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District Addresses Fiscal Woes, Forges Ahead with Grade Configuration

The district has been discussing how to best satisfy students by offering a wide variety of programs to avoid families opting for private schools.

Parents and community members came ready to speak at Wednesday night’s school board meeting about various programmatic changes that would better prepare Redwood City students for real-world situations. Among the topics were project-based learning, a Spanish Immersion school and difficult wait lists.

Despite these tangible goals, the district is in a constant tangle with the state, which predicts a shortfall of roughly $9.2 billion for next year’s budget. The budget hinges on on the November ballot. If the measures are not passed, public school funding would be slashed by $5.2 million, with $4.8 billion to K-12 education and community colleges.

The onus then falls on local districts, which won’t receive 62 percent of their payments from the state until July. Consequently, the district cannot pay all its bills or staff and must resort to borrowing money, resulting in high interest payments.

“We must make the best of a bad hand that was dealt to us on the state level,” said trustee Shelly Masur.

Upon the district’s fifth year without raises for its teachers and staff, Wednesday’s board meeting focused heavily on thanking those who have endured the recent hardships imposed by the government and awarded 28 members of staff who have been with the district for 20 plus years.

The district also continued discussions regarding potential programmatic changes, including expanding from K-6 to K-8. In May 2011, the board from K-5 to K-6.

Parents and students of Roosevelt spoke at the meeting, praising the PBL program for its teaching of life skills such as strategizing, leadership skills, and conflict resolution to PBL students. The project-based learning program for instilling creativity and critical thinking skills in students.

“Families who want PBL in middle school, will get PBL in middle school,” said Masur, reassuring anxious parents and students.

Masur further suggested that the PBL program be introduced to all the schools across the district, because the schools are currently not preparing students for future careers.

While the idea of a new K-8 school, possibly Spanish immersion, being introduced to the district was proposed, it is still far in the future for the district, as budget shortfall prohibits the establishment of an entirely new school, the district said. However, the school board came to the consensus that the district will remain mixed as far as grade configuration.

And without the syncing of K-8 schools throughout the district, the need for more viable middle schools moving arose, as did the perpetual desire for smaller class sizes, and the issue of of the school district.

“We’re trying to move 27 moving parts,” said board member Dennis McBride. “If we make a decision in one, it impacts all the others.”  

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Zeke Mead April 26, 2012 at 02:07 PM
While I love the concept of keeping kids in one school K-8, the reality appears to limit our ability to cater to students specific needs at the higher grades. In middle school, some kids naturally excel faster in certain subjects than others, but a single K-8 school with 600-800 total kids won't have more than one math class so everyone is limited to essentially one level of math offered. In contrast, look at Kennedy, a true 6-8 middle school. It has several math class levels offered because they have enough students to meet everyones needs. Math is one example, but they are available in all subjects. Parents need to understand the downside to keeping their kids in the environment they're comfortable with and the district needs to create a middle school on the east side of town to serve folks who don't want to travel across town.
Merrily April 26, 2012 at 02:11 PM
Congrats to our LOYAL EMPLOYEES!!! A couple of people I know got 30 and 35 YEARS recognition!!! Thank you for your longevity in serving RCSD!!!
Sarah H. April 26, 2012 at 04:33 PM
I think that as long as there are K-8 schools, then the true middle schools will continue to suffer. In the K-8 middle schools now, there are essentially 3 teachers per grade that cover various subjects. All the kids have the same 3 teachers, however, the kids are divided into two segments - the high group and the low group (this is what the kids themselves call it) - who shuffle together throughout the day to their various classes. I don't think this segmentation creates a positive atmosphere. And if you have a kid in a K-8 school, then you're likely to keep them at that K-8 school through middle school if only because few or none of their peers will be moving on to the local middle school. Contrast that to the old approach, where all of the schools were K-6, and then all fed into Jr. High Schools for grades 7-8. I think that approach was a good one. Perhaps the elementary schools now should all be K-5 and then feed into good 6-8 middle schools. But as long as you have some schools this way and some schools that way, there's not going to be a clean approach to having quality middle schools whose focus is truly preparing these kids for high school. As it stands now, with the K-8 schools having over 2/3 of their population being K-6 kids, where do you think their primary focus lies? With middle schools situated within the elementary schools it seems that there is not adequate staff or resources to offer a quality middle school experience.
Judi Mathers April 30, 2012 at 07:36 PM
Unlike Merrily, I see a void in the experienced longterm teachers in this district. Could this be related to the district's penchant for driving the best, experienced staff out the door as they are "too expensive" to the district? One had her classes loaded annually with the KNOWN behavior problems from the prior year. Another was given few supplies. A third was written up for missing the grades submission although she had reported her computer program was faulty. The VP (who still can't remember why kids are sent to him) ignored her requests for help but vilified her for missing the grade deadline!!! She retired. Perhaps Merrily should ponder the inappropriateness of asking veteran teachers in the staff room WHEN they will retire to make room for others. Doesn't exactly embrace diversity now, does it?

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