November 4, 2010 in Washington Voices

Teachers, staff hear about changes from Glenewinkel

EVSD seeks ways to improve student outcomes
By The Spokesman-Review
 
Special school board meetings

The East Valley School District will hold two special school board meetings next week to discuss its plans for re-visioning the district. The first will be Monday at 6 p.m. at East Valley High School, 15711 E. Wellesley Ave. The second will be at 6:30 p.m. at Trent Elementary School, 3303 N. Pines Road.

For more information, call the district office at (509) 924-1830.

John Glenewinkel, superintendent of the East Valley School District, told teachers and staff that changes in the way the district instructs and houses pre-kindergarten through eighth grade students should be fully implemented by the 2015-’16 school year during a meeting Monday held to discuss the re-visioning process and a timeline if voters approve a construction bond in April.

Glenewinkel said the district needs to make seismic changes to the way it teaches students. The school board agreed on a plan for some schools to serve children in pre-kindergarten through the eighth grade, some schools to serve pre-kindergarten through the third grade and schools for fourth through the eighth grade. The plan calls for a middle-school enrichment program as well.

Some teachers expressed concern about the process and proposed changes.

Glenewinkel hopes to run a bond in April that would be for remodeling the buildings to fit the new needs of the students.

The district’s current buildings would be configured in the following ways:

East Valley Middle School: district offices, maintenance department and the Continuous Curriculum School.

Trentwood Elementary School: pre-kindergarten through eighth grade.

Skyview Elementary School: fourth through eighth grade.

Trent Elementary School: pre-kindergarten through third grade.

Mountain View Middle School: fourth through eighth grade.

East Farms Elementary: pre-kindergarten through third grade.

Otis Orchards Elementary: pre-kindergarten through eighth grade.

The bond would cost district taxpayers around $33 million. The board hasn’t officially approved the ballot measure.

Glenewinkel said that if the district just makes the changes to what grades are in the schools it won’t be enough. The district needs to teach students to be proficient in their subjects before they can move on to the next group of subjects. He said he wants to empower teachers to make changes in their classrooms to create a new culture of learning.

“What we change to is less important than how we change,” he said.

If the bond passes in April, Glenewinkel said the district would spend the 2011-’12 school year planning education specifications about how the schools will look.

He said there will be planning and visits to schools throughout the state where these configurations are already in place.

“Shouldn’t we have been visiting these schools before?” one teacher asked.

Glenewinkel agreed the district should have been making those visits and it was probably a mistake it hasn’t.

“Yes, I’ll own that,” he said.

“That makes me feel better, knowing you made that mistake,” said another teacher. He asked what other mistakes the superintendent has made that the teachers don’t know about, adding he felt teachers have been put down and haven’t been listened to.

“If you felt disrespected in this process, you have my personal apology,” Glenewinkel said.

But he said change is necessary. The district floated a bond before the voters in February 2009 for $34.5 million to make improvements to existing buildings without changing the way it does business.

That bond failed, and the buildings in the district still need improvements.

“None of our buildings are in a state where they can survive,” Glenewinkel said.

He added that Mountain View Middle School is too small of a middle school to be sustainable in the future and East Valley Middle School is in its fourth year of state-mandated rehabilitation after failing to meet yearly progress standards. If the school doesn’t make a significant turnaround, the state could come in and remove the principal and half the staff.

One teacher from EVMS said the school has been making progress with the way it teaches its students – they have been blocking classes, building relationships and reconfiguring its building to fit its needs.

Glenewinkel compared the process of these changes to that of mourning. The culture of their schools will be different, and many teachers don’t know what their jobs will look like a few years down the road.

He ended the meeting with letting the teachers and staff know that he is willing to keep the discussion going to problem solve, and they could contact him.

“My interest is improving student outcomes,” he said.

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