The Everett School Board Project seeks to implement positive change in the Everett School District by initiating actions that will support the following five Goals which are aimed at increasing learning opportunities and propelling the ESD into achievement and recognition as a top tier school district:
- 100% Student Focus: Become 100% student focused in all programs and policies while directing the maximum amount of operational funds towards educational programs with measurable results.
- Equal Access for All Students: Provide equal access for all students to quality education programs and learning experiences regardless of the school they are assigned to.
- High Standards for All Students: Set high standards for all students regardless of their race, orientation, religion, neighborhood or economic status.
- Effective Programs at All Schools: Seek and implement effective educational programs across all schools in the district.
- Responsive and Courageous Leadership: Elect, hire, and retain responsive and courageous leadership that is willing to disrupt the status quo for the sake of the classroom.
We believe that we have the funding and the quality teachers that are needed to achieve these goals. What we now need is an achievement agenda of priority actions that will allow us to achieve these goals. With that in mind, we propose the 8 priority actions below that are focused at enabling these goals. Each of these 8 priority actions aligns with one or more of the five goals.
- Make the School Board and Meetings More Transparent to the Public: Using technology already built into the new Board Room and existing broadcasting tools on the BoardDocs site, meetings should be broadcast live online to make it easier for busy parents and other taxpayers to stay informed and to provide more timely feedback on learning improvement proposals, bond measures and other expensive projects. Alternatively, adjusting the time of at least one school board meeting a month to start later than 4:30 would allow more public attendance and participation.
- Opt-in to Four-Year School Board Member Terms: Everett School District Board Members’ terms should be reduced from 6 years to 4 years to align with the far majority of school districts in the state. We are one of just 3 districts out of nearly 300 who have 6-year school board terms. State Law says that boards should have 4 year terms, but Everett lobbied the state to be “grandfathered” in when the law changed. Four-year terms would make the school board more accountable to the public more often and put up a majority of the board for re-election from time to time thus allowing real change if desired. This reduction could be done by the school board with a simple vote on a resolution that they could create.
- Hold Bond and Levy Votes During Normal Election Cycles: With the historic double failure of back-to-back bond measures in early 2014, we call upon ESD to hold bond and levy votes during normal election cycles rather than during special election cycles (February and April) traditionally used by school districts. School bonds and levies directly or indirectly create long-term financial obligations for all voters. Consequently, the Everett School District should desire to have the highest voter participation possible on these measures and should hold them either during the August Primary or the November General Election. While it is untypical for schools to hold their bond and levy votes during these times, it is not unheard of (Bellingham placed their 2013 bond measure on the November ballot). During the primary and the general election, the county publishes a Voter’s Guide which would obligate the district to not only provide a published statement in support of the measure but to also allow a group such as the ESBP to provide a statement questioning the measure if it seems excessive or out of line with the economic times.
- Stop Using the Delphi Technique: School districts and other government entities often use the Delphi Technique to essentially manipulate the public towards a predetermined decision when dealing with the community rather than inviting genuine dialogue through unfettered discussions at Round Table or Town Hall style meetings. We recommend that the district hire and promote administrators who can build sincere rapport with parents and other members of the community. Administrators should acknowledge and respond to criticism in a mature, professional and constructive way.
- Start High School Later: Explore the costs and benefits of later high school start times. Sequoia High School starts at 8:20 am – nearly an hour later than other district high schools. Research has shown that teenagers learn better with a later school starting time. The district should set up a community task force to investigate the costs, benefits, and other impacts of starting high schools later with an emphasis on determining whether this would have a positive impact on student learning and achievement.
- Eliminate “Learning Improvement Fridays”: The “Learning Improvement Fridays” that were implemented in 2012 have reduced student class time, but with no verification of an improvement in instruction quality and student learning. There is no way to adequately measure the benefit of 70 minutes of lost instruction time nearly every Friday throughout the school year. Until and unless Learning Improvement Fridays can be statistically rather than anecdotally measured for their success in the classroom, the instruction time should be restored to students. Teachers are paid additional salary from local levy funds for additional time and responsibilities (TRI-pay) and if collaboration time is necessary, it should be done outside of student hours. We recognize the value of collaboration when desired and directed by the teachers themselves, but do not feel it needs to be done at the expense of student education time.
- Eliminate the Culminating Exhibition (CE) graduation requirement: The State Board of Education (SBE) no longer has the CE as a graduation requirement as of the class of 2015. The SBE has however increased (and will continue to increase through 2019) coursework graduation requirements including additional credits for English, Social Studies, Science Labs, World Languages and the Arts. There are many more important and productive activities for high school seniors to spend their limited time and energy on, than a required CE, including: sleep, regular course work, end-of-course exams, college applications, scholarship and financial aid forms, national AP/IB courses and exams, volunteering, part time employment, and additional elective courses of interest. Based on anecdotal discussions with district students, the CE program appears to be widely viewed as a waste of time. We recommend that we eliminate the CE requirement and reallocate this time to other needed requirements.
- Implement an International Baccalaureate (IB) Program at Everett HS: The district should hold a public information meeting and solicit community input about an International Baccalaureate (IB) Program at Everett HS. Variances should be liberally applied for the IB program. A side benefit of such a program at EHS would be to potentially alleviate over-crowding at Cascade and Jackson and shift students into the empty seats at EHS.