Sunday, June 29, 2014

Roosevelt Tragedy Should Stimulate Community Pre-K ReAssessment

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Last Thursday, the City Council chambers were filled with advocates and supporters of our District 742 early childhood education services.   We provide support for parent education, special education for students with disabilities, regular early childhood education services, support for children with substantial psychiatric challenges, and some collaboration with private providers in the District.  With the destruction of Roosevelt by lightning and fire, the board invited advocates for early childhood services to speak to the board, in part to celebrate the school's past, but also to provide a vision for a possible future.  Those who spoke urged us to provide coherent, integrated services in a single comprehensive state of the art facility and that clearly makes sense.  Hopefully, replacement cost coverage for the destroyed building will provide a financial foundation for making that possible.   Supporters appearing at our meeting included teachers, parents, specialists, and representatives of other organizations with a stake in early childhood services, such as the United Way and Boys and Girls Club.  

I hope as well, that the tragic loss of the old facilities will trigger a comprehensive community review of where we currently stand as a community in the provision of early childhood services, and what we should aspire to become.  And I believe that the answer to that is that we must aspire to provide early childhood services in our community at a level that is second to none in America.   Our school district cannot do this alone.  It would take collaboration among private child care providers, the United Way, community and private foundations large and small, communities of faith, city and county government, Head Start, and individual citizens.    If we want to be a truly liveable city --- if we aspire to become a community of citizens who are financially independent and who all  live above the poverty line,  if we want to attract economic investment that offers high wage employment, if we want to maintain and expand our growing  health care, post secondary education, and technology industries, we must make sure that we provide highly educated population ready to provide the workforce skills necessary for the 21st century.      As long as a large number children are coming to our schools two or three years behind, we cannot expect to realize our full potential as a commercial, industrial, professional economic hub for central Minnesota.   We need to get way more ambitious in our efforts to promote high quality early childhood education for all families who want and need it. 

A number of communities in the United States have undertaken truly ambitious pre-K community programs.   The City of Tulsa has recently been covered in a National Public Radio program," Early Childhood Education, Tulsa, stands out."  Union City, New Jersey, one of the nation’s poorest urban centers, armed with funding provided as a result of groundbreaking state constitutional litigation, has allegedly made significant progress in part by adopting a major pre-K initiative in coordination with its public school systems,   Itasca County’s public school districts and others have combined to initiate “Invest Early.  ”   Cincinnati Strive has made early childhood education a central shared objective of the public schools, municipalities and counties, and the diocese among other partner.

Our community has not yet undertaken a commitment to doing what it takes to accomplish the objective of universal quality pre-K.   Partners for Student Success has been challenging us to do that., but we as a community have not yet bought into this vision.  The choice we face as a community, I believe, is whether we want to make incremental change, inching our way forward, as resources permit, towards the ultimate but unreachable goal, or whether we want to set ambitious objectives, funded by grants, or special taxing authority, or special legislative authority, or by a constitutional litigation like that which resulted in the funding of Union City.   At the rate we are now moving forward, it is not at all clear that in two decades time we will be any further along towards the objective of universal pre-k than we are today.  Let us use the Roosevelt tragedy as a reminder of the great good that quality pre-K education can do for our community.   

We properly  grieved for the children who lost their early childhood education facility through the tragedy of lightning and fire.     But other children in our community don't have quality early childhood education at all....didn't have it before the lightning struck, and won't have it after we replace the facility, because our community has not yet recognized the importance of universal pre k.   That absence of quality services for all arises not from an accidental lightning strike, but from an equally tragic failure of our community to recognize that we cannot thrive economically and socially as long as we have children who come to school without the skills and attitudes necessary for effective learning.  

What are the elements of a successful Pre-K community initiative?   The literature seems to support the following objectives.

A.        All students whose families want Pre-K education, receive it.  To provide children with a solid foundation for success before they enter school, we need to start treating pre-K as a fundamental component of the education system, not an optional add-on.  Universal access to voluntary, high-quality pre-kindergarten programs for all 3- and 4-year-olds whose parents want pre-K serviced.   I believe that we have not yet as a community accepted this as a community mission.   Adopting this as a central mission—objective—would require us to assess the cost of meeting this objective, and then undertaking to find additional resources to meet that objective.    Transferring scarce funds out of elementary and secondary education is not sufficient, because the research makes it clear that early childhood initiatives only pay dividends when they are followed by outstanding elementary and secondary programs. 

B.                 Properly Trained Teachers.   Pre-K programs employ highly skilled teachers who have appropriate credentials. “Teachers working with young children must have higher education levels that enable them to support that development.” In a truly successful program,   “Qualified teachers with both a bachelor’s degree and specialized training in how young children learn.”   There are some major policy choices to be made if we take this objective seriously.   Public school teacher costs are significantly higher than non-union pre-K programs.   But many non-public school programs do not attract and retain  appropriately qualified teachers.

C.              Outstanding Curriculum.  Pre-K programs must also have clearly-defined, developmentally-appropriate curricula and expectations of children’s learning that are aligned with expectations for elementary and secondary students. Quality, developmentally appropriate curriculum and standards aligned from pre-K through third grade.   

D.          Monitoring/Continuous Improvement.  Equally important, policymakers must develop systems and infrastructure to monitor the quality of pre-K programs and hold them accountable by tracking comprehensive indicators of child development and long-term effects of pre-K programs on children’s academic performance in school.

E.       Integration with K-3 Education.  Research that shows that pre-K programs can improve student learning also shows that they are not as effective if children move from quality pre-K programs into poor- quality elementary schools that are ill-equipped to sustain pre-K learning gains.  Strong leadership committed to providing children with a seamless educational experience.  We must ensure that all educators working with young children in this age range have a solid understanding of early childhood development, recognize the importance of the PreK-3rd years in children’s development, and are committed to creating a seamless educational experience in these years.   Merely calling ourselves “partners” cannot achieve this objective.  It is easy to form a partnership in name, but actually assuring robust and coordinated curriculum demands developing concrete mechanisms to make the objective a reality.

F.       Emphasis on both academics and social/emotional development in early grades. If our schools are to be effective in preparing our youngest children for success—in school, work, family, and life— they must prioritize social and emotional development in the PreK-3rdyears,  as well as academics.

G.           Alignment  Standards, curricula, formative assessments, and instructional strategies must be aligned with one another so that all work together to support children’s learning. This alignment must be both vertical—from grade to grade—and horizontal, so that all elements work together and children in different classrooms have a common learning experience. Standards must be aligned from grade to grade and over the course of the year, so that children’s learning builds in a seamless progression on top of what they already know.

 H.         Parental Engagement.  Effective PreK-3rd educational systems do not operate in a vacuum, but actively establish connections with the parents and communities they serve. Parental engagement is important at all levels of the educational system, but it is particularly important in the early years. PreK-3rd programs must also respect and reflect the broader cultures and communities their children come from.

I.        Coordinate with University Education   Actually transforming university education requires courageous action at the university level, because the Minnesota University culture is not always ready for change.

J.        Develop Targeted Programs for Non-English Speakers and their Parents

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Building a Mega High School is Wrong for Our Community

Former Board member Bruce Hentges  and a very few others are actively campaigning that the School District should close Apollo High School and consolidate the two high schools into on mega high school.   The vision they offer is a new mega-high school designed for 3000 students or more.   People who support the mega high school concept argue that we could deliver a vast array of courses in a Wayzata style high school more cheaply in a single high school.  This vision, of a gigantic mega-high school is exactly the wrong direction and it fundamentally contradicts the vision of our strategic plan.

The consolidated mega-high school approach has been rejected decisively by each of the three facilities task forces that have considered high school replacement in the last decade.  In the most recent, the 2011 task force, the concept was aggressively supported by a small minority of task force members. At the end of the task force's work, the task force voted 46-6 against a consolidated high school plan.

The claim that we can save money by replacing our two high schools with one mega-high school is totally unsupportable.  The claim, in fact, is grossly absurd.   In the first place, a consolidated single high school would cost about $40 million more to construct and would take Apollo High School out of service unnecessarily.  At three percent interest, the excess bond costs to taxpayers over 30 years would be $2 million a year in extra interest and $40 million in extra principal, for a total of an extra $60 million in costs.  .If we were going to choose a single-high school solution, we would need to have $60 million dollars’ worth of reasons to go ultra-big, but research almost uniformly tells us that mega high schools are not cheaper to run, that they produce less welcoming environments, and lower academic results.   Why would we pay more to get less?

Moreover, putting construction costs aside, the literature clearly rejects the contention that 3000 student high schools are cheaper per student to run than 1500 student schools, and actually supports the conclusion that cost per student rises at least above 2000 students, and probably at an even lower level.  Nothing in our strategic plan suggest that we are supposed to  model ourselves on the Wayzata model, in fact quite the opposite. We have significant cultural, economic, and demographic differences from Wayzata.   We have plenty of high performing students with strong home support for learning, and those students do well in most any environment.  But our strategic plan was designed around all of our students.  

Erroneous Claims of Cost Savings  
Suppose we were willing to spend $40 million more of taxpayer dollars to build a mega high school:  proponents argue that it would be worth the money, because it might save us money in operating costs as compensation.   They seem to argue that it would be ok to ask taxpayers to spend millions more for high school space we don't currently need, beause we would save operating costs over time.

But this argument is actually wrong, because mega schools actually cost more per student to run.  So we would be buying a bigger building that would cost more to run to boot.  In their 2005 literature review, “Effects of School Size: A Review of the Literature with Recommendation, professors Slate and Jones write:
In spite of the face validity of school consolidation as a solution for educational problems, the research on school size indicates that the economic and curricular advantages of large schools are often exaggerated...... 

Slate and Jones argue that the weight of evidence demonstrates that increasing the size of schools over 1000 does not actually improve economic efficiency--the cost per student--but actually causes it to decline, they argue:  

When school size is considered in isolation, schools between 500 and 1,000 students are probably operating at peak economic efficiency already (Turner & Thrasher, 1970). Thus, with regard to economies of scale, current research does not support school consolidation of schools that already have 500 or more students. Nor does this literature support consolidation that would result in a school of more than 1000 students. [While efficiencies occur from consolidations up to 500 students, the article continues...] before consolidating schools with fewer than 500 students, educational decision-makers need to consider additional factors such as transportation costs in determining the likely cost effectiveness of this action.  

Why might size increases beyond 1000 students result in cost inefficiencies?   One very obvious factor, of course, is that a very large high school, must support a much larger transportation network, because the extra-large school must draw students from a larger geographic area.   But another is that at some point enrollment increases the demand for extra layers of administration.  For example, the principal in a high school supervises professionals, and that involves supervision, coordination, and communication.   When size increases, the number of professionals supervised gets larger and larger, it becomes difficult for the principal to meet and supervise with all staff, and that means that the principal needs assistant principals or other principals to conduct that supervision, and increasingly, the head principal becomes a supervisors of supervisors, and the supervision is conducted in layers of supervision.   As the school gets more people supervising more people, layers of bureaucracy can build up within the school. 

 Very small schools often are forced to deliver courses with small class sizes, because even required or critical elective courses may not draw enough students.  But as school size increases, the literature explains, it becomes possible to insist on reasonable class sizes for all offerings.   The benefits derived from class size-efficiencies, then fall away, and increasing administrative and transportation costs supplant them.  This creates a U-Shaped cost curve in which at first increasing school size reduces cost per student, but at somewhere around 1000 students, the cost per student rises again.

….a number of researchers have explored the causes of this U-shaped relationship 
between school size and per pupil cost.   Monk (1992) found that savings projected for a number of expenses simply did not occur with large school size……Fox (1981) noted that as long as increasing school size results in larger pupil/teacher ratios, per pupil expenditures will drop.  Once maximum class size is reached, however, no additional savings are possible, but continued increase in school size will continue to increase administrative costs.  That is, the need for additional administrative staff continues to grow with increased school size even after maximum student-teacher ratios are reached (Haller, 1992, McKenzie, 1983).    McGuire (1989) concluded that schools with an enrollment above 2000 were located on the upward slope of the cost curve and that their continued combination of teaching personnel and course offerings could be made available in a smaller and more economical setting.

 A report to the Oregon State Legislature describes a similar results from a review of high school size and cost.

 “Most recent studies have concluded that the costs savings from larger school sizes have not materialized, primarily because administrative costs tend to increase as school sizes increase, eating up much of the costs savings. At the other end of the spectrum, the benefits of smallness diminish below a certain level, with costs per student rising dramatically as class sizes in small schools inevitably fall. As a result of these findings, a number of researchers have estimated that the optimal high school size is between 500 and 1,000 students.”

Mega Schools Don’t Produce Superior Results

 A study by Knowledge Works, summarizes why the weight of modern research shows consolidating into large schools does not produce promised academic gains:

  The research about the value of smaller schools shows that small schools are safer schools and better places for students to work with adults who know them and whom they trust (Barker & Gump[1], 1964; Wasley[2], 2000; Cotton[3], 2001). Small schools graduate a higher percentage of students. Students drop out of small schools at lower rates than they do from large schools, and more students who graduate from small schools go on to post-secondary education than do their counterparts who graduate from large schools. There is less violence in small schools, less vandalism, a heightened sense of belonging, and better attendance. Students earn higher grade point averages, and more participate in extracurricular activities. There is greater teacher satisfaction in small schools than there is in large schools. Members of the community including parents and other relatives are more involved with the life of small schools than are their counterparts in large schools—for the same reasons as their children (Cotton, 2001).

The research in this area is endless but it rejects extra large high schools overwhelmingly.   The great thrust of research challenges the assertion that more courses translates into a better education or better educational results.   Effective high schools assure that students master the core.  They provide a reasonable range of options, of course.  They must assure that bright students are challenged, and they must assure appropriate interventions or remediation for students who are behind.   But when students are selecting from dozens of literature options it is difficult to assure implementation and design of a quality comprehensive curriculum and to assure that all students are progressing through the necessary reading objectives.

 Our kids need more from their school than lots of courses and powerful sports teams.  Here in St. Cloud, we hear from our students that they want to go to school in an environment where their teachers know them, where teacher care enough to support them when they need a boost.  If we remain faithful to our strategic plan we don’t need to engage in micro-scrutiny of the potential costs of running a mega high school, or the potential extra course offerings.   Our strategic plan is pointing us in a completely different direction.  

Schools like Wayzata can, and often do, offer multiple levels of journalism courses, boutique literature courses (such as Detective-Gothic literature, the Graphic Novel, and Science Fiction/Fantasy literature), and a wide variety of other luxury courses (five levels of drawing, six levels of pottery and ceramics)  that are not necessary to provide a quality core program of academics.  It is probably true, that a 3000 student high school can offer more layers of journalism courses than a 1000 student high school, and if providing a smorgasbord of courses were part of our strategic plan, then perhaps a mega high school would be worth at least a discussion.     But I see absolutely nothing in our strategic plan that remotely suggests that our community’s primary objective is to see how many different courses their children can choose from.     In fact, to the contrary, we were asked to create a more welcoming, more supportive, more community based environment than we currently have.  The literature tells us that creating mega high schools undermine all of these objectives.   Why are we even giving serious considering to an option that would completely turn our strategic plan upside down? 

We should be starting, as our strategic plan suggests, by looking to the core of what constitutes a highly effective high school.  Marzano is not the only basis for our strategic plan, but reviewing what he calls upon us to do, would give focus to what high school design is about.   Highly effective schools provide:
  • ·         A Safe and Orderly Environment That Supports Cooperation and Collaboration.  In highly effective schools, the faculty and staff perceive the school environment as safe and orderly.  For example, students, parents, and the community perceive the school environment as safe and orderly.   Teachers have formal roles in the decision - making process regarding school initiatives.    Teacher teams and collaborative groups regularly interact to address common issues regarding curriculum, assessment, instruction, and the achievement of all students.  Teachers and staff have formal ways to provide input regarding the optimal functioning of the school.
  •  ·         An instructional framework that develops and maintain effective instruction in every classroom. In an effective school, support is provided to teachers to continually enhance their pedagogical skills through reflection and professional growth plans.  Predominant instructional practices throughout the school are known and monitored.   Teachers are provided with clear, ongoing evaluations of their pedagogical strengths and weaknesses that are based on multiple sources of data and are consistent with student achievement data.  …..
  • ·         A guaranteed and viable curriculum focused on enhancing student learning.   In highly effective schools the school curriculum is focused enough so that it can be adequately addressed in the time available to teachers. …. Data are analyzed, interpreted and to regularly monitor progress toward school achievement goals.  Appropriate school-level and classroom-level programs and practices are in place to help students meet individual achievement goals when data indicate interventions are needed.
  • ·         A Standards - referenced System of reporting student progress.    Clear and measurable goals are established and focused on critical needs regarding improving achievement of individual students within the school.  Data are analyzed, interpreted, and used to regularly monitor progress toward achievement goals for individual students.  
  •  ·         A Competency - Based System That Ensures Student Mastery of Content.     In a highly effective school, students move on to the next level of the curriculum for any subject area only after they have demonstrated competence at the previous level.  The school schedule is designed to accommodate students moving at a pace appropriate to their backgrounds and needs.  Students who have demonstrated competency levels greater than those articulated in the system are afforded immediate opportunities to begin work on advanced content and/or career paths of interest
 There is no evidence --- none --that consolidating high schools into mega high schools would promote any of these objectives.  In fact there is a ton of evidence that very large high schools interfere with those objectives by creating a less welcoming, less collaborative, less accountable, more disjointed teaching and learning environment.   These highly effective school components are integrated into our strategic plan, and they resonate throughout the things that our superintendent is calling upon principals, executive directors, teachers and all of us to accomplish.    We need to deliver on our commitment to create highly effective schools, not just for some students, but for all our students.  

We agreed that we would be making decisions with a focus on promoting those objectives and consolidating our two high schools does neither.   Nothing in our strategic plan calls upon us to mechanically calculate whether we can offer more journalism, more pottery, and more science fiction literature courses than any other high school in the state.   We are driven instead by our strategic plan to provide a quality core education for all of our students and to do so in a more welcoming environment.   We should be driven by creating a highly effective high school that works for all of our students, and everything we do going forward towards high school design should be focused like a laser on that objective.

[1] Barker R. & Gump, P. (1964). Big school small school: High school size and student behavior. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press
[2] Wasley, P. A. & Lear, R. J. (2001, March). Small schools, real gains. Educational Leadership. 58 (6), 22-27.
[3] Cotton, K. (2001, December). New small learning communities: Findings from recent literature. Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory,

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Nobody's Proposing to Create a Small High School in St. Cloud

There's been quite a bit of confusion in our community about the so-called "small schools," issue.    About 10 years ago, the folks at the Gates Foundation came to believe that we could improve public schools by breaking up large schools and reconstituting those schools into several small schools.  Gates foundation reasoned that many of the best performing public schools were small schools, and they concluded that if larger schools could be closed and the students moved into small schools, that the resulting small schools would do better.  Nobody is proposing to do that in St. Cloud.    The hoopla and debate around the Gates Foundation small schools initiative is completely irrelevant to the issue we face in addressing our need to replace Technical High School.

The two-high school initiative to replace Tech High School would simply build a brand new high school further to the south and move its students into that new school.   The resulting high school would not be a small school. It would be one of the larger high schools in Central Minnesota.  The one high school solution proposed by some is to consolidate two large schools into one giant mega high school.  When consolidated, the new mega high school would serve all of the public school students in a 250 square mile area from Clearwater, to St. Augusta, to Waite Park, to St. Joseph and of course all of St. Cloud.   The new high school would restructure what has been 2 high schools for about half a century, and turn them into one.    The area served by the new high school would be five times that of most of the very large high schools in Minnesota.  Over five times the area of Wayzata, or Edina, or the individual large Anoka Hennipen High schools.   The new extra large high school would be like no other extra large high school in the state.  Students would travel father to school; they would be drawn from more communities, and there would be vastly more room for future population growth within its borders.

Some of the proponents of the mega high schools claim that we focus on the fact that the Gates Foundations efforts to break up existing large high schools into small high schools did not result in promised improved student achievement.   But that argument totally misses the point.   The Gates Initiative took existing high schools and broke them into brand new reconstituted small high schools with student populations of 400 or 500.  If we were going to do that, we would take Technical High School and build three or four really small high schools, completely reorganize the high school itself, hire a principal for each of the new schools, break up the math departments, social studies departments, divide up the school library and science labs and so on.   In fact, the research and review of the Gates initiatives suggest that one of the problems with the break up strategy was that Gates schools were busted up schools, that had to start all over again reorganizing the administrative structure and faculty. 

We face a completely different question in St. Cloud.   We can spend from 70 to 90 million to construct a replacement for Tech High School, with a student population of about 1500 students,   Or, we can spend 40 million dollars more than that and reconstitute our two high schools into one.  If we are going to spend 40 million dollars more to build a mega high school, somebody should come forward with research that demonstrates that putting together two 1500 student high schools into one returns a huge academic achievement dividend.  There is simply no evidence that consolidating two already large high schools into one mega high school results in a better high school experience, higher graduation rates, or better test scores.  We'd be spending an extra 40 million dollars to achieve nothing.    And, the overwhelming weight of research says that the result will be a decline in graduation rates and an inferior high school experience. 


Thursday, June 5, 2014

Clearview K-8 a Wise Investment for our Community

On Wednesday, our school board  will likely to take the next step towards approving several additions to existing schools in order to accommodate increasing enrollment in the elementary grades. The purpose of this post is to provide some background on the enrollment trends that are causing these additions, and to explain why I believe that it is critical to the future of our collective communities that we preserve and strengthen our system of community schools by investing in school expansion and replacment when the need arises.   

Old timers will recall that back in 1992, the school district constructed three new elementary schools, Talahi, Discovery and Oak Hill.   Partly construction of those schools reflected a significant change in the population distribution in the St. Cloud area.   Older schools were all placed in an arc on the north side of St. Cloud from Lincoln and Jefferson,  to Washington, Garfield, Tech, North, Apollo and McKinley.  Those schools were located because old St. Cloud's population had been concentrated heavily towards the northen half of St. Cloud.    

As population shifted to the South and Southwest, these older smaller schools were geographically out of place.  Most of them were much smaller schools, and as a variety of financial challenges struck the district in the 1980's and 1990's, these older schools seemed more expensive to run in addition to being in the wrong place.  Three new larger more modern schools were built to address some of these needs.  At the time, the school district was projecting that enrollment would continue to grow to 11,000 or higher.  

During the 1990’s total enrollment in our school district fell at a rate of about 200 students per year, however, resulting in a loss in revenue of about $1,000,000 per year.   Running older partly empty schools seemed like an unaffordable luxury.   After three years of heated debate in the community, in 2003, the then school board decided to close Jefferson, Roosevelt and McKinley.   They also gave serious consideration to closing a fourth smaller elementary school, Lincoln Elementary.   The closure of those three elementary schools removed about 849  seats from our elementary school capacity.

Starting in about 2007, an enrollment turnaround began in the elementary grades.   From 2009 to 2014, elementary enrollment (including 6th grade) rose by 694 students or 20%.   Enrollment increased for a variety of reasons, but most of the elementary enrollment increase after 2007 has been concentrated in four schools:  
  • Clearview:   From 2009-2014 K-6 enrollment at Clearview increased by 132, (about 25%).  Clearview's 2017 enrollment is projected to be 250 students higher than its 2007 enrollment.  The school is functioning with temporary classrooms.  A number of critical functions are being conducted in unacceptably cramped quarters.
  • Madison:   From 2009 to 2014, Madison Elementary (K-5) grew by 284 students (over 33%).  Madison's  2017 enrollment is projected to be 244 higher than its 2007 enrollment, even though it lost its sixth grade to North in 2007. 
  • Kennedy Elementary:  From 2009 to 2014, Kennedy Elementary’s K-6 enrollment increased by 154 (about 30%).  Kennedy's 2017 K-6 enrollment is projected to be 235 higher (56%) than its 2007 enrollment. Kennedy's  enrollment increase coincided with the construction of a K-8 new Kennedy.     Before construction of new Kennedy, many leaders in St. Joseph were calling for formation of an independent school district, because they wanted a community school that would meet their local needs.  Construction of the new Kennedy, with its environmental theme, cemented a strong relationship between the district as a whole and the St. Joseph community.  ((In the five years from 2009 to 2014, Kennedy’s K-8 enrollment increased by 197 students, and by 2017 itsK-8 enrollment is projected to have doubled from about 400 to 800 students.)
  • Lincoln Elementary.   Having narrowly escaped the closing decision back in 2003, from 2009 to 2014 Lincoln Elementary’s K-6 enrollment increased by 68 students or 20%, even though it lost its 6th grade. Its K-5- enrollment during that time period increased by 100, or about 33%.
Together these four schools accounted for a 2009-2014 elementary enrollment growth of 670 students--- in other words, nearly equal to the entire elementary enrollment growth in the  district. Thus three of the schools with the largest enrollment growth benefited from  major district efforts to make those schools more attractive to their community. Madison and Clearview initiated language immersion programs.   Kennedy reinforced its relationship with the St.  Joseph community by  instituting a K-8 configuration and received a brand new building.

There are many reasons for our school district’s enrollment growth:  immigration has played a part.  A new post-baby-boom population growth cycle helped reverse the downward trend in population growth. An economy that has made enrollment in private schools more challenging may have caused the return of some families.   But without question, an important component in the enrollment growth in our district has been efforts to serve communities with community schools.   Where the community has confidence in their community school, enrollment growth is more likely to follow.   
  The proposals before the Board of Education represent part of an ongoing building program designed over time to address the enrollment shifts and enrollment increases.   In the past few years, the district shifted some of our sixth grades into the  junior highs, leading to a middle school configuration that has been discussed for several decades.  But the side benefit of these shifts was that it delayed for a time the necessity of adding new elementary space (especially during a time of deep recession).    We added classroom space to Madison Elementary and made small school border shifts.   We added classrooms to South to help accommodate the shift of 6th grades to the middle school configuration, which relieved crowding pressure on Oak Hill and other elementaries.  

We added temporary classrooms at Clearview to address the marked increase in enrollment there.   
The situation in Clearview is paralllel to that in St.  Joseph several years ago.  Clearviews community is growing, and the enrollment at the school is growing at a rapid rate.  Building a parallel K-8 on the east end of the district has the prospect of attracting back some of the resident students who were in the past siphoned away from the district by Annandale and Becker.  But most importantly, the Kennedy experience proves that when our larger district meets the needs of its constituent communities, our district is strengthened.      When we recognize the needs of our constituent communities the entire 250 square mile district benefits.  Building a K-8 in St. Joseph was one of the wisest decisions our district has made:  it restored our bond with the St. Joseph community.  It brought back some of the families that had been looking elsewhere for public education.  And, it has kept St. Joseph families in our school community through high school 

For all of these reasons, I strongly support the K-8 proposal for Clearview, just as I supported the K-8 proposal for St. Joseph.