The Beaverton School District recently posted a summary of boundary adjustment Q and A's on their website. Not surprisingly, I had some thoughts about what the School District had to say. I shared those thoughts in the following letter to our School Board:
May 5, 2016
Dear Members of the School Board,
Today I reviewed the updated boundary information on the School District's website.
I read with particular interest the following Question and Answer:
"Question: Why was Free & Reduced Lunch Program (FRLP) information used as a primary criteria when student body composition is a secondary criteria?"
"Answer: The FRLP information was not used as a primary criteria. All criteria was considered by the Boundary Advisory Committee during their deliberations."
Although this may (or may not) be factually true, from my observation as a community witness to the Boundary Adjustment Process via the BAC conversations that members of the public were allowed to hear, and via the artifacts from the BAC’s meetings (for example, each map iteration), there is a great deal of evidence to support the notation that FRLP information was a dominant decision-making factor for the BAC.
This is another example of why it would be beneficial to conduct important School District business in a manner that is genuinely transparent, whether or not the matter is legally required to comply with Oregon’s Open Meetings Laws. If the BAC’s deliberations had been recorded and fully open to the public, Board members and other members of the public who did not attend the BAC meetings could listen to the meeting audio to determine for themselves the apparent weight of FRLP information on the boundary lines proposed by the BAC and forwarded to the Board by the Superintendent.
Further, regarding the following Question and Answer:
"Question: Did the School Board recently look at the criteria in Board Policy JC?"
"Answer: Yes, the School Board did review Board Policy JC and the criteria and gave the Boundary Charge to the Superintendent last June 2015. Policy JC was last reviewed in the following years: March 1997, Nov. 2007, Feb. 2009, May 2015. The criteria are to be considered by the Boundary Committee in their deliberations. They are not ranked or weighted or intended to be evenly applied."
I would like to bring to the Board’s attention the fact that although Policy JC may not require the Boundary Adjustment Committee to rank or weight the criteria, Policy JC does in fact require the Superintendent to do so:
"In planning and developing an adjustment of attendance area boundaries, the superintendent first shall consider the following primary criteria: availability of space, proximity to school, safety, and neighborhood unity. Whenever possible, neighborhood areas, particularly at the elementary level, should be retained within a single attendance boundary. The superintendent also shall consider transportation costs, student body composition, staffing patterns, feeder school alignment, and the efficient and economical utilization of the buildings.” (Emphasis added)
Given that the Superintendent relied heavily on the Boundary Adjustment Committee’s work in designing a new boundary, it begs the question how his proposal gives emphasis to the primary criteria, when the District’s answer to the above question indicates that the BAC did not rank or weight the criteria.
Shifting my attention from criteria to objectives, I continue to contend that we have fallen short on the objective of minimizing transitions for students, particularly for the Class of 2020. Policy JC reads, ". . . 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.” Although the Superintendent has argued 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 ask that we look for innovative solutions that will allow those students who wish to remain in the same school for the duration of their high school career the opportunity to do so. This might involve surveying Class of 2020 students/families about their preferences in this regard, allowing some students to transition early, allowing some students to arrange for their own transportation, and even allowing some students who are not in the boundary for the shiny new school the opportunity to fill “open slots” in that school so that it can start with a capacity that is conducive to a full complement of academic offerings and extracurricular activities. A Future Ready School District should be able to problem solve in innovative ways. Please set this expectation for our School District administration.
Finally, I would like to point out that the Board is in a unique position to ask interested questions about the boundary adjustment process and anticipate answers in return. Although the general public has been able to ask questions, we have not been readily supplied with answers. For this reason, I request that you carefully consider the questions that have been posed by your constituents, and do your very best due diligence to seek answers to those questions in advance of your vote to approve or temporarily deny the District’s move forward on the proposed boundary adjustments.
With sincere appreciation for your service to our community,
Beaverton Parent, Voter, and Community Volunteer