Story by Ralph Nichols Photos by Scott Schaefer HighlineÂ PublicÂ School officials anticipate placing a new construction bond issue on the ballot next year, superintendent Dr. Susan Enfield recently told a group of parents and other community residents. District voters have twice rejected a bond issue â€“ in last fallâ€™s general election and in a special election earlier this year â€“ to build a new Highline High School and other school buildings. Enfield said during her first â€˜Conversation with the Superintendentâ€™ at Mount Rainier High School that waiting until 2016 will â€œgive us time to do it right” â€¦stating that â€œover the next several months we will have lots of opportunities to look at the data with the communityâ€ and that they would â€œdetermine what the best solutions are.â€ â€œI donâ€™t know what will be on the next bond,â€ she said, â€because we need to take the information that we have out to folks and let folks take a look at it and see, and come up with ideas.â€ While there are needed improvements at both Evergreen and Tyee, she noted that Highline High School â€œis at the front of the listâ€ because of the â€œcritical needâ€ to replace the aging structure. Regarding overcrowding, Enfield stated, â€œWe will be overcrowded. For the coming year, we have identified enough classroom space to meet our needs.â€ But if annual student growth continues at its current pace the district will run out of space soon. â€œOur challenge is how to create that space.â€ Responding to concerns about inequities among Highline schools, Enfield said while â€œsmaller high schools donâ€™t have everything that larger ones do,â€ next year all campuses will offer â€œa certain levelâ€ of advanced placement courses and other programs. â€œGiving certain high-level courses and supportâ€ to students at all high schools in the district will be â€œa big change.â€ Currently, â€œwhat we are trying to do is ensure that regardless of where your child goes to school, theyâ€™re guaranteed a certain level of access to higher level courses and support,â€ she continued. Classroom teacher turnover is a problem with departures increasing from 11 percent to 16 percent last year. But Highline is also â€œa challenging district,â€ Enfield said. â€œItâ€™s not the same as some other districts.â€ Another challenge is student discipline and suspensions. Until recently, the district was â€œhemorrhagingâ€ students with some 3,000 of them being placed on suspension each year. Many, the Superintendent noted, were for inappropriate reasons, such as defiance. What school officials learned, she noted, is that even one suspension can have a dramatic effect on the likelihood that a student will graduate. She stated that the graduation rate was 71% among students who had never had an out-of-school suspension. Yet among students with just one out-of-school suspension the graduation rate dropped to just 46%. Suspensions are now down by 55 percent and limited to certain situations, particularly where the safety of students and staff is a concern. â€œIf they are a danger, we are going to move them out,â€ said Enfield. By contrast, â€œdefiance is not a suspendable offense.â€ But a lot of work remains to make student discipline work for all, especially at the high school level, she said. Enfield also added that some of that work includes de-escalation training and working to ensure that staff are interacting with high school students in a respectful way, thus utilizing teachable moments in a positive way. Â We contacted Communications Director Cathrine Carbone-Rogers Â for comment and she confirmed Â that security staff, bus drivers, and some teachers have had de-escalation training. â€œWe have provided the training to special education teachers at principalsâ€™ request, and continue to provide training to staff as requested,â€ said Carbone-Rogers. â€œOver testingâ€ was another concern voiced by several parents, who echoed claims from many school districts in Washington that â€œa lot of teachers are teaching to the testâ€¦even in elementary schools.â€ But, Enfield said, the district had already made changes to the amount of assessments, and is â€œmaking changes to our assessment system â€“ what weâ€™re assessing and why weâ€™re assessing â€¦ weâ€™ve always had state standards â€¦ but we never have endorsed and never will, teaching to the tests.â€ Raw audio of the complete â€˜Conversation with the Superintendentâ€™ is below: https://soundcloud.com/highlineschools/conversations-with-the-superintendent-march-26-2015 Dr. Enfield will host three more community conversations this spring:
- April 27 in the Evergreen campus library in North Highline.
- May 21in the Tyee educational complex library in SeaTac.
- June 2 in the Highline High School library.
Leadership in the Highline School District should use the time before the next bond push to address urgent non-construction issues:
–The Highline teachers turn-over rate is at 16%, and excellent new to veteran teachers are running out of the district and our kids’ classrooms. At the last Highline School Board meeting, a former Highline veteran teacher who has found a job in the Seattle School District spoke of a hostile school environment and a bully principal at AAA High School. By the end on the school year 44% of the AAA teachers left, and the total number of teachers who had left at the 3 schools on the Evergreen Campus surpassed 50%! Yikes! Why has the Superintendent not sounded the alarm about losing our most valuable human resource?
–In my neighborhood in North Highline, families who want their high school kids to attend traditional high schools have to leave the district, because the maddeningly inequitable Highline policy mandates small school only choices for Evergreen and Tyee
service areas. Highline leadership talks of adding a few more AP classes in the small school catalogues and calling it good. As Highline and Mount Rainier burst at the seams, how about converting one or both of the small school campuses into comprehensive schools?
–Highline leadership needs to invite citizens to participate as committee members in future bond discussions. Highline school building needs are great, and every opinion and creative ideas need to be tossed into the discussion in planning an affordable and long-range building plan.
Sounds like they should add some revolving doors to the building plans.
Highline School Board members, your new school construction bond idea has failed not once but twice now, unless you make some drastic changes and cut the cost of your bond in half chances are it will go down in defeat a third time as well.
Lets for now take this whole idea of building new schools off the table, it’s what the voters have said, let’s focus instead on a “repair and upgrade bond”, then let’s phase in a wing or a second floor to our schools to address the overcrowding.
These are projects that can be done and are not near as expensive as the bond you have been asking us to approve.
At this meeting at Mt. Rainier High School, the superintendent clearly stated that “some teachers just aren’t a good fit”. That is an interesting public statement when the district is supposed to be in the business of humans. It is too bad that this is the communications statement from the district. I suspect that the turnover is actually higher than 16%. Not that I think that school should be run like businesses, but CEOs get fired for this kind of turnover data. What happened to data decisions? Someone posted here last fall – that the damage will be done and the superintendent will be on to others ventures. leaving the rest of us to clean up the mess. The school board seems oblivious to what is actually happening in front of them. They do not ask or challenge how our district is being managed, and droves of dedicated employees are walking away – not just teachers. All of the grant money, recognition and connections with the politically powerful mean nothing if you have constant turnover, a climate of fear and demoralized employees. What is happening is so sad. No one should be bullied at work – or anywhere. I do have a question – if our teachers and other employees are supposed to teach children how to stop and stand up to bullying- how does that happen when those same people are being bullied on a regular basis by school district management?
Thank You. Highline Parent, what a Bold and Powerful Statement, Question.
Superintendent Enfield, The Voters are awaiting your reply.
Teachers are being asked to do more and more with nothing removed from their plate to make room. They are being blamed for student outcomes when, in our district, poverty plays such a huge role in student performance. The top predictors of test scores are a student’s zip code and parental income. As long as teachers are being blamed we will continue to hemorrhage them. This is happening nationwide. They have lost the freedom to teach as they were taught to and, no matter what Enfield says, they must teach to the test. Seattle Public Schools are in the midst of an Opt Out movement this Spring and I hope Highline joins. Dr. Enfield has declared us a ‘No excuse’ district meaning she won’t accept poverty as an excuse for poor performance and maybe it’s not an excuse but it’s still a reality and it still affects every part of a child’s education. What would she know about poverty though?
I wonder, I wonder, how much of all this turmoil is caused by unchecked immigration?
I wonder how that dynamic is impacting every thing else.
Whole Systems Design.
I wonder why the people we elect cannot come up with a sane, decent immigration policy. And in the meantime, why don’t they enforce the current laws we have on the books?
What part of NO don’t you understand?
I sure glad Dr. Enfield not have makeup and red lips like before. She changed I don’t trust her.
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