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Washington Voices

East Valley School Board still taking input on changes

Recent public forums discuss combining earlier proposals

The discussion has been continuing about the sweeping changes proposed by the East Valley School Board, this time with community input.

The district held two community forums recently to discuss the latest option – a combination of the first two ideas discussed by the board.

Superintendent John Glenewinkel said the option would provide a $10 million performing arts center for the district that would seat 1,600 people and include 10 classrooms.

There would be two schools serving students from pre-kindergarten through the eighth grade (Trentwood and Otis Orchards), two schools that would serve students in pre-kindergarten through the third grade (Trent and East Farms) and two schools for students in the fourth through the eighth grade (Skyview and the current Mountain View Middle School).

It would also include a middle-school learning center. East Valley Middle School would house the district offices, the Continuous Curriculum School and the maintenance department.

The cost of this plan would be comparable to the first two plans – a district with just pre-kindergarten through the eighth grade, or a district with all pre-kindergarten through the third grade and fourth- through eighth-grade schools – somewhere in the neighborhood of $32 million to $33 million.

“Nothing has been decided,” Glenewinkel said.

Glenewinkel charged the group to answer three questions regarding this new plan: Is the proposal reasonable? Does the proposal provide the catalyst for change? What are the strategic barriers to this proposal?

He also told the group that the district has received results from recent testing and in the third grade, 26 percent of the students failed to meet the standards. He added that 38 percent exceeded the standards. Glenewinkel said those students exceeding the standards probably aren’t being challenged enough.

He said that because of this, the district is not serving the needs of only the students who are not meeting standards but also those exceeding them.

“There will be seismic change in this district,” he said.

The community members were divided into groups and spent time discussing the third option.

One group said the plan is reasonable, but families must be engaged in the process of student learning – communication must be improved between the schools and the parents. They added that communication would be the key if the plan was going to be a catalyst for change. They offered up the idea of finding neighborhood representatives to disseminate information to their neighbors about what is going on in the district.

They added that they felt teachers aren’t as accountable as people would like.

“I believe one of the things hurting our teachers is the system in which we force them to operate,” Glenewinkel said. He said the top two impacts on student achievement are the teachers and the principals of the schools. He hopes these changes will empower the teachers to teach with passion and create a new learning environment.

“Ninety-five percent of teachers want whatever is best for our children,” Glenewinkel said.

Another group said they appreciated having a choice of which school would work best for their children based on their needs, but they worried about the transition into these new schools.

“There’s no step between what we have now and what we’re moving to,” one parent said. “What is the step in between?”

One parent said that change was important in this process and that the teachers need to feel part of the process and supported by families when the time comes to make decisions. If the district builds new schools for the students without curriculum change it wouldn’t be enough.

“Then all we have is new space,” she said.

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