School Board to Hear Presentation and Discussion on Reconfiguration

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At tonight’s DJUSD School Board meeting, the board for the first time will receive the staff report on its reconfiguration findings.  As the staff report notes, the discussion is not intended to make a final determination as to whether DJUSD will or should move forward with reconfiguration.

Rather, “It is intended as a preliminary analysis of potential reconfiguration models that staff has reviewed. No final recommendations or decisions for future reconfiguration are proposed in this staff report.”

The staff report reads, “In November 2012, the district was facing a $6.9 million dollar fiscal cliff which would have resulted in the DJUSD conducting drastic restructuring and layoffs to keep our doors open. Thanks to California and Davis voters, Proposition 30 and Measure E passed providing us flat funding for future years.”

“While these two important tax initiatives helped us circumvent immediate financial insolvency, alone, they do not eliminate our deficit or provide capacity to rebuild what has been lost during the last 5 years of staff and program cuts,” staff notes. “In January, still unclear about our budget and wishing to avoid additional future cuts, the Board of Trustees directed staff to investigate the possible benefits of 9-12 reconfiguration as a means to create a financial buffer in the district as well as meet students’ academic and developmental needs.”

District administration has gathered input from secondary and elementary teachers and classified staff.  Site, department and district administration has also provided feedback.

“Though not included in our initial investigation of reconfiguration, some parent and community feedback has been gathered via email exchange and through the Superintendent’s Parent Advisory,” staff continues. “Tonight’s workshop is a culmination of staff feedback and initial investigations on reconfiguration.”

The floating of the proposal has alarmed many parents in the community, as well as the staff and faculty at the district’s three junior high schools.

As reflected in the agenda packet, some of the concerns are “9th graders will not be sheltered at the HS level as they are at JHS, will no longer be dominant group on campus,” “Three‐year continuity will be lost,” “DSHS has insufficient facilities, especially in science, art and music, to serve all district 9th graders,” “It will be more difficult to shrink class size if/when funding returns with all 9‐12 students at DSHS,” “Potential for increased bullying of 9th graders by upperclassmen,” and “The larger the campus, the greater the sense of isolation for students,” among others.

The public reacted strongly against the proposal, many believing it was a done deal.  In response, Superintendent Winfred Roberson issued a strong statement over a month ago to ensure the public that the school board and district “have not predetermined a 9-12 transition.”

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.”

But that failed to quell anxiety.

Posting on Facebook, Board member Gina Daleiden made it clear that an April 18 meeting would not make the decision on whether to go forward with reconfiguration.  She wrote that Superintendent Roberson “will NOT be asking us for a vote on implementation of any particular model. The (meeting) will be a workshop to understand information staff has collected and analyzed thus far, but that information is not complete. Community input would be one of those pieces yet to come.”

Board members Gina Daleiden and Tim Taylor proposed a community body, similar to the city of Davis’ Water Advisory Committee, as a way forward.

As Ms. Daleiden and Mr. Taylor write on Sunday, “The Davis Board of Education directed staff to look beyond the status quo to explore multiple options for reconfiguring our school structure to provide academic and programmatic benefits, while generating fiscal efficiencies that could be re-invested in programs for our students across the District.”

They acknowledge that “asking questions about possibilities for large-scale change is sensitive, and our community needs and deserves the clearest communication and best information during the process. We would like to make this discussion community-based, transparent, and easily accessible, so that rumor and anxiety levels are reduced.”

What they ultimately float is the idea of a WAC for the school reconfiguration – “a Board-appointed, community advisory body, one that reports directly to the Board and is bound by the State’s open meeting law, the Brown Act. This schools advisory committee could take the information presented by District staff and others to build and evaluate models of program change and fiscal investment.”

In the meantime, the Vanguard received correspondence from representatives from the Davis Teachers Association.  Back in March, DTA over a two-day period collected numerous questions about what reconfiguration would mean.  These questions were submitted to the superintendent and the board, to get answers to help DTA understand what was being looked at.

However, they did not, as of yet, receive a response from anyone, even with basic answers to these questions.

The DTA has no formal position on reconfiguration, the Vanguard was told, and hopes to get more background information before making a decision.

We post these questions – a sampling of the questions rather than all 250 questions – in hopes of triggering more discussion in the community.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

 


 

Teacher Questions Regarding Reconfiguration

  • At the request of DTA school representatives, a request for questions regarding reconfiguration went out Tuesday evening. As of Thursday afternoon, more than 260 questions had been received.
  • ALL district schools responded to a request for questions: Davis High, Da Vinci High and Junior High, DSIS, King, Harper, Holmes, Emerson, Birch Lane, Chavez, Korematsu, Montgomery, North Davis, Pioneer, Patwin, Willett

FACILITY ISSUES

  • Does DHS have sufficient science labs for a student body of 2300? If not, what is the cost of providing them?
  • Does DHS have sufficient computer labs for a student body of 2300? If not, what is the cost of providing them?
  • Will additional portable classrooms need to be installed on the DHS campus? Where will they be located and how will they be funded?
  • Is the library space and collection sufficient to meet the needs of 25% more students?
  • If all classrooms are in use, where would be the appropriate place to have meetings with parents, help students, etc.?
  • The Davis High gym already struggles to hold the entire 10-12 grade student body, which makes assemblies problematic. How will this issue be addressed for an even larger school?
  • Shared spaces (library, computer labs, etc) are already difficult to reserve due to high demand. Has there been any thought to how more classes will affect our abilities to get our students into the labs and library?
  • Student bathrooms and hallways are currently crowded during passing periods. How will the additional students be accommodated? Will passing periods, and therefore the school day, need to be lengthened?
  • Are there enough working lockers for more students?
  • Bike racks are currently nearly full. Where will students park their bikes?
  • Is current lab equipment adequate? Who will maintain equipment if multiple teachers share the same lab?
  • How will the facilities be upgraded to accommodate Career Tech Education at Davis High, specifically wood shop and industrial technology?
  • If a school is to be closed, which one, and what are the plans for that site?
  • If the site sits empty, there will be costs of maintenance (closed does not =free); has this been considered?
  • Why was the architect’s estimate of the number of students possible at the high school less than what the district has been reporting?
  • Does this plan include rebuilding the MPR? What is the cost? How will we pay for this?

LUNCH

  • Davis High is currently the only school in the district without an indoor space where students can eat when it is cold and/or rainy. What steps are being taken to rectify this for the current student body-and how much more space will be needed if ninth graders are added?
  • Where will ninth graders have lunch? Is there a sufficient facility at Davis High to provide a meal and a place to eat it?
  • Will ninth graders be allowed to leave campus unsupervised during lunch?
  • Since the MPR is out of commission, DHS serves lunch out of a classroom. There is no indoor space for our current students during lunch on rainy days. The logistics of lunch time with even more students sounds complicated. Have you thought about the impact to our lunch time?
  • Will the addition of ninth graders make a divided lunch necessary? If so, will DHS be able to maintain the same robust number of clubs?

PROCESS

  • Have all constituencies and stake-holders (staff, students, parents) been consulted and are they in agreement?
  • Has the district determined the optimal size for a secondary school? Would a reconfigured Davis High meet this standard?
  • Will a decision about reconfiguration be made before costs and needs are fully assessed?
  • Does the district have an updated master plan that thoughtfully addresses student needs from kindergarten through 12th grade? Will the reconfiguration be part of such a plan, or is it a piece-meal fix?
  • What forums are planned to get teacher input in an analysis of reconfiguration?
  • How do elementary, junior, and high school teachers feel about this?
  • Is this the right time for reconfiguration?
  • Will this be a distraction from more pressing needs: no COLA for teachers, inadequate benefits, high class sizes, the need to close the achievement gap?
  • What is the time frame for the reconfiguration decision and implementation?
  • Does the district plan to form an exploratory committee for this issue (as it has done for homework policy, text book adoptions, etc.) that includes teachers, parents, and administration?

STAFFING ISSUES (transfers, classroom changes, and time/place for prep)

  • If all teachers at DHS must share classrooms, where will they work during their prep periods-especially since the site has re-purposed most office space?
  • How will the sharing of classrooms impact science labs? If labs must be set up prior to class time, how will this be accomplished? Will students be able to do the same number/quality of labs?
  • How soon will teachers know if they will be teaching at a different site, teaching a different subject/grade level, and working with new teams?
  • How many jobs will be cut (teacher, support staff, admin)?
  • Will teachers not able to remain in their classrooms during prep periods have computer, printer and phone access?
    Would 6th grade teachers need to move to middle schools? If so, does that become a credentialing issue-would teachers need a single subject instead of multiple subject credential?
  • What consideration has been given regarding the movement and placement of teachers during reconfiguration and the additional costs, which will be incurred by the district?
  • How many teachers/staff will change schools? How much does this cost?
  • How much will be put aside for essentially brand new staffs to collaborate and work out missions? How much for training?
  • Teachers at schools (current configuration) have worked together for years or decades to build school culture and community for curriculum and student needs. What effect will the loss of this asset have on our students?
  • How will the District determine reassignments of teachers?
  • Will the district need to hire more security?
  • Will the district hire new single-subject teachers for a new 6-8 middle school while they give pink slips to current 6th-grade teachers?
  • Will FTE allotments per programs change, ie, will classes have to be cut to account for FTE needs at different sites?
  • How will teacher transfers work?
  • What does this mean for teachers re: involuntary reassignment?

RESEARCH NEEDS

  • Does the reconfiguration of Davis High require filling every classroom, every period with 37 students? If so, is this in line with “best practices”, as determined by research?
  • Has the district looked at research into the benefits of small schools? How does reconfiguration reflect this?
  • IF the agenda is more than monetary, is the discussion research-based (regarding programs, safety, administration, resources, etc. for all levels?) If so, where is that research, and if not, why not?
  • What is the relationship between school size and student achievement, school climate, school engagement, discipline/negative social behaviors, teacher efficacy, etc.?
  • Is there empirical evidence to support that reconfiguring is better for the students socially, emotionally and academically?
  • Will the larger numbers at DHS hinder student students academically, socially and/or emotionally and, if so, is this hindrance worth the change?
  • What does research best support: two medium-sized high schools or one large high school?
  • What does research show comparing larger class size AND larger campus size to what we have now (test scores, gap kid’s performance, amount of behavior issues, teacher stress)?
  • What evidence do we have that ninth graders are not getting a quality education and nurturing at the junior high schools?

INSTRUCTIONAL ISSUES

  • What instructional concerns are raised by asking teachers to move from classroom to classroom during the day? Will instructional minutes be lost? Will the physical environment be less welcoming to students because teachers will not have the ability to personalize each classroom they teach in?
  • If all teachers are required to move between classrooms, how much preparation time and instructional minutes will they lose?
  • Research states that students in the achievement gap do worse in larger 9-12 schools. With this in mind, what support systems will be in place to address these at risk students?
  • How does reconfiguration of the schools in 2014-15 prepare students for the curriculum changes, and assessments required by the new CCCSS’s?
  • What is the plan for at-risk students in classes of 37:1?
  • How will the number of sections of classes, AP/Honors classes, and variety of classes be affected?
  • How will the CTE programs and facilities be updated and upgraded to support these opportunities at the high school for the influx of 9th grade?
  • How will this affect the music and art programs (and other electives and foreign language?)
  • Will high school facilities meet PE needs for a student body of 2300?
  • How will this assist at risk learners?

STUDENT EMOTIONAL NEEDS

  • How would 9-12 at DHS impact counseling: student/counselor ratio, FTE, and available office space?
  • As the school grows in FTE what specific mechanisms/resources will be put in place to manage mental health related problems, school discipline, truancy, open campus policy and class size?
  • What steps will be taken to make students feel noticed, included, connected at Davis High?
  • In the current configuration, 9th graders get to be leaders on the JHS campuses in many ways. With only one student government, instead of four, for example, how will more students get opportunities to participate instead of less?
  • According the climate survey administered by the District, students at the high school already feel disconnected and “lost” among the large student population. How will adding additional students help?

SAFETY ISSUES

  • Have traffic patterns been examined at the high school, especially parent drop-off areas which will greatly increase with the addition of freshmen?
  • Several people have been hit by cars outside the high school this year-how will safety be improved with even more cars in the area?
  • How will increased traffic on 14th Street affect safety of North Davis Elementary students?

FISCAL ISSUES

  • Exactly how much money would be saved, per year, with how many school closings, and is there documentation showing these savings?
  • Is a fiscal analysis available that details costs and benefits of reconfiguration?
  • If there is a net cost, how will it be funded?
  • How much money has been or will be spent to do another study on reconfiguration and is the best use of limited district funds?
  • What land or assets will be sold to fund reconfiguration? What other needs could be funded if reconfiguration didn’t occur?
  • Has the district launched a serious effort to gather money-saving ideas from teachers and community members that do not require reconfiguration?

CLASS SIZE

  • Does the figure stated in the newspaper-that Davis High has room for ninth graders if we pack 37 students in every classroom every period-mean that larger class sizes is a permanent policy?
  • What happens if additional funding is provided by the state in the future for a reinstatement of lower class sizes? Will a reconfigured Davis High be able to accommodate lower class sizes?
  • Many educators feel reducing class sizes is the most critical issue facing the district. How does reconfiguration support this need?

MOTIVATION/AGENDA/PRIORITIES

  • What is the motivation behind a 9-12 configuration?
  • What is the intent or desired outcome of the proposed change?
  • In what ways would it assist 9th grade students to be on a high school campus?
  • If the reason for reconfiguration is to obtain one site for Da Vinci, could this be done without disrupting several school sites throughout the district?
  • This issue was discussed about 4-5 years ago and teachers and parent community overwhelmingly opposed…so why has this been brought up again?
  • Why now?
  • A supportive community has approved parcel taxes to support current schools-would a contentious debate over reconfiguration endanger this relationship?
  • Why is there discussion about major changes to the overall system before the budget situation has been fixed?
  • Is reconfiguration more important than reducing class size and/or bringing teacher pay and benefits up to 2006 levels?
  • What is the problem that reconfiguration will fix?

IMPACT ON OTHER SCHOOLS

  • Will our elementary schools change to K-5, with 6th graders going to middle schools?
  • Will an elementary school close? Which one? In what part of town? How will this decision be made?
  • Will our middle schools be 6-8 or 7-8?
  • Will a junior high close? Which one? In what part of town? How will this decision be made?
  • What would this reconfiguration look like for Da Vinci Charter Academy?
  • If we don’t close a junior high does that mean we will run three 400 student 7-8 grade middle schools? Can we afford to staff 3 campuses of 400 students?
  • What would the impact be on elective offerings at the junior high?
  • If language classes at the junior highs are reduced, does that mean more eighth graders will be traveling to the high school for language classes?
  • Would there be a 9th grade orchestra or band? How does this impact the programs?
  • Are you planning to close Chavez and move the program to Montgomery to remedy the problems at Montgomery?
  • Are you planning to relocate Holmes students to other campuses?
  • Will course offerings at the junior high be affected as to number and variety?
  • It is stated that having ninth graders move to the high school will help high school programming – what will it do to junior high school programming?
  • Will boundary lines need to be redrawn for elementary and middle schools?
  • How will reconfiguration affect Montessori and Spanish Immersion programs?
  • Will current library staff and facilities be maintained in the middle school model?
  • Will the reconfiguration change the administrative, counseling, and staff support at the middle school?

MISCELLANEOUS

  • I advise a club with over 300 students and require space to meet regularly. If the school is filled to capacity every period, and teachers are roving, where will extracurricular club meetings be held? And will fewer teachers be willing to sponsor a club?

·         Has the district considered opening a second high school at Harper, or moving the high school to Harper site where there is more ground and modern infrastructure existing?

  • Has the district given any thought to having two high schools (in addition to the DaVinci charter school)?
  • Will reconfiguration make computer-based CCSS testing more or less difficult?
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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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18 thoughts on “School Board to Hear Presentation and Discussion on Reconfiguration”

  1. JustSaying

    Lots of good questions although many seem more designed as arguments against moving ninth graders to the high school. When did we start worrying about indoor lunch accommodations for DHS students?

  2. SODA

    I would say many of these questions are pertinent to the present configuration! and could/should be asked. Who will present the staff report? Who is the lead staff on this issue?

  3. wdf1

    SODA: [i]I would say many of these questions are pertinent to the present configuration! and could/should be asked. Who will present the staff report? Who is the lead staff on this issue?[/i]

    Probably several staff members will present different aspects. I imagine Roberson will introduce the issue.

  4. David M. Greenwald

    I got a call from the district saying that they were trying to take input from the teachers, but never promised responses at this point. Also told the board is divided on this question and there is no clear consensus either way.

    “If it saves money just do it. Most other school districts have 9-12 “

    I agree most districts have 9-12, but there is a cost to change and the high school as it stands now is already larger than most.

  5. Don Shor

    I believe the high school has shut off new interdistrict transfers due to space issues. And the demographics of the district (and most of the state) are going to skew toward older students. Enrollment issues and distribution should definitely be part of the consideration here. Siting DaVinci for increased enrollment is a specific issue that needs to be addressed.

  6. wdf1

    DMG: [i]Also told the board is divided on this question and there is no clear consensus either way. [/i]

    Jeff Hudson’s recent article ([url]http://www.davisenterprise.com/local-news/school-board-to-receive-discuss-preliminary-report-on-high-school-reconfiguration/[/url]) in the Enterprise gives a good overview of where things stand. Publicly, Daleiden, Taylor, and Peterson support looking at a reconfiguration, Lovenburg and Allen generally feel that this isn’t a productive direction at this point.

    Shor: [i]Siting DaVinci for increased enrollment is a specific issue that needs to be addressed.[/i]

    Da Vinci was devised to be a smaller learning community. If you allow enrollment to increase, then you are likely to lose the character of a small learning community.

  7. wdf1

    Da Vinci has grown as the JH campus at Emerson was opened up in the past few years. If there is interest in moving Da Vinci, then I think it would be mainly for the purpose of consolidating all of the grades to one campus.

  8. Ryan Kelly

    It wouldn’t be the end of the world, if the schools were reconfigured. We should have made Harper a second High school when we had the opportunity. Change it into a High School and keep Holmes & Emerson as middle schools. Or, if people are arguing for “leadership” opportunities – make all elementary schools K-8 and ramp back GATE. Give high achieving students ample opportunity for leadership opportunities in regular classrooms/regular school environments. We need more room at the higher grades. I don’t know why there is opposition to this. Parents in Davis seem to want accelerated/honors/GATE programs for their children and ninth graders could “accelerate” all they want at the High School.

  9. JustSaying

    SODA makes an excellent point about how many of the issues raised as 9-12 considerations already are problems seeking solutions. Many of the most critical are budget related.

  10. wdf1

    Kelly: [i]We should have made Harper a second High school when we had the opportunity.[/i]

    Hindsight is 20/20. Plans for Harper were made when Davis was on a steeper growth trajectory. The bond that funded the building of Harper passed in 2000, which also happened to be the same year that Measure J passed. I don’t think the effects of Measure J were clear at that time. Enrollments at Holmes and Emerson were peaking at 1000+ in 2003, and both campuses were loaded with portables. Harper opened in 2004.

  11. B. Nice

    Does anyone know the origin of the current configuration. I’ve always been curious why 9th Graders, technically high school students, were placed on the junior high campuses. (not judging the current situation, just wondering how/why it came to be).

  12. B. Nice

    In regards to this teacher comment:

    “Will the district hire new single-subject teachers for a new 6-8 middle school while they give pink slips to current 6th-grade teachers?”

    Does reconfiguration of the high school automatically mean the junior high’s will also reconfigure?

  13. wdf1

    B. Nice: [i]Does reconfiguration of the high school automatically mean the junior high’s will also reconfigure?[/i]

    You probably know that the school board backed off ([url]http://www.davisenterprise.com/local-news/schools-news/school-board-pulls-back-on-reconfiguration-looks-at-bigger-picture/[/url]) of focusing on the reconfiguration issue at their recent meeting.

    Your question is one example of why. It was clear that this issue couldn’t be confined just to 9-12, but that it had consequences for what kind of configuration to have for the JH/MS, and in turn the elementaries. The focus now is on having a districtwide strategic plan, which is a better direction to follow.

  14. wdf1

    B. Nice: [i]Does anyone know the origin of the current configuration. I’ve always been curious why 9th Graders, technically high school students, were placed on the junior high campuses. (not judging the current situation, just wondering how/why it came to be).[/i]

    Before its current location, DHS occupied the building where city hall is currently. At that time it was a 9-12 high school. In 1961, DHS moved to its present location, and as far as I know, was a 10-12 high school. In the late 70’s, DHS temporarily went to a 9-12 configuration again, while the current Emerson JH was being built. When Emerson JH opened, the district went back to its previous configuration. I can’t tell you why the configuration switched in the DHS move in 1961.

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