Nov 132015
 
photo stolen from the Pioneer

photo stolen from the Pioneer

This letter is written by former Mayor Stephen Cassidy. If you have children at SLUSD schools or are a student there, I urge you to read it.

Summary – The school board is considering implementing major changes to the program for students at our middle schools and high schools starting next school year.

While this undertaking is well intentioned and likely will result in positive reforms for our students, the school board has not sufficiently brought parents into the planning process and the changes are too significant for the district to implement well by August 2016.  Parents need to know the exact changes under consideration and how they will affect their children’s education.
The school board should make clear to the community as it reviews the proposals that – if adopted – they will not be implemented until the 2017-18 school year.
—–
Dear Friends & Neighbors:
On Monday, November 9th, I attended a meeting the school district held for parents and community members on major changes under consideration for middle school and high school as part of what is called the Secondary Redesign.
Under the initiative of the Superintendent and with the approval of the school board, a group of teachers, principals and administrators – the redesign committee – have been meeting since last school year to consider how to best meet the needs of our middle and high school students given the changes in society and education over the past decade.  You can read about the work of the committee at http://www.sanleandro.k12.ca.us/SecondaryRedesign
It’s my understanding that the redesign committee is considering changes to the class schedule – such as eliminating the traditional periods schedule and adopting a block or modified block schedule, ways to incorporate career pathway instruction into regular academic courses, how effective the academies at the high school are in serving students and ways they can be improved, alternative education pathways for high school students beyond what the district currently offers, and ending the focus of the Fred Korematsu campus on 9th Grade students and converting into a site for academies.
The Superintendent and school board established that redesign committee would make its recommendations for changes at the middle and high schools in time for implementation by the beginning of the 2016-17 school year.  Given the large lead time needed to implement such potentially far reaching changes, if the school board decides to adopt the proposals, the school board needs to act in January 2016.  And that is what current secondary redesign timeline calls for – school board review of the proposals in January 2016.
The meeting on Monday night was the first chance for parents to learn about the work of the redesign committee. The meeting room at the San Leandro High School library was packed with parents along with many students.  This link http://sledfund.org/secondary_redesign.aspx from the San Leandro Education Foundation​ website provides a summary of the discussion.
In a nutshell, parents were told what has occurred to date and why the committee was formed.  The emphasis was on process.  No summary of recommendations by the committee – which is still meeting and considering proposals – was provided.
However, there was great concern expressed by many parents and students concerning a possible move back to a block schedule for the high school.  District administrators stayed until after 9 p.m. to answer every question.
We were told that the school board planned to have a work session on the redesign committee proposals in December and would formally consider the proposals for adoption at its January regular board meeting.  Aside from an online survey that will be made available next week for parents to complete, the meeting on Monday night was the sole opportunity for parents to ask questions on the secondary redesign changes that district planned to hold.
I commented at the meeting that hosting only one community forum (that didn’t review any actual proposals) was insufficient.  I asked that another forum for parents be scheduled in January before the school board votes on any proposals. District administrators were responsive and agreed to do so.
In considering the matter further after the meeting, I decided to attend and speak at the school board meeting on Tuesday night.  During public comments I requested that the board postpone any significant changes to our middle and high schools until the 2017-18 school year.  I emphasized that I am not opposed to thoroughly examining all aspects of our secondary programs and working to improve them.
Far reaching changes, however, require extensive engagement with internal and external (parent) stakeholders.  The current schedule proposed by the school board – even if modified to add a community meeting in early January – remains deficient in providing for meaningful input from parents on the changes under consideration.
Without going into too much detail, I am further concerned that the significant changes if adopted will require extensive teacher training and professional development.  This can only occur during the school year.  And this is simply not going to occur between January and June of 2016. The reform under consideration is too significant for staff to undertake and roll out – well – on the first day of school next August.
My children attend San Leandro public schools.  Our schools are moving in the right direction under the current district leadership.  However, the secondary redesign timeline is too rushed.  It appears that the majority of the school board does not realize they made a mistake in approving this timeline.  Nor is the school board working to modify it.
The core role of the school board is to serve as the interface between the community and district.  The board’s number one job is to ensure that the policies and initiatives of the district are in the best interests of our students and that parents and the community have the opportunity for meaningful comment and review before any significant changes occur.
Here is a link to the email addresses of all board members: http://www.sanleandro.k12.ca.us/Page/6960  Please write them and share your views.
One final note, I serve as board member of the San Leandro Education Foundation.  I am not speaking on behalf of the foundation.  I am speaking solely for myself.
All the best,
Stephen
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