2/5/18 Letter to the Community from the Future Focused Schools Team
Future Focused Schools Team Open Letter to the Community:
On January 23, 2018, and January 30, 2018, the Board of Education held public meetings to discuss possible reconfiguration of the schools in our District. Several comments were made by the public and at least one Board Member that the Future Focused School Team (FFST) was led to a specific conclusion. This echoed earlier comments by some community members that “the fix was in” and FFST’s recommendation for a consolidated middle school was predetermined.
We recognize that these comments represent a very small minority of our community and that the community overall has been very respectful of the FFST, even when individuals disagreed with our recommendations. Nonetheless, for purposes of transparency and clarity, the FFST thought it important to reiterate the process through which we arrived at our recommendations.
While the Superintendent helped facilitate our meetings, he did not provide opinions or indicate a preference as to reconfiguration options. While we were provided materials generated by the District, we were encouraged to independently investigate the issues and request additional documentation – our members certainly did that. For links to documents we reviewed, please visit our webpage on BHUSD.org, including our final FFST Written Report.
There were no documents requested that were withheld from our review except for the sample master schedules prepared by the Superintendent and his cabinet to calculate costs and savings of different configurations. Release of that information would be unfair to staff and cause unnecessary stress and anxiety due to its highly sensitive nature, which could be interpreted to infer which positions would be kept, transferred or cut.
Material provided to the FFST, which included significant academic research that favored the K-8 model provided by the community, was distributed to every member of the FFST. We seriously debated the various aspects of the reconfiguration issue, including whether FFST should simply list potential models with pros and cons and not make a recommendation at all. Ultimately, the FFST voted to make a definitive recommendation and reached an overwhelming consensus on a 19 to 1 vote, with one abstention, to recommend a consolidated middle school.
The FFST reached its conclusions based on each member’s own independent analysis, continuous interaction with the broader community, and discussions with one another. Reasons for FFST’s recommendation include the following:
- BHUSD trails behind comparable districts, despite spending more per student.
- There is institutionalized inequity in our District. With so few middle school students on each campus, no school is able to offer robust and diverse programs and the specific programs currently in place are not equitably offered across the four campuses.
- The District has not effectively adopted or implemented middle school philosophy (e., interdisciplinary teaching, robust extra-curricular options, flexible grouping of students, proper concentration of resources, teacher collaboration opportunities and significant professional learning opportunities).
- The District does not have the necessary concentration of students (e. critical mass) at any one school site to effectively deliver the middle school philosophy.
- In our District, numerous teachers are teaching multiple grade levels and/or dividing their time amongst the campuses. This undermines their ability to differentiate education for our students, pursue professional development and collaborate effectively.
The FFST concluded that a consolidated middle school is the most effective model in addressing these shortcomings and therefore, recommended:
- One consolidated middle school (6th-8th grade) and three TK-5th grade schools.
- An interim step of closing one school site, with a strategic planning committee formed to address the issues necessary to support implementation by fall 2019 or 2020.
- Formation of an implementation committee to address the issues necessary to ensure the effective implementation of a consolidated middle school model.
The FFST is deeply aware of the significant impact on our entire community any change will have. Accordingly, the FFST urges the Board of Education to take a slow, steady and studied approach to ensure an effective implementation of a consolidated middle school (or any other change to be undertaken).
We are honored to have had the opportunity to serve our community and help focus us all on making the fundamental and difficult changes needed to educate our children for the future.
BHUSD Future Focused Schools Team