Gateway

Peninsula residents to district: 'Both sides need to come together'

Minter Creek Elementary first-graders Kameron Kilner, Angelina Segrera, James Kane, and Nehemiah Grandorff work on writing critiques. Minter Creek is one school in the Peninsula School District targeted for new upgrades if the $220-million bond measure passed in April. On March 22, the Peninsula School District board of directors approved a $3-million budget extension to bring two portables to Minter Creek Elementary to help with overcrowding.
Minter Creek Elementary first-graders Kameron Kilner, Angelina Segrera, James Kane, and Nehemiah Grandorff work on writing critiques. Minter Creek is one school in the Peninsula School District targeted for new upgrades if the $220-million bond measure passed in April. On March 22, the Peninsula School District board of directors approved a $3-million budget extension to bring two portables to Minter Creek Elementary to help with overcrowding. Staff file, 2015

After a disappointing week for the Peninsula School District School District with the proposed $220-million bond failing at the polls Tuesday, the Board of Trustees were met with multiple comments from both sides of the issue during its April 26 meeting.

"I live on Fox Island and I have two children. I am trying to be optimistic,” Todd Fisher told the board during the public comments . “Everyone cares about our kids but in this case everyone has different ideas ... both sides need to move to the middle and see what can be accomplished."

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The bond’s official opposition group, Responsible Taxation of Citizens, spoke to the board during the meeting about their idea for a $50-million levy as a way to extend an “olive branch” to the district.

Randy Boss, one of the three founders of Responsible Taxation of Citizens, was the first to speak during public comments. He said the election process was "fun,” and gave a congrats to the board for getting 58.8 percent of the vote. He said he wants to work with the district to put the levy on the August ballot.

"Obviously we have no authority,” Boss said. “Now that we have formalized and have support, we want to work with the board to get a package together. A levy only needs a 50 percent vote.”

Local resident John Fry spoke to the board as well, saying he felt both sides created tensions but said the district needed to refocus on its goals and start involving the public more in the campaign process.

"You chose to treat voters like a business would consumers, with marketing,” Fry said. “We deserve more from our leaders. You should be crafting a new proposal that will win the entire community."

The bond’s official “yes” group, Stand Up for Peninsula Schools, was also at the meeting and chose to defend itself as well as encourage the district to try again.

"Misinformation failed this bond. I urge you to push for another bond and not work with the (Responsible Taxation of Citizens),” Peter Nash, a local residentin favor of passing the bond, said. “The (Responsible Taxation of Citizens) proposal was a campaign tool. That plan was made without experts and either does not cover all they claim or it cuts off salaries.”

"Together we put in over 3,500 hours calling and knocking on doors,” Jennifer Butler, co-chair of Stand Up for Peninsula Schools, said. “We had correct information and braved the world of social media with it. Despite the loss ... 58.8 percent of our community said yes.”

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Towards the end of the meeting, the board commented on their own disappointments but no action was taken on any future ballot measures of bond projects.

NEW MATH CURRICULUM APPROVED FOR MIDDLE SCHOOLS

Chaya Venkatesh, secondary instruction administrator for the district, previously presented a resolution to the board during the March 22 meeting which recommended changing the math curriculum at the middle schools. The board voted unanimously to approve the change in curriculum Thursday, and middle school students will start using Illustrative Math for its curriculum.

Illustrative Math has been piloted by a few district teachers in their classes with some success. A survey of teachers show the curriculum has high engagement, is accessible to all students and has uniform assessments.

A big change the students love is, instead of one big textbook, students receive workbooks for each unit, Venkatesh said. Instead of chapters and notebooks, students keep small workbooks they can write on, work in and refer back to.

“The kids get excited over having new colored books every unit,” Venkatesh said.

"Having a book to write in is nice instead of having an old textbook,” one student said in the anonymous survey.

The students also collaborate together which has made them more active in class and Illustrative Math is the top-rated math curriculum, according to EdReports.org, an educator-led, evidence-based review organization that reviews and recommended curriculum for students in kindergarten through 12th grade.

The cost for this curriculum is estimated at $71,550, which includes $40,000 for student materials, $2,800 for teacher materials, $8,000 for pilot teachers, $20,000 for teachers who are new to the curriculum and $750 for leadership training. The estimated cost did not include the cost to purchase new materials, such as the usable workbooks, each year or any ongoing professional training for teachers.

OTHER BUSINESS

The board voted unanimously to remove a policy regarding teaching driver’s education as the district has decided to not move forward with driver’s education at any of the high schools.

"We are no longer offering traffic safety education,” Superintendent Rob Manahan said.

Manahan cited issues with a lack of staffing to monitor students in completing the required hours as the main reason why the district decided to pull the program.

Director Deb Krishnasadah asked if the local businesses that teach driver’s education are able to give classes during the school year and during multiple times a day. She expressed concerns about students who do not have time to attend class after school. Assistant Superintendent Dan Gregory said local businesses offer the courses during different times of the day and all year, sometimes at cheaper rates than the school offered.

The board voted to pull the policy. Driver’s education will not be provided by the district, starting with the 2018-19 school year.

Danielle Chastaine: 253-358-4155, @gateway_danie
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