Our View: Give us the whole story on schedule changeSouth Washington County is a good school district. No one is disputing that. Previously, District 833 has shown itself to be a good communicator with the public, the teachers and the students who are served by its schools.
South Washington County is a good school district. No one is disputing that.
Previously, District 833 has shown itself to be a good communicator with the public, the teachers and the students who are served by its schools.
Think back to earlier this year and the redrawing of the district’s boundaries: There were suggestions from some that there was even too much public input in a process which took many months and meetings.
And the method by which the colors, song, mascot and insignia for the new high school, East Ridge, were chosen was a model of public involvement and democracy.
So why is it that when it comes to the new high school schedule, people feel so cheated?
Firstly, the timing of the decision is bad: The group devoted to looking over the potential new schedules was convened in July, a time when most educators and parents were well into the swing of summer, vacations, travel or second jobs. The bulk of the decision-making leading to the recommendation of the 6 X 3 schedule was done by the time school started back up in September.
Secondly, people who have made representations to the school board feel their voices were not heard, or were dismissed. The Bulletin has heard complaints of people who were cut off mid-sentence, were told their comments had been heard previously, or were told simply to blindly trust the board was making the right decision. That’s just not right.
If the 6 X 3 schedule is the right schedule for East Ridge, Park and Woodbury high schools, it will stand up to the scrutiny of the public. There should be no question of blind trust. Its merits should be self-evident.
Thirdly, the repeated assertions that the decision was made purely on academic grounds, with no financial consideration, just don’t add up.
It seems just a little too coincidental that the high school schedule task force and the middle school schedule task force should both come up with recommendations that just happen to balance one another out.
If, as the school district insists, both task forces were working independently and both were told any changes they recommended had to be “cost neutral” (i.e. involve the spending of no extra money), then how could the middle school schedule task force proposal, which will cost an additional $880,000 a year, have even been considered? Unless, of course, the cost reductions at the high school level were a given.
Further, evidence examined by the high school schedule task force found that there were no differences in academic achievement between students on a 4 X 4 schedule and those on a traditional schedule.
The research goes on to list additional benefits of a 4 X 4 schedule as: fewer discipline problems; reduced time on teacher administration; more continuity in lessons; wider variety in courses; more opportunities to earn extra credits and make up failed courses.
One argument cited by officials at District 833 is that students taking the mandated state math tests in 11th grade need to be in year-long math classes, so the knowledge is fresh in their minds at the time they take the test, rather than having finished the class up to a semester earlier.
But teachers say this result could still be achieved by modifying the 4 X 4 schedule, cutting a couple of the 84-minute classes in half and running those courses across the school year, rather than for a semester or quarter.
We are left, then, to ask: What more? What more information did the district have to make this decision? Because it certainly is not apparent to the not-so-casual observer.
If it is a question of finances, so be it. But at least be open about it. The tax payers of South Washington County deserve to know, and if a more expensive 4 X 4 is enough of a priority, perhaps families will be prepared to pay a little extra to cover its costs next time that referendum comes around.
And if it’s not an issue of money, let’s give parents, teachers and students some credit. Let’s set out the reasons, once and for all, why the 6 X 3 schedule is the correct one for District 833.
Because right now, in the words of school board member Jim Gelbmann, it seems more like a case of, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” And the 4 X 4 doesn’t look broke.