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Parents demand plan before hiring

Some parents of Estacada School District students are expressing frustration at what they view as a lack of progress toward a three- to five-year strategic plan for the district.

The parents made their views known during the “Time For Parents” meeting with the Estacada principals held Wednesday, Oct. 9, at Eagle Creek Elementary.

One parent mentioned her concern that the Estacada School Board was being “more reactive than proactive.”

Angie Nelson told the small group of others parents and principals about her participation on the school board’s survey subcommittee. The group met recently to start developing a survey designed to identify the community’s priorities for the district.

“Part of the purpose for tonight is to hear from the parents what they want included on the survey,” said Eagle Creek Elementary Principal Dan Draper, who also participated in the survey subcommittee.

Nelson said she had indicated that the parents want to know the district’s long-term plan, and that they don’t want to wait until April or May during budget decisions for the following year to find out what that plan is.

She said it was her impression that board members may be reluctant to come up with a definitive three- to five-year plan until a new superintendent has been hired for the district.

Current Estacada School District Superintendent Howard Fetz is retiring in June 2014.

Parents commented that it didn’t seem necessary to find the superintendent first.

Estacada Junior High School Principal Tina Rhue mentioned that the plan could be presented to superintendent candidates so that the board could select a superintendent who already is supportive of the plan.

“Someone needs to sit in the driver’s seat and make a decision,” Nelson said.

Nelson explained that the principals had been tasked with coming up with questions on designated topics that they would like on the survey.

The survey subcommittee will meet again next week to synthesize the questions for the survey.

School Board member Leslie André said later that the central goal of the survey will be to identify a plan for the district. André said that she hopes to disseminate the survey in November or December.

Questions for the school board

Nelson also had been tasked with determining whether the “Time For Parents” group had any unanswered questions for the school board.

The group concluded that they would like to know the three- to five-year plan for the district and the status of the search for a superintendent.

Nelson said her son has alternated between a traditional single-grade class and a blend every year for several years.

She attributed the frequent changes to a lack of a consistent planning by the district.

“My son needs consistency...It’s very frustrating from a parent’s perspective to not know what’s happening,” she said.

The elementary principals mentioned that as the district is looking to have full-day kindergarten classes for the 2015-16 school year, a plan would be useful in order to sort out the extra classrooms that will be needed.

Currently, kindergarten classes last for half the school day. Teachers usually teach their morning and afternoon classes in the same classroom.

Resource allocation between elementary schools

Jenny Durand, a Clackamas River Elementary PTA member and parent had brought questions to the elementary school principals during the September “Time For Parents” meeting.

“I am concerned with how the district is choosing to allocate our resources. It seems that resources are not the same for all children. I am wondering how district resources are allocated, and if student to staff ratios are balanced fairly across the district,” Durand had read from a list of questions she’d prepared.

Durand was not present during the following meeting on Oct. 9, but Clackamas River Elementary Principal Seth Johnson and Draper answered the questions she had raised during the September meeting.

The current full-time teacher to student ratio at Eagle Creek Elementary is 1-to-28, whereas it is 1-to-30 at Clackamas River.

When all staff, including secretaries, custodians, cooks, and others are taken into consideration the staff to student ratio at Eagle Creek is 1-to-12 whereas at Clackamas River it is 1-to-17.

Durand had asked whether the building’s enrollment determined the number of staff allocated there.

Draper and Johnson explained that it does, but there are other factors such as the number of special needs students and English Language Learners enrolled in the building that are considered while determining the allocation of staff between buildings.

“It seems that if resources are not shared equally for all our students, then inequities will start to pit buildings, staff, and parents against each other,” Durand had said during the September meeting.

“None of us want to pit parents and buildings and staff against each other,” Johnson said during the Oct. 9 meeting.

He added that it is part of the principals’ intended purpose for the “Time For Parents” meetings to answer questions such as these.

P-3 Alignment Summit

Draper discussed plans to submit a proposal for a prenatal through third grade (P-3) alignment implementation grant. Should the proposal be accepted, the district could receive $75,000 a year for three years.

Draper explained the purpose of P-3 grant is to make sure that community children are prepared to enter kindergarten with the skills necessary to be successful in a classroom learning environment.

Draper said he hoped for high community attendance for the P-3 Alignment Summit on Monday, Oct. 14, at the River Mill Education Center.

The summit will explore what it means to be “kindergarten ready.”

Draper said he also hoped school board members would be present.

He said that high attendance at the event could make the Estacada School District more attractive for the grant.

“It’s the way it goes with grants. You put all this work in and you still might not get it. But if you don’t try, you definitely won’t get it,” Draper said.

Rhue pointed out that as state standards now require kindergarteners to be able to write a paragraph by the end of the year, kindergarten preparedness is now more important than ever.

In addition, Rhue noted that last year third-graders tested poorly in reading throughout the district.

“There is just so much they have to do before they reach third grade, before they even get there,” Rhue said.

Parents concerned about state standards

Parents expressed surprise at the requirement that kindergarteners be able to write a paragraph by the end of the year.

Rhue explained that for a long time kindergarteners were required simply to write a sentence by the end of the year.

“I’m concerned that the expectations are just too blasted high,” Nelson said. “In kindergarten, you’re 6... You’re not supposed to come out of kindergarten hating school because it’s too hard.”




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