Opposition Expressed to Proposed Move of 9th Grade to the High School

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teacherOn Thursday afternoon, the Vanguard received a letter from the Holmes Junior High PTA, stating that they have learned that the Davis Joint Unified School District’s Board of Trustees intends to move the 9th grade to the high school for the 2014-15 academic year.

“Holmes PTA opposes 9th grade reconfiguration at this time and voted at our last board meeting on 2/28 against this change,” the letter read. “We strongly believe that the process is being moved forward without the proper notification to and input from the district’s parents, students, staff and teachers.”

They continued, “We cannot find any evidence why the district thinks this move is necessary and a good idea.  We need this process to SLOW DOWN.”

The school district issued a statement, through a letter from Superintendent Winfred Roberson, which he also read aloud at Thursday evening’s school board meeting.

“The purpose of this message is to clarify that the DJUSD Board of Education and district administration have not predetermined a 9-12 transition,” Superintendent Roberson writes. “I hope this eases some anxiety.”

The superintendent made it clear that any changes would not take place in the 2013-14 academic year.

He noted, “At this point in time, it is important to know that the board has directed administration to meet with stakeholders to examine the possibility of various reconfigurations as a means to deliver the best possible education to Davis students, maintain and improve our academic program and ensure the District’s long-term fiscal health.”

“My office and the administrative cabinet will begin formal workshop discussion on March 13 with secondary staff,” he wrote.  “Other stakeholder workshops will be announced in the near future. These workshops are intended to give us an opportunity to examine the academic, fiscal and social aspects of a 9-12 and other educational models.”

He concluded, “I expect that both the challenges and benefits of such transitions will be objectively considered by all stakeholders and decision makers.”

At Thursday’s meeting, a number of parents came to speak out against the change.

Kristen Lagituda, from the Holmes Junior High PTA Executive Board, read the letter that the Vanguard received to the School Board.

“There are crucial, important questions to address regarding social, emotional, and cognitive development in children,” she said.  “Research solidly demonstrates that ninth grade risk-taking behavior including school failure, delinquency, drug and alcohol use and risky sexual behavior is heightened the earlier ninth graders are exposed to older peers.”

“Indeed, conformity to peer pressure actually peaks in ninth grade,” she added.

Ms. Lagituda added, “Davis has a nearly zero dropout rate for ninth graders and that is remarkable when you look at it nationwide.  Will that continue if this change occurs?”

“We as parents are concerned that this is a major shift that will affect every single student in this district, [and] is being rushed through without proper process and consideration,” she said.  “We are convinced the district is not asking its staff whether this should happen but how best to implement this change.”

She added it may be, after careful consideration, that the community decides this change is in the best interest of the district and its students, “however without proper process we oppose reconfiguration, we are not being given a say as parents and we want to have more say in this process.”

Dianna Henrickson, a teacher at Holmes Junior High, argued that while there are good reasons to move ninth graders to the high school, she believes any benefit is far outweighed by any drawback.

She noted that the move would be more convenient for those who play sports at the high school, but she believes that there are already reasonable accommodations for those who play sports.  Likewise, she believes that while the move would offer a more rigorous academic selection for high-achieving students, they already have a broad range of courses, and those courses benefit eighth graders as well.

However, Ms. Henrickson said, “The kids I’m most worried about, though, are not the well-connected sports players like my children or yours, or the high-achieving academic children who will be successful wherever they take their classes.  The kids I’m most concerned about will be the middle kids, the gap kids, the kids who get lost in the shuffle, who do not feel connected to their school either through their activities, whether its sports or music or through their academics.”

“We have these easily disconnected students at the junior high right now for three years – 7th, 8th, and 9th – adults on campus are able to get to know them, get to know their strengths and weaknesses.  We can make personal connections with them through the three years in junior high school,” she added.

“To move the kids to the high school is to say our kids should grow up faster,” she continued.  “I think our students should grow up slower.”

Rena Nayyar, a teacher from Emerson Junior High, noted that while the district says no decision has been made, their material says, “We will document site concerns and hear your ideas about what could make a ninth grade reconfiguration work at DJUSD.”

A reminder email, she said, states, “In planning for next week’s workshop, please objectively consider the following question, what preparations could help facilitate a smooth 9 through 12 transition for DJUSD.”

She noted that the community has been told that no decision has been made and that the process will be open.

“So I would like to know, then, why the community has been told that, while teachers’ input is apparently limited to helping make it work better or make it work whether we agree with it or not,” she said.  “I feel teachers voices are being silenced and manipulated in light of today’s email.”

A letter from Concerned Parents of Holmes PTA argued that this is the most controversial issue facing the district since the closing of Valley Oak Elementary School.

“Pursuant to a normal process, the District would have made a public announcement, not a constructive announcement by way of an extremely brief, vague statement posted on the District’s website.  Under a normal process, the community would have already been involved in a public process that clearly identified the problem and invited input regarding ways in which to address the problem,” the parents write.

They continue, “After full, careful and public consideration of all the solutions available to the community, the Board, as our representatives, would then be ‘exploring’ the ‘reconfiguration’ of secondary schools, if and only if, it was the best possible course of action for our children.  At that point, it would have come as no surprise to the entire Davis community that such a thing could happen.”

“Regrettably, that did not happen,” the parents write.  “Without community awareness or input as described above, the Board directed the Superintendent to engage in ‘an internal input gathering process.’ “

“Whether this directive was given during open session and on the record remains unclear,” they continue.  “What is clear is that Superintendent Roberson has ‘invited…secondary teachers and classified staff to engage in a formal dialogue about 9 – 12 configuration.’  In the Superintendent’s invitation, he states, ‘DJUSD is seriously weighing the Academic, Fiscal and Social benefits of a 9 -12 option.’ “

Critics are claiming that the district is delivering mixed messages, on the one hand claiming there will be an open process, while on the other making preparation that could help facilitate a smooth 9-12 transition for the district.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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28 thoughts on “Opposition Expressed to Proposed Move of 9th Grade to the High School”

  1. SODA

    I watched some of the school board mtg last night, and I admit I am not as familiar with the issues and personnel as with the CC, but it is not that surprising that there was confusion on this issue of changing middle school configuration. The discussion led by the Superintendent on the softball field options was difficult to comprehend at best. It didn’t seem that difficult but ……

  2. SouthofDavis

    It sounds to me that the Junior High does not want to lose the money/power that comes with having a bigger school. Like just about every other person in America I went to High School in the 9th grade (and we didn’t have even a single dropout). This is a school mony/power play where they will (like always) try to make us think it is “for the kids”…

  3. wdf1

    SODA: Jeff Hudson, reporter for the Enterprise, nearly always publishes a preview article of the school board agenda a day or two (sometimes 3-4 days) in advance of the school board meeting. He usually tries to give context and explanation for major items on the board agenda. Then he usually writes one to two stories about what the board did in the days following the meeting. You can sometimes e-mail him if you have questions not addressed by the story, and he can offer some detail or point you to previous board meetings where related discussion took place.

    Also, if attending the meeting in person, you can get up during public comment and ask the board to clarify what you don’t understand. You can also e-mail board members, even the Superintendent, to ask to have issues explained to you, though some board members are little better at responding than others.

    To me, following the school board and district discussion is a little like following a soap opera on TV. It’s confusing at first because you don’t know all the back story to the plot and characters, but after a while it becomes familiar.

    Different board members may have strong views on certain issues, and can be open about it when you talk to them, but I find that there is a genuine and consistent willingness to make the process understandable to the public.

    Public frustration often (not always) occurs because one didn’t follow the discussion that preceded an action. The Holmes PTA letter reveals to me some of this.

  4. wdf1

    SouthofDavis: It hasn’t been stated so explicitly, yet, but one of the scenarios that is being explored is to convert Holmes from a neighborhood JH campus (or one that has grades 7 & 8) to a campus that will house the Da Vince Charter Academy, grades 7-12. I suspect that option probably provoked the response from the Holmes PTA.

  5. SODA

    thx wdf1…..did you watch or attend last night? If so, did you find the Superintendent’s presentation and discussion/questions about the girl’s softball field confusing? That was my point. Maybe there was info prior but the Board seemed confused as well.

  6. JustSaying

    “Critics are claiming that the district is delivering mixed messages, on the one hand claiming there will be an open process, while on the other making preparation that could help facilitate a smooth 9-12 transition for the district.”

    It’s obvious that those speaking up now are more interested in stopping anything from happening rather than getting to participate in an open process. The catch-all objection letter makes it obvious that the Holmes PTA is looking to keep thing the way they are, not in looking for the best ways to meet changing needs in Davis.

    Some of the concerns are understandable, some arguments seem more designed to spread fear and distrust about the superintendent’s and board’s motives and actions. The suggestions that laws and regulations need to be followed are red herrings.

    The worries that ninth graders will be contaminated by contact with tenth graders is overblown considering the sports and class interactions already happening (as well as all the other “peer contact” going on in town. Now, if teachers are spreading the word that Holmes is to be overrun by 10th-12th graders, that’s a different story.

  7. Rich Rifkin

    S.o.D.: [i]” Like just about every other person in America I went to High School in the 9th grade.”{/i]

    I did, also. I was a Freshman at Davis High School in the 1978-79 school year. The subsequent year the new Emerson Jr. High opened. So my class was on the bottom rung for both 9th and 10th grades.

    I don’t think there is any definite problem mixing 9th graders with older students. However, it seems much more balanced to me to have 3 grades of junior high and 3 grades of high school than to have 4 grades of the latter.

    It sounds like the motivating factor is to achieve economies of scale. That is, to concentrate the students on fewer campuses in order to spread out the very high costs (i.e., salaries and benefits) of administration. If there is no practical way to reduce those costs, then achieving economies of scale may be the best route. However, I suspect that an even greater number of students at Davis High increases the chances for marginal students to just get lost, where those who should be guiding them never even knew they existed.

  8. DavisParent1

    Consider this: Do the people exist to give government officials position and employment, or, does government exist to serve the people?

    The people: Parents, students, and teachers did not ask for change. There is no greater social and academic goal than well adjusted students,teachers and parents. The government: District suddenly announces sweeping changes are needed. When I say suddenly, I mean why wasn’t this “need” announced prior to the election and vote on Measure E?

    If government exists to serve the people, the people should have asked for change. At the very least, they would not have been surprised that the District thought there was a need for “social and academic” change because change is necessitated by discontent. They are the subject of this change. They live it every day. They would have been well aware of the discontent with social and academic conditions requiring change because they are the ones who would have been experiencing the discontent, hoping for change. In that scenario, the District’s announcement that it was considering this change would not have come as a surprise. It probably would have been a relief.

    Under the current scenario, they didn’t ask for change because they are socially and academically well adjusted.

    The District is calling for social and academic change and the students, parents and teachers are wondering why. Under this scenario, the people are not being served by the government. The people exist to provide the government with position and employment to test social and academic experiments… on kids.

    That leaves the need for change for fiscal reasons. Students, parents, and teachers would not know that there was a need for fiscal change because they all voted to pass Measure E. It would have been better if the District had clearly stated that passing Measure E would not save our schools, before the election. Many parents have expressed that they would have voted for a higher tax.

    Parents, students and teachers are stable and well adjusted. There is no apparent need for social or academic change. There is no power play or hidden agenda on their part. Stability is hard to come by these days. It’s priceless. The only possible reason for disrupting it would have to be District insolvency or absolutely NO OTHER possible option to deal with the District’s (not the people’s) fiscal agenda. Whatever the District’s reason for considering change is, it has to be worth disrupting a stable, high achieving student population.

    Let the District start public workshops, beginning with teachers (our children’s parents in our absence) meetings on March 13, by clearly stating the problem, since it sees a problem the people do not. Then they could work together on the right solution. Whatever that might be.

  9. Ryan Kelly

    I would support moving 9th grade to High School, if there were two High Schools in Davis. There would be greater opportunity for students if there were two Jazz bands, two drama departments, two soccer teams, etc. We have enough talented students who have been groomed to excel through GATE tracking at 3rd-9th grade to fill all of these programs. It could result in smaller core classes (Math, English, Social Studies, Science) by having more classroom space at the High School level. Face it, families are searching for a better situation for their kids, than the high pressure world of Davis High School.

  10. JustSaying

    [quote]“Consider this: Do the people exist to give government officials position and employment, or, does government exist to serve the people?”[/quote]Neither. We, the people, are the government. I can see why you might be angry to find that options in this matter might be more limited than you would like. But, the “us vs. them” confrontation approach won’t serve you well. Better to participate as a willing partner in the process.

    I don’t know how any of us could think that approving the parcel tax would eliminate the need for significant changes in the school system–not to deal with discontent, but to keep our schools operating the best way the can in a time of money and student shortages.

    Hope this all works out to your satisfaction.

  11. Frankly

    I think it makes sense. 9th graders tend to be the most cruel to each other and younger students because their hormones start flooding, but they have no experience managing what it does to alter their behavior. They are at the top of the food chain in middle school. However, they are at the bottom of the food chain at high school. The older kids at the high school generally serve to keep the 9th graders from getting too far out of line.

    I don’t know if there are stats for this, but I suspect there is less bullying when 9th graders attend high school.

  12. SouthofDavis

    Rich wrote:

    > I was a Freshman at Davis High School in the 1978-79
    > school year. The subsequent year the new Emerson Jr.
    > High opened.

    Question for Davis old timers, where did Davis Junior High kids go to school before Holmes opened in the 1960’s?

  13. Ryan Kelly

    Before Holmes opened, all Junior High students attended Emerson (where the District office is currently.) The school site was split by B Street, with students crossing B Street to access the gym and a few classrooms in the old high school building (current City Hall). The school district offices shared the rest of the brick building. Portable buildings were added on what is now the school district parking lot for Math classes and the school library. Students continued to attend Emerson at that site until 1977 (crossing B street for only PE and assemblies in the gym), when it closed and the new Emerson was built. The school district office moved over to the old Emerson building and the brick building was sold to the City.

  14. Rich Rifkin

    Ryan has it right.

    What I am unsure of is where junior high students were sent before the Emerson campus (on B Street) was erected. I know that before Davis High (today’s City Hall) was built, Davis had no high school, but students up to 8th grade attended the Central School, which was on 3rd Street, midblock between B and C (part of today’s Central Park). My guess is that for some years junior high students were sent to Davis High, but I don’t really know that.

    [i]”Students continued to attend Emerson at that site [b]until 1977[/b] … when it closed and the new Emerson was built.”[/i]

    I could be wrong, but I think old Emerson closed at the end of [b]the 1975-76[/b] school year, not in 1977. From 1976-77 until 1978-79, all Davis students in the 7th and 8th grades attended Holmes, and for those 3 academic years, all 9th graders were sent to Davis High School (save those who went to the continuation high school, ML King).

  15. wdf1

    I’m not a Davis “old timer”, but have spoken to some and read some Davis history. DHS opened in about 1925. Prior to that, I believe that Davis public schools offered up to grade 8 at the elementary site(s). And Davis students traveled to Woodland HS if they wanted a HS education. The original Emerson site, I understand, opened up in response to a postwar population boom in Davis.

  16. Rich Rifkin

    [i]” From 1976-77 until 1978-79, all Davis students in the 7th and 8th grades attended Holmes …”[/i]

    A well-known Davis businessman, Charlie Swanson (husband of city councilwoman Rochelle Swanson), reminded my a couple of years ago that when he and I were 7th graders at Holmes, the two of us and a boy named Larry (the son of a world-famous mathematician) were the top math students in our class, and as a result, we were skipped out of “junior high school math” and placed in Algebra. … I was a math whiz up until calculus, which I took in the 10th grade. Sadly, once it got hard, I got lazy and more-less left the math world from that point on.

  17. Rich Rifkin

    [i]”DHS opened in about 1925.”[/i]

    1927. That first year they had no seniors. (I think the class of 1927 was kept at Woodland High.) So it was not until 1928 that DHS graduated its first class.

  18. Rich Rifkin

    In case anyone cares, here are some random notes I have about Davis in 1928, the year after Davis High opened:

    Estimated Population of Davis: 1,202 residents

    Short courses in ag sciences were in their twentieth year. From February 6-16, 105 students took classes in the Dairy Short Course.

    Mail was delivered to Davis by airplane for the first time.

    The brick Brinley Building on Second Street, which today is next to Carousel Stationery*, was erected. Back then, the Varsity Theater stood where Carousel Stationery is. The Brinley Building (also known as the Brinley Block) later was expanded east all the way to G Street.

    An important grocer in Davis in 1928 was Lillard Bros. Cash and Carry. They advertised these prices: Armour’s Star Ham 28.5 cents/lb.; 10 pounds of pure cane sugar for 58 cents; Gold Medal Mayonnaise for 74 cents/quart; Kellogg’s Corn Flakes 5 cents for a large package; toilet paper 1 cent/roll.

    Barnett Trulove Brewster, who was elected to the first city council, died at the age of 52. Brewster came to Davisville in 1894 as a telegraph operator for S.P.

    April – 15,000 attended the Picnic Day festivities.

    I.F. Toomey, namesake of the football field at Russell Boulevard and A Street, was named the university’s athletic director.

    May 6 – Martin Blanchard, one of the most prominent local ranchers, died at 53.

    May 25 – the Davis Boy Scout Cabin was completed.

    Davis High School for the first time held a commencement ceremony for its graduates. The Class of 1928 had 6 boys and 14 girls.

    Gordon H. True, a celebrated professor of Animal Husbandry, died.

    Professor Stanley Freeborn and other colleagues published an important study on the use of anti-fly pesticides and their effect on dairy production. Freeborn found that killing flies made dairy cows more productive.

    The Hollywood movie, “Show Boat,” was filmed in Knights Landing in Yolo County and Davis residents took part as “extras” in the cast.

    November – Davis sided with most of the nation in electing Herbert Hoover as president. The vote here was 408 for Hoover and 283 for Al Smith.

    The University Farm had a total enrollment of 366 students.

    *I wrote this a few years ago. Today, the Carousel site is a mattress store.

  19. Frankly

    Rich, Thanks for this. Enjoyable reading about Davis’s humble past.

    This raises a question… what percentage of Davis residents blocked growth or change in 1928? And, if still with us today would they lament the amount of change they see?

    One realted point… if we bring the 9th-graders to the high school, it seems that the population of Davis High would justify a second high school. Otherwise, I am guessing that the total student population of Davis High with all four grades would put it at the top of the most higly populated high schools in California.

  20. wdf1

    DP1: [i]Students, parents, and teachers would not know that there was a need for fiscal change because they all voted to pass Measure E. It would have been better if the District had clearly stated that passing Measure E would not save our schools, before the election. Many parents have expressed that they would have voted for a higher tax.[/i]

    Maybe parents have expressed support, but I don’t think a higher school parcel tax would have passed at that time.

    What I see the district staff being asked to do is answer the school board’s question, “What would a 9-12 HS system in Davis look like in ~2013? What are the benefits and disadvantages compared to our current system?” It isn’t a question that can be addressed off the cuff, especially when complex issues of budgeting, staffing, facilities, and curricula are in play. Teachers are already having that discussion.

    I don’t see this as a “done deal.” Also, this idea of secondary reconfiguration (what would it look like should we consider it or not?) has also been floating around during school budget discussions in the past few years. Even if the board were to reject reconfiguration this time, it will re-surface again a few years down the road.

  21. wdf1

    Frankly: [i]I am guessing that the total student population of Davis High with all four grades would put it at the top of the most higly populated high schools in California.[/i]

    According to this [url]list of California high schools ranked by enrollment[/url], DHS is currently 519 out of 1836 that have students. If DJUSD were to add ~600 ninth graders (a little high for the likely reality), it would be about 301 on the list.

  22. wdf1

    Rifkin: [i]1927. That first year they had no seniors. (I think the class of 1927 was kept at Woodland High.) So it was not until 1928 that DHS graduated its first class.[/i]

    The physical high school building probably opened up in that year. I have a digitized copy of a Davis Enterprise article (25 Dec. [b]1925[/b], pg. 2) that describes the Davis Chamber of Commerce supporting a bond election to finance the building of a high school so as to take the HS students out of the “Grammar School.”

    That’s why I presume that DHS existed as an institution in at least 1925.

  23. SouthofDavis

    Rich wrote:

    > Davis sided with most of the nation in electing
    > Herbert Hoover as president. The vote here was 408
    > for Hoover and 283 for Al Smith.

    Thanks for the history Rich… This weekend I’ll have some fun asking people in town if they can guess what year Davis supported a Republican for president over a Democrat by a margin of 60% to 40%…

    > I wrote this a few years ago. Today, the Carousel
    > site is a mattress store

    This reminds me that I recently read an interesting story about Carousel Stationary that I stumbled on looking for something else with a Google search (thanks to the amazing thing that Google is I found it again in 2 seconds). Anyone with an interest in Davis History can click the link and read pages 29-31 written by Carousel Stationary co-founder Edith Kanoff:
    http://extension.ucdavis.edu/unit/osher_lifelong_learning_institute/pdf/traversing_time.pdf

  24. Rich Rifkin

    [i]”That’s why I presume that DHS existed as an institution in at least 1925.”[/i]

    That sounds credible to me. If so, I stand corrected.

    Perhaps–admittedly I don’t know–9th graders in 1925 were taught for the first time in Davis and taught at the Central School, which had only had students up to the 8th grade before. Then in 1926, they had 9th and 10th graders at the elementary campus. And then in 1927, the new high school building was ready, and it admitted 9th, 10th and 11th graders, with the latter group graduating in 1928.

    One thing I do know is that the school district did not raise a tax to acquire the land for the new high school. Rather, Calvin Covell, Gordon Anderson and other civic leaders of that time privately raised the money for the land. They then formed a high school district and gifted the property to the new district. I assume, at that point, the taxpayers of the district voted to pay for the construction of the facilities.

  25. Rich Rifkin

    [i]”This weekend I’ll have some fun asking people in town if they can guess what year Davis supported a Republican for president over a Democrat by a margin of 60% to 40% …”[/i]

    I don’t know how Davis voted in 1952. But it would not surprise me to learn 60% or more voted for Eisenhower that year. Ike won our state that year 56.3% to 42.7%.

    Dwight Eisenhower 2,897,310
    Adlai Stevenson 2,197,548

    The vote in 1956 was a tad closer:

    Dwight Eisenhower 3,027,668 (55.4%)
    Adlai Stevenson 2,420,135 (44.3%)

  26. JimmysDaughter

    A few years ago I knew a counselor in Stockton that worked there before and after their reconfiguation back to K-8, then high school. (9-12) She said it seemed to help the 7th and 8th graders. I don’t know how the 9th graders fared. Stockton may have different issues.
    Has anyone in the school district gathered stats from other cities that have done what Davis wants to do? Here is an interesting link.
    http://legacy.cta.org/media/publications/educator/archives/2006/200603_cal_ed_feature3.htm

  27. Skip Harrison

    Rifkin – I know this is off topic so if Don wants to delete it that’s OK. I have lived in Davis long enough to remember a lot of the things you mentioned. My wife loved to shop at Carousel’s finding unique gifts, greeting cards, stationery, pencils, pens, and art supplies. After a few changes of ownership the customer service became so bad that we stop shopping there. The last lady that owned and operated the place was so distrustful of the customers that she had staff shadowing people to make sure they didn’t steal anything making it so bad that we just stopped shopping there.

    I enjoy reading when you talk about Discoveries, Western Auto, Stan’s Meat Market, Deebo’s (sp?), The Club, Quessenberry’s, The Davis Hotel, A&W, and others. I bought my first car at the Pontiac dealer on Richards Blvd and Olive Drive in 1964.

  28. JimmysDaughter

    The Davis history comments are so entertaining! Anaheim has at least 2 websites devoted to musings like yours. It would be cool if you started a website like that, for everyone to post their fond, or (not so fond) memories.

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