March 21, 2013 in Washington Voices

EV continues K-8 transition

Board’s unanimous vote comes after negative public comments, teacher survey
By The Spokesman-Review
 

The East Valley School Board directed Superintendent John Glenewinkel to continue the transition to K-8 by moving the preschool and other programs to East Valley Middle School for the 2013-’14 school year.

“I believe in this strongly,” said board member Mitch Jensen.

The decision comes on the heels of a couple of weeks of heated discussions between the board and the community, which included the release of a survey conducted by the teachers union which claimed teachers did not have confidence in the board or the superintendent.

The survey released Monday afternoon was completed by 218 teachers. Director of Human Resources Tom Gresch said there are 274 teachers who receive a payroll deduction for union dues.

During a meeting Monday evening, the board members said they had not looked over the survey in detail because they only received it a short time before the meeting. They stopped public comment for a short time to discuss its contents.

“It certainly hurts my heart, the lack of confidence the staff is expressing in my ability to lead this district,” Glenewinkel said.

The survey included a cover letter with a list of programs the union believes could change or disappear in the upcoming school year with the transition to K-8. Those programs included art, geometry, algebra, advanced science and languages, as well as a reduction in time for physical education, computers, music and library. It also said there could be no percussion class time and sports could be severely affected at the high school level.

Board members deny these cuts will take place.

The survey then asked teachers if they agreed with how re-visioning has been implemented and 183 out of 214 teachers said they did not. The survey asked if teachers wanted to put the plan on hold for a year and 138 out of 210 teachers said yes. Of 211 teachers who answered if they had confidence in the school board, 164 of them said no. And when asked if they had confidence in the superintendent, 138 of 212 teachers said no.

Of the anonymous comments, many teachers said they felt the district did not have the facilities, money or a plan to fully implement K-8.

Parent Deanna Mallet read from some of the comments in the survey and said the district should take into account the opinions of the teachers.

“We have a treasure trove of wisdom in our teachers,” she said. She added the district should have made a plan before they began to implement changes.

During a work session Tuesday, the board discussed what middle school looked like before the transition. Seventh-grade students were given blocked classes of English and social studies and math and science, and were offered electives of music or yearbook, with zero hour classes for jazz band or percussion. Eighth-graders had the option of joining a drama club, and there was an advanced art class that had been later cut.

Library time depended on when teachers chose to take their students into the library.

“Our middle schools were not and are not a mecca of opportunities for our students,” said board member Heidi Gillingham, adding there didn’t seem to be more electives before the transition.

They also discussed the survey and their plan to move forward with the union. Board chairwoman Kerri Lunstroth said she spoke with representatives of the union’s executive team and set up a meeting between the board and the union at 3:45 p.m. Monday in the board room.

Members of the board said the survey was very disappointing and upset them.

“I’m angry,” Jensen said.

“I’m never sure where a question came from that we wouldn’t continue K-8,” Gillingham said. She said the comments in the survey were very negative and she kept reading “it can’t be done.”

“It’s such a defeatist attitude,” she said. “I hope it’s a small group of people that have this defeatist attitude. It looks to me we will have more opportunities.”

The board’s vote was unanimous to continue the transition. Every member was in attendance.

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