are you? If your answer is, “No," I do not see how you can vote to approve the attendance plan. 

Objectives and criteria exist so that people can understand how a decision was reached even if they disagree with the eventual decision. A school-related analogy may be appropriate to apply here: If I feel like I’m an “A” student, but my teacher assesses my work, and I get a “C,” I can refer to the learning targets, standards, and/or rubrics to self-assess how I measure up against those criteria. I may be disappointed with my grade, but at least I can see how the standards were applied to result in my grade, and likewise, I can compare my work to other students’ work to reasonably understand how their work might be in closer alignment with the standards than my own. 

I can’t do this with the boundary map(s). Despite my full engagement in the process, I can’t look at the objectives and criteria and then look at the various iterations of the BAC’s maps and say, “I get it. This map is better aligned with the objectives and criteria than others before it.” For example, I can’t determine with any level of confidence what criteria were applied when some neighborhoods' calls for unity were answered while other neighborhoods were left visibly split.

Most troubling of all is that I cannot see how the final proposed map minimizes transition for students, particularly when at least one high school will retain only 25% of its current composition of underclassmen when the transitions are made for incoming 9th and 10th graders in the year 2017. Further, when some members of the class of 2020 are required to change schools three years in a row (8th grade, 9th grade and 10th grade), I do not see how this minimizes transitions for students. Yes children are resilient, but the Board did not direct the Superintendent to bring forward an attendance plan that would test students’ resilience. It directed the Superintendent to bring forward an attendance plan that would minimize transitions for students. 

Becky, you asked Dr. Rose if the District supplied the BAC with adequate tools to do the job. I appreciate your courage and think your question has great merit and deserves a solid answer. I watched the boundary process closely and I would say that in addition to lack of clarity about criteria, the BAC was also limited in 1. Their access to supporting data to help guide their decision making process, 2. The amount of time given to complete the job, and 3. Discussion management tools such as “definitions of terms” (i.e. “When we say ’sophomores,’ we are talking about the class of 2020, the students who are 8th graders this current school year”) so that the BAC’s conversations could be focused on the issues themselves vs. on the effort to clarify what particular group of kids committee members have in mind when he/she says, “sophomores.”

Linda, you asked if the BAC deferred to the Superintendent re: the transition plan for the Class of 2020 because they ran out of time. Dr. Rose answered your question last night saying that the reason that issue was left unaddressed by the BAC is because there was a disagreement amongst the members of the BAC.

Unfortunately, since there is not an audio transcript of the meeting that you can hear for yourself, you are left to rely on the accounts and observations of others for this answer. I attended nearly every BAC meeting, including the final meeting where this particular transition was discussed. I took detailed, “live notes” that I shared with two other members of the public throughout the meeting. I am happy to share those notes with you upon your request. To note, Dr. Rose was not at that meeting. He was in Georgia. 

Here are my observations: 

Yes, there was disagreement amongst members of the BAC regarding this issue, but this was exacerbated by the fact that the team did not have at their disposal the necessary data/information to help guide their decision, and the team had in fact run out of time. Here are some supporting details: 

1. The consultant himself spent a great deal of time talking during the lead-up to each discussion about transition, such that there wasn’t much time left for the BAC itself to actually talk (again, this is where a recording of the meetings would have been helpful so you could listen to this for yourself, and not rely on someone else’s characterization of what took place at the meetings). 

2. There was not a clear definition of terms pertaining to transition, (which ideally would have been developed under the leadership of the consultant), so the BAC spent quite a bit of their “transition discussions" going back and forth trying to figure out what groups of kids and what particular recommendations they were actually talking about or being asked to vote on vs. actually discussing the merits of the proposal on the table. By this I mean, one BAC member might refer to “sophomores” and another might say the “8th graders” and there would not be clarity around the table as to whether these were the same kids (i.e. the class of 2020) they were talking about and being asked to vote on. This lack of clarity and confusion happened during the "sibling rule” discussions as well. Although the Superintendent provided the Board with a matrix to show clearly how his transition plan would impact different students/graduating classes, the BAC did not appear to have a tool like this to guide and bring clarity to their transition discussions.  

3. This confusion and lack of clarity was demonstrated early on when the BAC voted one particular way with respect to the sibling rule, (after a discussion, that was very hard to follow re: “who/what” was actually on the table for discussion). The next meeting, when those preliminary recommendations were seen in the meeting minutes, more discussion ensued (about 45-60 minutes of discussion) with the BAC members trying to seek agreement as to “what they had agreed to” vs. “what individuals thought they had agreed to.” The BAC was not able to reach clarity on what they meant or agreed to, so the issue was then tabled for another meeting (and this topic was revisited one or two meetings later). 

4. With the exception of data related to free/reduced lunch and numbers of kids in each school for each map iteration, there was not much in the way of reports related to the specific costs or implications of different transition plans). The Director of Transportation did present to the BAC to let them know that it would be difficult and expensive to design transitional transportation plans, and Carl Meade did provide a list of possible transition scenarios to the BAC, but from my vantage point of engaged observer, there was not enough information on the table for the BAC to make an informed decision (particularly given that there were people around the table with different interests and different concerns). The last meeting of the BAC had already been extended by an hour and that extra hour was nearly spent when the BAC turned its attention to the transition issues related to the Class of 2020. Although they deliberated briefly on this issue, they soon realized that they needed more information to resolve their differences of opinion/competing priorities so as to make an informed decision. The consultant reassured them that they had done good work and it was okay to return that particular aspect of the transition back to the Superintendent for further study. And so they did. 

Anne, you said it best when you said that the Boundary decision will likely outlast the next Superintendent’s tenure in our school district. This is a deeply important decision. Although I’m sure Dr. Rose would like to "finish this task” before he leaves, and although the Board is unlikely unenthusiastic about the prospect of extending this process while also searching for an Interim Superintendent and permanent Superintendent, (and although school principals and some community members want some certainty on boundary lines so they can begin to accept and adjust to the new boundaries), it is worthwhile to take a step back and take a few additional months to get the process right. When a reasonable citizen or a caring Board member can look at a final proposed map and transition process and weigh it against the objectives and criteria and say, “Yes, this map and this transition plan is better aligned with the objectives and criteria than others before it,” then we will know that the objectives have been met and the criteria reasonably applied.” We’re not quite there yet. 

Sincerely,

Dawn Prochovnic

Beaverton Parent and Community Volunteer 

April 22, 2016

26 Ways to Incorporate Alphabet Signs into Your Story Time (11-13)

Today we continue with a series of enrichment activities for incorporating alphabet signs into story time. 

11. Animal Sounds

Photo Credit: Dawn Prochovnic
This is a fun game for partners. Choose one person to be the fingerspeller and one person to be the responder. The fingerspeller begins by fingerspelling the name of an animal, for example, C-A-T. The partner responds by saying the name of that animal and a sound for that animal, for example, “Cat” and “Meow.” 

If you want to make the activity more challenging, extend the learning by inviting participants to research the ASL sign for the animal (for example, “Cat,”) before switching roles and continuing play.

12. Alphabet Sounds

This is is a fun game for partners. Choose one person to be the leader and one person to be the responder. The leader begins by making the handshape for one of the letters in the manual alphabet. The partner responds by saying the name of the letter, making the sound (or sounds) for that letter, and saying a word that begins with that letter. For example, if the leader signs “D,” the responder would say, “D” and the sound for “D,” and then a word that begins with “D,” such as “Dog.” If you want to make the activity more challenging, extend the learning further by inviting participants to also sign (or fingerspell) the word they say, for example, Dog (or D-O-G) before switching roles and continuing play. 

13. Alphabet Words 

This is a fun game for partners or small groups that extends the activity above. Get a timer and choose one person to be the leader and one person to be the responder. If you have enough people, choose another person to be the timekeeper (otherwise, the leader can be the timekeeper). The timekeeper sets the timer for one minute and says, “Go!” The leader begins by making the handshape for one of the letters in the manual alphabet and the partner responds by saying the name of the letter, making the sound (or sounds) for that letter, and saying as many words as they can that begins with that letter before the time runs out.  For example, if the leader signs “B,” the responder would say, “B” and the sound for “B,” and then the words, “Book” “Box,” “Bank,” etc. Points are given for every word said that begins with the correct letter. Switch roles and continue play for several rounds. The person with the highest score at the end of the agreed upon number of rounds wins. 

To add variety and challenge, modify the rules to focus on words that end with the target letter or that have the target letter somewhere in the middle of the word. You can also allow words that have the letter anywhere within the word. 

If you want to make the activity even  more challenging, invite participants to say and sign words that begin with, end with, or include the target letter, with three points being earned for each word said and signed. 


Helpful Resources:


ASL Alphabet Glossary (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!

April 20, 2016

The Importance of Voice

Click link for Image Source
I've said before that one of my greatest pleasures in being a sign language instructor is helping parents and caregivers teach their babies how to communicate using signs before they can talk. In essence, I'm helping pre-verbal babies find their voices. I also find it exciting when a child who speaks a non-dominant language finds his or her "classroom voice" through sign language, and I've said that one of the most rewarding aspects of being an author is being invited into schools and community spaces to help young writers find their voices.

I've written about how distracting it can be when an author's voice is inauthentic, and I've written about the power of having the right voices around the table. I've shared with young writers that one of the reasons I write is because I want my voice to be heard, and I've celebrated when young people find and use their own voices to advocate for themselves. I've also been known to take pause from my creative projects to give voice to issues that concern me in my local community such as Strong School Libraries and respect for and adherence to Public Process.

Image Source: Amber's Website
Suffice it to say, voice matters to me. Which is probably why I am so taken with Amber J. Keyser's, The V-Word: True Stories About First Time Sex. It is beautifully written. Thought provoking. Important. And, all about voice. I recently contributed a guest blog post about sharing this book with my teenage daughter. You can read my post here: Dear Katia, Love Mom.

If you are raising a young woman, this book is for her (and for you). It's honest, explicit and empowering. Go get yours.

If you'd like to add your voice to the conversation, please share in the comments section below.

April 11, 2016

School Visits: How I Love Thee

One of the supreme delights in my work is being invited to schools and libraries as a visiting author.

Early last month, I had the pleasure of visiting four elementary schools in The Dalles, Oregon. The visits were coordinated by Jim Tindall, the District Librarian for the North Wasco County School District. He hosted the day in such a way that I felt genuinely welcome and appreciated in each school I visited. Not only did he coordinate the school visits, but he also arranged a radio interview, book store stop, and an interview over lunch with a reporter from The Dalles Chronicle, the local newspaper. It was great fun to receive a copy of the article in the mail the following week. (If you visit The Dalles Chronicle website and search on "prochovnic," you can read the article. )

Late last month, I had the pleasure of visiting three second grade classrooms at Raleigh Park Elementary to deliver a presentation called "Write On!" about why I write and some of the amazing experiences I've had because I'm an author. One of my favorite parts of school visits is receiving letters and pictures from the children. The image to the right provides a sampling of the artwork that arrived in my mail box last week. Isn't it lovely?

I thought it might be fun to share one of the letters I wrote back to one of the classrooms that sent notes and letters. Here goes:

Dear Mrs. Baumgartner’s Class,

Thank you for taking the time to write and for letting me know what you learned when I visited your school.  I have read and re-read each of your letters, and I have greatly enjoyed your artwork. I especially liked how many of you included pictures or mention of my chicken hat, my reading trophy, and Pickle the Cat in your notes! Pickle is sitting right next to me as I write to you today.

I’m delighted that so many of you are excited about writing and sharing your own stories, and I’m happy that you enjoyed learning some sign language.  I hope you continue to read, write, and sign regularly and with enthusiasm!  

Many of you had additional comments and questions.  My responses are below:

Cole: Thank you illustrating the cover of your class book. Pickle especially likes it.

Makena: I’m glad you love my cat. She’s very lovable!

Max: I’m glad you like my chicken hat. It’s fun to wear.  

Amara: You asked if I liked being an author. I LOVE being an author and I LOVE visiting schools. You also asked if I know the person who did the pictures. I do. Her name is Stephanie Bauer. You can see more of her work at her website.

Benicio: You asked if I’ve ever written a book that teaches the planets in sign language. I haven’t, but you sparked my curiosity. The sign for planet is really cool! You can look it up here.

Alejandro: I agree with you. Pickle is indeed funny!

Banyan (I may have spelled your name wrong. I’m sorry if I did): I enjoyed your picture of Pickle wearing my chicken hat. I wouldn’t be surprised if she tries to wear my chicken hat some day!

Lane: You asked where I got Pickle. We have had Pickle since she was a kitten. She and her sister, Noodle, were stray kittens without a mama cat to take care of them. Our family gave them a safe foster home until they got big enough and strong enough to take care of themselves, but then we decided to adopt them and give them a permanent home.  That was seven years ago. You also asked if I have met the illustrator of my books. Yes, I have met Stephanie Bauer, and I’ve been lucky enough to visit her art studio. You asked if I have had lots of illustrators. So far, Stephanie Bauer has illustrated all of my published books. That will change this fall when an anthology called, “Oregon Reads Aloud,” is published. Abigail Marble illustrated the story I contributed to this anthology. You can see examples of her work on her website. Lastly, you asked how I get the titles for my books. I write what is called a “working title” for each of my stories. Sometimes, but not always, an editor or someone from the publisher’s sales and marketing department might ask an author to change the title of a book, because they have an idea for a title that they think readers will like better.

Adriana: I’m glad you are starting to learn sign language, and I’m glad you enjoyed my visit with your class. If Pickle tries on my chicken hat some day, I will definitely take a picture and share it with you!

Jaden: I’m glad you liked my reading trophy. It is very special to me.

Mohamed: You asked if I have any problems. I’m guessing you are wondering if I have any problems when I sit down to write my stories.  Sometimes I get distracted from a particular writing project I should be working on. When I’m having difficulty focusing, sometimes I take a break. Other times, I do a writing exercise to help my creativity start flowing. I make writing goals for myself each week and I share those goals with a writing buddy. That seems to be the best thing that helps me stay on track.

Garrett: I really enjoyed your picture of Pickle wearing my chicken hat.

Ian: You asked if I ever get to meet my publisher. I have met several sales people that work for my publisher, but I’ve never met the editor that worked on all 16 of my books. (The editor is the person at the publisher’s office that helps turn stories from manuscripts into books). Here is a fun fact: I actually have never even spoken to my editor. Everything we’ve worked on together has happened in writing. We’ve written many, many email messages to each other, but we’ve never spoken on the phone or met in person. I’m working with a new editor for my new book that will be published this fall, and so far the same is true: We’ve written emails back and forth, but so far we’ve never spoken. I’m glad you like my saying, “Life = Stories.” I like it, too.

Lyla: I’m glad you loved learning more about writing and that you liked my chicken hat. You also had a question about my illustrator. See my notes to Amara and Lane for my answer.

Milo: You asked how many years I have been writing. I have been writing since I was in elementary school. I published my first book when I was in middle school.  It was a poetry book that I wrote for my mom as a Mother’s Day gift.  When I was in college, I wrote a book called a thesis.  I started writing my Story Time with Signs & Rhymes books about 14 years ago. My first books in that series were published in 2009.

Tylar: You asked what I do when I am not working. Some of my favorite hobbies are reading, going on hikes and walks, traveling to new places, and spending time with my friends and family. You also asked why I do sign language. I first learned about sign language before I started elementary school. I watched Sesame Street on television and learned about sign language from Linda Bove. When I started elementary school, I volunteered to help students with disabilities, and many of those students used sign language. Many years later, when my daughter (who is now in high school) was born, I taught her how to use sign language before she could talk. Eventually, I started teaching classes and writing books that incorporated sign language. So far I have written16 books that have been published, and I have a new book that will be published this fall. I have written many, many other stories that have not yet been published; too many to count! You also asked how long I’ve had Pickle. See my note to Lane for my answer.
  
Jackson: You asked if I have ever put a cucumber next to Pickle when she wasn’t expecting it. I have not, but I have seen some videos of other people who have tried that with their own cat. I’m not sure Pickle would appreciate me playing a trick like that on her.

Malin: You asked if I still write poetry. I do still write poetry. One of my unpublished stories is called, “There Once Was a Poet.” I hope it will be published some day.  

Scarlett: You asked if Pickle was all black or if she has a tiny bit of white. Pickle is all black except for her eyes, which are deep green. (I see you remembered that when you drew her picture!)

Kylie: I’m so glad to hear that you also love books and that you plan to be an author someday, too. I will look forward to reading your books some day. You asked why I named my cat, Pickle. From the time Pickle was a kitten she liked to get into mischief. In fact, we almost named her Mischief. When she would do something mischievous (like get on the kitchen table, or try to sneak outside, or hop up on someone’s shoulders), we would say, “You are such a Pickle.” Pretty soon the name stuck. It fits her well.

Julian: I had fun meeting you, too. You asked if Pickle was a boy or a girl. She is a girl.

Jasmine: You asked many questions. Good for you! Some of your questions I have answered in my notes to other students in your class, so you might want to read those, too. One of the questions you asked is why I didn’t make the pictures for my books. Publishers decide who will make the pictures for the books they publish. My publisher wanted to make books with my words and with Stephanie Bauer’s pictures. I love her pictures, so I’m happy with how it all turned out. You also asked if I’m still going to write books with sign language. I am still writing books that incorporate sign language, but I’m also working on other books that do not incorporate any sign language.

Oilli (I may have spelled your name wrong. I’m sorry if I did): Thank you for your nice note and picture. I enjoyed visiting your classroom.

Ariana: Thank you for drawing such a nice picture of me sitting at my desk. You asked many questions. Good for you! Some of your questions I have answered in my notes to other students in your class, so you might want to read those, too. One of the questions you asked was how I became an author. I have a detailed answer to that question here.

Dylan: I enjoyed your picture of Pickle taking a bite out of my manuscript! I think it’s great that you can spell your name in sign language. If you’re interested in more alphabet-related sign language activities, you can find some here (and there are free, printable materials on my publisher’s website.

Thank you again for all of your letters and pictures, and thank you to Mrs. Baumgartner for inviting me to visit.  I hope I get to visit your school again in the future.

Sincerely,


Dawn Babb Prochovnic

*****
I'd love to visit your school, too! If you'd like more information about author visits, click here, or send me a message using the contact form to the left.

April 7, 2016

Ideas for Incorporating Alphabet Signs into Your Story Time: Summary Post

In past posts, I've shared a variety of enrichment activities for incorporating alphabet signs into story time programs and other learning environments. Here is a summary of the posts in this series:

Activity Ideas 1-3

Activity Ideas 4-6

Activity Ideas 7-10

Activity Ideas 11-13

I will add to this list as more posts are added. You can bookmark this page or subscribe to my blog to receive more ideas over time.

Here is a recap of helpful resources that will support your interest in signing the alphabet:


ASL Alphabet Glossary (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


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!


Image Credits: Abdo Publishing Group

April 5, 2016

Beaverton High School Boundary Adjustment Process

I have once again taken pause from my creative writing projects to give voice to issues in my local community that concern me.
Image Source: Beaverton SD Website

My local school district is undergoing a high school boundary adjustment process. Today I wrote the following letter to the School Board expressing my displeasure with the boundary adjustment process:


April 5, 2016

Dear Members of the School Board,

I live in an area within the Beaverton School District that has not been directly impacted by the proposed changes in the high school boundaries. Despite this, I have chosen to deeply engage in the High School Boundary Adjustment Process. I have done so because I care about our community, I care about our school district, and I care about children.

In the 14 years that I have been a part of this community, I have enthusiastically supported the Beaverton School District with my time, talent, and tax dollars. I have vocally advocated for this School District by calling, writing, and meeting with state and local elected officials, and I have vocally advocated for this School District to my friends, neighbors, and fellow voters in casual ways and in structured efforts aimed at raising funds and garnering voter support.

I am a friend of the Beaverton School District, and there are many times I have been proud of the District's conduct, choices, and outcomes. The High School Boundary Adjustment Process is not one of those times.

Although the intentions of the District Administration may well have been good, the High School Boundary Adjustment Process has been mishandled and flawed on many levels. On January 22, 2016, I wrote a letter to you detailing several of my concerns with respect to the chaos and lack of structure at the January 21, 2016 Public Preview meeting, the haphazard nature of public comments admitted into the record at Boundary Advisory Committee meetings, and my general concerns about the conduct and capabilities of the consultant retained by the District. Those concerns remain. I also concur with the additional concerns expressed by a variety of other community members including the issues raised by Mitzi Sandman in her recent communications with the School Board (and related follow-up communication to Maureen Wheeler dated March 4, 2016) and the concerns expressed by Lisa Corcoran in her March 9, 2016 letter to the School Board.

According to my review of School Board meeting minutes and the information currently summarized on the following District webpage: https://www.beaverton.k12.or.us/depts/facilities/boundary/Pages/HIGHSCHOOLBOUNDARYPROCESSCRITERIAANDSEQUENCE.aspx

The objectives approved by the Board at the outset are as follows: 

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

And, the Criteria for Boundary Adjustments are as follows:

*Availability of space
*Proximity to school
*Neighborhood unity
*Staffing patterns
*Safety
*Transportation
*Student body configuration

According to Policy JC, the School Board's charge will be to review the adjusted attendance plan to ensure that:  

(1) The set of objectives approved by the Board at the outset were met; and
(2) The superintendent applied the relevant criteria. 

And, "If the objectives were met and the criteria were reasonably applied, the Board shall approve the attendance plan."

Under the Boundary Adjustment Process that has been implemented thus far, I do not see how it is possible for the School Board to determine if the objectives were met and/or the criteria reasonably applied. In my view, the Board does not have the information, framework or tools to determine if the objectives were actually met and/or the criteria were applied in a meaningful way. I am of the strong opinion that the Board has no choice but to dis-approve the attendance plan and direct the District to re-start with a new, revised process that takes past oversights and omissions into consideration. 

To begin with, the boundary recommendations from the Boundary Advisory Committee are not provided in a format that indicates how they correlate to or address the objectives and criteria. I offer a classroom comparison: When student learning is assessed in our School District, we routinely ask students to provide answers to questions and to "show their work."  

As noted in my April 4, 2016 communication to Maureen Wheeler (on which you were cc’d), the Boundary Advisory Committee did not operate in a manner in which they “showed their work.” Although the efforts of the Boundary Advisory Committee may have been steadfast and diligent, and although their work may have produced answers in the form of boundary lines, the answers alone are not sufficient. The answers must be coupled with “work shown” in order to reasonably evaluate and assess those answers (i.e. boundary lines). Although the BAC may have applied the criteria in ways that could be deemed meaningful during their private sub-group discussions and huddles, the process did not allow for this to be assessed or evaluated by the general public, or likewise by the School Board.

Additionally, when student work is assessed, it is assessed against a standard framework or rubric that can be reasonably applied with similar results from school to school, classroom to classroom and teacher to teacher. In contrast, you have been asked to evaluate whether or not a list of criteria has been reasonably applied, but there is not an agreed upon standard, framework or rubric from which to consider this assessment. Dr. Rose himself has acknowledged publicly that the criteria directly compete and conflict with one another. How can one possibly evaluate whether or not criteria were met if there is no level of distinction as to the priority of the criteria and/or no record of how the criteria were applied in maps that were discarded and/or in the current map proposed?

When you look at the various iterations of the maps that have been considered in this process (from the initial Learning Map to the Boundary Advisory Committee’s current recommendation), can you honestly say that you can determine how any one map meets the objectives and the criteria whereas another might not? And if you believe you can make this determination, will you please enlighten me as to how you have done so, because if I were sitting in your chair, with your fiduciary responsibility, I could not in good conscience approve the attendance plan at the present time despite my efforts to remain engaged and informed via regular attendance at BAC meetings, close reading of meeting minutes, and active participation in opportunities for public involvement.

If we look at the Boundary Adjustment Process with the lens of an educator, it seems quite logical that the first attempt at this process might be considered a “rough draft,” from which much might be learned and applied to the final, graded draft. Although you might argue that the learnings from the High School Boundary Adjustment Process can and will be applied to the boundary processes for elementary and middle schools, I would argue that those learnings can and should be applied to a revised Boundary Adjustment Process for the high school boundaries. 

This revised process should begin with a formal debriefing process with the community. Although the Boundary Advisory Committee has had an opportunity to debrief their process and community involvement experience from their vantage point, the community-at-large has not been surveyed about the experience or invited to participate in a formal debriefing process to share insights and experiences from our vantage point. Both vantage points have merit, and both offer an opportunity for the District to learn and improve. Those collective learnings should be applied to a revised High School Boundary Adjustment Process.

At a bare minimum, if you do not choose to direct the District Administration to formally seek the public’s input and restart the process, I ask that you insist that District communication refrain from self congratulating about the process. It is insensitive to those who are grieving the loss of something important to them (i.e. an established connection with a particular school community), and it is offensive to those community members such as myself who have observed the process closely and have much constructive feedback to offer. 

Lastly, I request that you do not dismiss my comments as coming from a disgruntled citizen who simply did not get her own way. My home wasn’t affected by the boundary. My kids’ school did not change. The vast majority of my kids’ friends will not shift schools. I am disappointed with the process because I am disappointed with the process. Suffice it to say, I am displeased with the conduct of my School District at this time. 

It is my sincere hope that you carefully consider your fiduciary responsibility as you prepare to vote on the proposed attendance plan. I am of the opinion that it will be much easier for you to simply approve the Superintendent’s attendance plan and move on.  Yank the bandage, if you will. But I am hopeful that you took on the role of School Board member with an interest in representing our community, our School District, and our voters with a willingness to take a hard stand when necessary. This is one of those times.

Sincerely, 

Dawn Prochovnic

Parent of Two BSD Students Not Directly Impacted by the Proposed Boundary Adjustments

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If this topic interests you and you want to follow it more closely,  here are two social media sites I follow and participate in:

Beaverton High School Is Our Community Facebook Group

Community for Sensible School Boundaries Facebook Page


And . . . In case you are interested, here is my January 22, 2016 letter to the School Board referenced above:

January 22, 2016 

Dear Members of the School Board:

During the January 19, 2016 School Board meeting, Dr. Rose indicated that there was an established Boundary Adjustment process in place, and he was going to honor and adhere to that process. Much of that process stems on the work of the Boundary Advisory Committee (BAC). It is my observation that the BAC has quickly developed into a cohesive team that is working collaboratively to problem solve with the tools that have been made available to them. Their facilitator, Dr. Withycombe, appears to be doing a fine job facilitating the committee members’ direct interactions.  

What is not going nearly as well is the facilitation of the public engagement process. Here are some specific examples of my concerns:

Inconsistency in Allowing Public Comments at BAC Meetings: On the January 7, 2016 BAC meeting, like other meetings before it, the agenda indicated that there would be no opportunity for public testimony. However, during the BAC’s work session, Dr. Withycombe actively engaged with the public. Unfortunately, he did so in a haphazard manner and without any respect or consideration for due process and diversity of viewpoint. Several members of the public did share their frustrations and concerns, but since there was no structure or “process,” only the loudest voices were able to contribute. This violation of public process was exacerbated when Dr. Withycombe legitimized those comments by summarizing them publicly as he prepared to close the meeting. It is not appropriate to officially disallow public testimony, then engage with some of the public in attendance, without due process, and then further legitimize that limited input without also allowing other members of the public the opportunity to make comments in the same venue. 

Meeting minutes: As of the time and date of this writing (5:00 PM, January 22, a full two weeks after the January 7, 2016 BAC meeting, and a day after the long anticipated public viewing), the minutes for the January 7, 2016 BAC meeting are not available for public viewing (even in draft form). This is in dis-alignment with Board Policy JC, that reads in part, “The District also shall promote consistent and timely communication among the affected schools, parents and other community members.” 

Image Source: The Oregonian

Disorderly and Chaotic Structure of the January 21st Public Viewing: I was saddened, disappointed, and frustrated with the structure of January 21, 2016 public viewing meeting. I have participated in many public processes over the years (with cities, counties, transportation departments, park districts, school districts, etc), and I have never been to a meeting that was as poorly managed as this one. I had intended to bring my middle school-aged son to the meeting so that he could witness a public process underway. I am so relieved I did not bring him, because the meeting was an embarrassment to our school district and a disservice to our community. It was an embarrassment not because of the way in which members of the public behaved, but because of the lack of facilitation and structure. 

Let me give you a bit of a summary of what it was like to be an engaged community member participating in that meeting: 

I arrived at 5:45 PM in anticipation of the 6:00 PM start time. I picked up a map and demographic information at a reception table, but there were no instructions about how the meeting would be conducted or how to proceed through the room. Community members milled about and waited for the meeting to “open” without any information or instructions from the facilitator (and I use that term loosely). The facilitator, Dr. Withycombe, did not address the public until approximately 6:30 PM. 

At that time, the Dr. Withycombe welcomed attendees, explained that there were comment cards of differing colors on various tables in the center of the room, and maps throughout the room. He then explained that BAC members would soon be stationed as teams at three different table areas in the room. Community members could proceed to the table of their choosing and wait in line to share their input with a BAC member and turn in their comment card(s) at that time.

What happened in reality is that community members collected in crowds around the tables in hopes of waiting for a turn to speak to someone. There were no provisions set up for lines to be formed. There were no provisions set up so that people who were gathered around the table waiting for an opportunity to comment could hear any of the other meaningful comments taking place in line ahead of them. There were no provisions for people with physical needs to sit and still participate in the conversations going on at the tables. There were no time limits set for people who had comments to share. There was not a clear centralized location to turn in forms for community members that didn’t have the patience or energy to work their way to the front of the table areas. 

I expressed my discomfort with the process to BSD’s communication representative, Maureen Wheeler, and she said, “I’m sorry.” I expressed my concerns to the consultant, Dr. Withycombe,  and he offered to take me to the front of the line at one of the tables. That response only amplified my concerns about the illegitimacy of the process. He also suggested that I could go home and wait for the public hearing in 3 1/2 weeks. 

Dear members of the School Board, no matter how the eventual boundary lines are drawn, some people will be disappointed or even outraged by the results, but to legitimize the decisions that are made, the public process must genuinely invite community engagement, and it must allow for people in the community to feel heard. Sending letters to a public web portal that are never answered, does not satisfy that need. Hosting a disorganized and chaotic public viewing does not satisfy that need. Waiting until a public hearing scheduled near the end of the process does not satisfy that need. Although I am sure that the BAC members did have an opportunity to hear directly from several people, and some community members may have in fact felt “heard,” the structure, or lack thereof, of the January 21st public meeting was disorderly, unsatisfying, and a poor substitute for genuine and meaningful public engagement. This is not a reflection on the members of the BAC; they conducted themselves patiently and professionally. This is a reflection on the person or persons responsible for facilitating the public engagement process. 

I ask that you acknowledge that the public viewing was not satisfactory, and you hold the Superintendent accountable for providing the community with a legitimate public engagement process that is transparent, meaningful, and professionally facilitated. Dr. Withycombe seems to be an competent and appreciated facilitator for the BAC. The public deserves a similarly meaningful and satisfying public engagement process, facilitated by a community engagement professional. 

Sincerely,

Dawn Prochovnic, MA
Parent of two BSD students who are not currently slated to change schools in the boundary adjustment

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Update: Click here for my April 26, 2016 communication to the Beaverton School District School Board.