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Direct frustration with Federal Way schools at district, not students | Letter
Our students need the community’s support through passage of the upcoming levy. There have been many experiences in the last few months that may lead some in the community to question the board and district’s leadership and expenditure decisions.
The superintendent’s raise without achieving notable goals, the excessive expenditures related to the Global Initiative with travels around the world, and the grading system fiasco may lead one to wonder about the levy. People may think that a statement can be made against all of these issues if they vote against the levy.
However, voting against the levy will not impact any of the parties involved in these errant decisions. Failure to pass the levy will cut money from the budget that impacts direct services to students. Teachers and support staff will lose jobs that will directly impact class size and supporting programs for students.
The superintendent’s salary is not impacted by the failure of the levy, nor is the $50 stipend that each board member receives for board meetings. Failure of the levy cannot bring back the money spent on all of the international travel.
It is clear that nothing short of a near revolt of parents and students has altered course for the board and the district. Even with the recent enormous public outcry by the community of the recent grading issues, no one from the board apologized or accepted responsibility for the problems. Superintendent Rob Neu did this publicly at a board meeting and he is to be commended for doing this.
The district needs to listen to the community, not routinely dismiss their concerns. The district and the board members should not ignore factual testimony and should not chastise the community by implying that parents are only concerned about their own child. The board’s policy decisions impact all students and we, as a community, are aware of that and have raised issues with factual information that impacts all students.
For the past four years, parents, students and teachers have publicly brought the grading system issues to light. When the issues were aired, parents were initially publicly dismissed by board members.
Ultimately, the board held a work study to gather more information about the grading system, but not all board members even voted for this to occur. The issues that the parents/students raised proved to be accurate and the district administration ultimately had to make changes based on the parent/student concerns raised.
Other instances of the board and district not listening to parents relates back to the academic acceleration policy. When this policy was implemented, parents did not question the validity of encouraging students to reach to the top.
Parents expressed concerns about the implementation of the Policy and how parents initially seemed to have no say in whether their child was enrolled in accelerated classes in some schools, and how the policy was not being implemented.
Additionally, the district claimed that 95-97 percent of all ninth and 10th graders at Thomas Jefferson were enrolled in accelerated classes. One only needed to look at the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction's website for the state standardized test scores of students in the district to determine that 95-97 percent of the students had not passed the state test.
Thus, that many students should not have all been placed in accelerated classes. If the board and district had actually been listening to parent testimony, it would have taken virtually no time at al l to research the facts on the OSPI website and conclude that the parents were presenting factual information.
The theme in all of this is that the board and district have a history of dismissing and ignoring community concerns. Concerns have been expressed continually about how policies are implemented. There also seems to be a significant trend of not doing the appropriate research or requiring the answers to the difficult questions prior to implementation of policy.
Again, our students need support by passing the levy. The district is presenting a levy that lowers the tax collections, but that may not be enough to satisfy voters that their voices are being heard. Direct your frustration at the board and administration, not at the students and teaching staff.
We need to support the levy for the sake of our students. The board and administration need to demonstrate public responsibility for the decisions that produced outrage in the community, including both the excessive expenditures for international travel and the grading system implementation.
The only reason that the concern about expenditures for the Global Initiative faded is because of the implosion of the grading system. The community has not forgotten about the expenditures that took place.
To demonstrate that the board and district heard the public outcry about money spent on travel, they should agree to a public audit of travel expenses, and they should amend the current budget to put a moratorium on all international travel paid for by the district.
When this is done, the community will then know that their voices have a chance of being heard, without dismissal and the condescending attitude of “we know best.” From the grading system fiasco, the board and administration should have learned that they in fact did not know all the issues, and parents/students came to that table far better informed.
Shelley Scuderi, Kent