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NUSD Boundaries Recommendations

Recommendations for new boundaries for elementary, middle and high schools are being made at next week's special Board meeting.

Hot off the presses -- or hot off the web, as it were -- come the recommendations being presented by Novato Unified School District Superintendent Shalee Cunningham to the Board of Trustees on Tuesday, March 13, beginning at 6 p.m.

The recommendations come from the work done by consultant Jack Schreder & Associates in conjunction with the NUSD-created Facilities Planning Committee comprised of district employees, parents, site staff and Board members.

What's being recommended?

1.  Grandfather in all students at their current schools.

2.  Use Scenario A boundaries for middle and high schools. (The map in the uploaded PDF shows the boundaries.)

3.  Transition Rancho into a neighborhood school.

4.  Create a more limited boundary for Rancho, allowing it to have space for neighborhood students and non-neighborhood students.

Feel free to discuss amongst yourselves. And at the Board meeting Tuesday.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Drexel March 14, 2012 at 03:15 AM
Amen!
Drexel March 14, 2012 at 03:34 AM
2nd to LAST in district funds, but first in PTA funds. "Parent involvement", remember! Do the math! We all can't afford to give our students tablets.
Retired Teacher March 14, 2012 at 04:01 AM
As a former teacher following this debate it breaks my heart to see what this has done to the Novato community. I wish there were an easy fix. Obviously all sides feel very strongly. Unfortunately what I'm about to say is going to anger the Rancho community. I do feel it's about time Rancho becomes a neighborhood school. They are not doing anything special to warrant a lottery only enrollment system. I've worked at a magnet school and a charter school. Rancho is neither, nor has it ever been either. At one point, it was an Essentialist school, but that status is long gone. Let's get over this nonsense and come to the realization that Ranchk has done well for as long as it has because of it's demographics. There is research to back it up. Are there exceptions? You bet. There are great schools with high EL populations. But again, they're the exception. Let's come together now and figure out how we can make these new boundaries work for all the children in our community. And if you don't like them, the choice is yours to go to private school.
an angry parent March 14, 2012 at 04:24 AM
Former Teacher I respect your opinion. But let's be honest as tax payers we have a right to good public schools. We are stuck with the tenure crap, over paid admins and under respected children. The children are our future. The superintendent and other admins are a joke!
Tim D March 14, 2012 at 05:35 AM
Rancho's success is attributable to its engaged, motivated parent 'demographic'. It's certainly not due to the demographics of Rancho's catchment area. I agree the debate should not be so much about new boundaries. Our focus should be on reforming an education system that's very broken & flawed from the top down. Education will continue to deteriorate until there's a wholesale revolution in the bureaucratic mindsets of school administrators, the good teachers seize back control from a corrupt union that's stifling critical education reform & more parents assume accountability for raising kids who actually want to learn. Rancho will become a prime case study of a misguided community that systematically dismantled one of its few success stories. Hasn't anyone stopped to figure out that the very reason a lottery evolved is because Ranch offered a better product & therefore is in greater demand! It's a universal economic axiom that higher quality & scarcity generates higher value, greater demand - hence the need to ration which manifested itself in the form of a reasonably equitable lottery system. Novato should focus on replicating more successful schools like Rancho, not destroying them under the guise of 'diversity', 'neighborhood' or 'fairness'. This approach will harm the 'have nots' far more than the 'haves', who will always have greater mobility & better access to more options. Dismantling Rancho is wrong. Novato kids, taxpayers & homeowners will all suffer.
Tim D March 14, 2012 at 05:45 AM
Wonder if Kevin's actually capable of contributing any substantive ideas or constructive dialogue beyond his rather simplistic, cynical barbs?
Craig Knowlton March 14, 2012 at 08:57 AM
Tim, let's assume for a minute that your premise that "Rancho's advantage is engaged parent's" is true. This has been pushed many times, yet not once has anyone presented what these parents actually do. Give examples. Does Rancho require parent volunteer hours? Your premise also means that parents at the neighborhood schools are not engaged and do not commit time and energy toward their schools. By the way, the MSA straw man does nothing to further your case.
Craig Knowlton March 14, 2012 at 09:01 AM
Justin, if that success is accomplished by excluding the real population around a school, it is never justified.
JT March 14, 2012 at 05:43 PM
Nicole.. I am happy to report that my daughter is "stuck" at San Jose and we are quite happy about it. She is doing very well with the GREAT teachers there.....
Mama of3 March 14, 2012 at 07:00 PM
First of all, whose to say that the families coming in to Rancho next year won't be motivated and involved? They are mostly going to be kinder familes, after all. And even if they aren't, are people saying that Hispanic families are "lazy", or just anyone who has not been at Rancho in the past? Isn't it possible that many families did go through the lottery in the neighborhood and didn't get in? Or isn't it possible that other non-Rancho families are also motivated and involved? Many motivated and involved families have chosen not to go to Rancho. The evidence is in each and every neighborhood school. Secondly, I'm hearing that we should try to make all schools great by working to get more people involved. Great! Let's do that. Rancho can be great, Lynwood can be great, Olive can be great, etc. Let's all move forward by working on this together. Rancho families will be surprised at what is already working at the neighborhood schools. Adding more motivated families will just make them that much better. What's wrong with that?
Amy Oclassen March 14, 2012 at 08:27 PM
I must put to rest the lie that Rancho parents have/donate more money and that our PTA fundraising is higher than other schools. In 2010-11, Loma Verde, Olive and Pleasant Valley PTAs all raised funds equal to or greater than Rancho. In the case of Pleasant Valley, the figure was 40% greater. When you take into consideration the State, Federal and private grant money our schools receive, Rancho has about 1/4th the financial resources of our highest funded elementary schools. It's not about money.
KMM March 14, 2012 at 09:50 PM
Drexel...you are SO misinformed....Rancho is not 1st in PTA funds...believe you me....
KMM March 14, 2012 at 09:53 PM
Thank you AMY!!!!! now maybe these people will shut up!!
Justin Hubbs March 14, 2012 at 11:45 PM
The NUSD Board can't hear us but maybe our financier (the state) can. I sent the following email to Mr. Huffman's office: Hi Jenny, Just wanted to give you a quick update on this issue. The "Facilities Planning Committee" has recommended the conversion of this community asset into a neighborhood school, thus effectively dismantling it (see attached). As a former educator, you know that much of the district's funding derives from the state versus local sources. I wonder how the tax payers financing our district would feel about the dismantling of an efficient, low-cost high performing school? Thank you for your ear! JH I know it's a long-shot but I bet anyone outside the Peoples' Republic of Novato would think this is absurd. An email or letter from them confirming this would at least make me feel better. When I spoke to them on the phone, they expressed surprise and disbelief that this was the course. They also stated that similar experiments had been attempted in San Francisco with disastrous results. There were also some cautionary comments about searching for equity in the neighborhood model.
Justin Hubbs March 15, 2012 at 12:26 AM
Craig, until now, wasn't it accurate to say that the real population around the school was the entire district? Not putting your name into the lottery or not getting picked is different than being excluded right?
Retired Teacher March 15, 2012 at 01:53 AM
Actually, Amy, I think you'll find these numbers interesting. They're based on IRS Tax Records from each PTA in NUSD from 2005-2010. Hamilton $186 per student, $626,116 over 5 yr period Loma Verde $247 per student $555,023 over 5 yr period Lu Sutton $224 per student $476,576 over 5 year period Lynwood$128 per student $272,531 over 5 year period Olive $377 per student $734,432 over 5 year period PV $419 per student $951,584 over 5 year period Rancho $511 per student $1,252,436 over 5 year period San Ramon $303 per student $685,748 over 5 year period The numbers speak for themselves. I really don't see the need to say anymore. How sad.
Carrie Criswell March 15, 2012 at 02:55 AM
Retired Teacher, to argue this fairly, you must also include the other funds that each school receives. These figures are from last year: State and Federal Categorical Funding Lynwood $511,787 Hamilton $491,627 Lu Sutton $392,231 Loma Verde $311,529 Olive $115,738 Pleasant Valley $62,358 Rancho $72,224 San Ramon $80,301
KMM March 15, 2012 at 03:41 AM
thanks for putting the REAL #'s up Carrie.....
KMM March 15, 2012 at 03:43 AM
Retired Teacher...that is over a 5 year period....and GASP..PV is right under us....better start hammering them now too...
Amy Oclassen March 15, 2012 at 03:47 AM
As Rancho's PTA Treasurer for three of the last five years, I can attest that the numbers given by Retired Teacher most certainly do not reflect net fundraising income. Nor do they reflect reported income on our tax return. I stand by my numbers for 2010-11 as follows: Loma Verde publicly posted that they raised $100K last year, Olive: $120K, PV: $140K, Rancho: $105K, in net funds. Broken down by enrollments, that looks like this: Pleasant Valley - $315/student (445 students) Olive - $280/student (429 students) Loma Verde - $233/student (430 students) Rancho - $212/student (495 students) As Carrie has posted above, once you look at the total funding each school receives (and her figures also include private grant funding as well as State and Federal funds), you can see that Rancho is not even close to being the "richest" elementary school in the district in terms of available resources. This is the myth that I wish to dispel.
KMM March 15, 2012 at 04:06 AM
Amy..if this doesn't stop all this "richest school" BS.....not sure what will....thanks!!! maybe this will send some of the town's henchmen to PV now....
Tim D March 15, 2012 at 06:00 AM
Home! Home! Home! Good students start in the home, period! Throwing more money at schools is not the answer, as Amy's excellent comment shows. Why are so many people unwilling to face this simple truth. They look for blame everywhere else but themselves, their parenting or their home environments. So they delude themselves into believing it must be the lack of money, poor teachers, mean administrators -- all of which play a role, but they're simply not the most critical determinant in whether your child becomes a good student -- never have been, never will. That's why Novato's decision to unwind Rancho is so pathetic & counter to what we all know intuitively: Rancho has ranked for years among the top schools in Marin Co. - not because of money, not because of its demographic catchment area, not because it had great support from NUSD. No. Rancho succeeded primarily because it has attracted kids from homes (some affluent, many not so affluent) that nurture kids who want to learn & receive relentless parental support to achieve that end. The great product that was Rancho created a high demand that could only be fairly dealt with via a lottery. All Novato parents who voted again for these embarrassingly poor NUSD Board Members need to accept responsibility for destroying one of only 2 gems in the NUSD. The other gem, Marin School of the Arts, will no doubt be next! Rancho's been killed. It's days as a top ranked school are numbered. Will MSA be next?
LP March 15, 2012 at 02:57 PM
What everyone is missing is the root of the problem. The district has for years been trying to decide how to eliminate or change schools. Lynwood and Rancho have been pitted against each other by the district. Being close, when it comes to looking to shut down an elementary school they look at those two schools. Rancho does have great parent involvement, but lacks diversity of the surrounding neighborhood. Lynwood receives more funding because of the amount of services needed for the students attending there. The district has done nothing to say what are the pluses and minuses of each school. Rather they let the parents argue it out over board meetings and blogs, pitting one against the other. I have not seen in the last five years complaints about any other elementary school like I have of these two. Now that the district seems to have settled the matter by leaving both open and neighborhood oriented they will need a new target for parents. I suggest PV be aware, with declining enrollment and six teacher layoff notices the district may just be looking to divide your kids between Lu Sutton and San Ramon.
Tim D March 15, 2012 at 05:08 PM
Excellent point, LP. The very real need to save money underlies it all. That means consolidation & controversy. Two 'Elephants in NUSD's room' could address all our budget issues & position Novato as a model community & regional gem in terms of education (also sports!): 1) Merge both high schools onto College of Marin's Indian Valley campus; 2) Close NUSD District Offices. COM's IV campus is a red herring; Kentfield can absorb its students. It would create a showcase campus placing Novato at the very top of NorCal education facilities. Along w/ our already marvelous MSA arts & merged sports talent, this would propel Novato to the top of the Bay Area education pyramid arts, sports &, most importantly, academics - thanks to significant funding generated from selling both NHS & San Marin properties. Lobby the state/county to acquire the IVC campus on a favored status or grant basis. Novato would need to outgrow its historical parochial NHS/SM rivalry & join forces for a greater good. District Office is redundant, poorly managed, poorly staffed; all their functions can fold into the county, except for some local areas that a re-engineered Board could oversee. District Office/current Board members will bluster why this can't work, try to obfuscate things. But common sense & basic understanding of what they really do suggests otherwise. An independent, professional analysis of these 2 actions is warranted & could reap wonderful results for all the kids & taxpayers of Novato.
Chip Tingle March 18, 2012 at 05:43 AM
Tim D - this is one of the most interesting proposals I've seen presented here, and I hope it gathers attention and discussion on a serious level quickly.
Edwin Drake March 18, 2012 at 06:00 AM
It's easier to read the blog if people don't "reply to" and instead just place comments at the bottom of the posts. Just my 2cents.
Tina McMillan March 18, 2012 at 07:22 PM
We do need change that will address areas where students are struggling but that change will not occur as a result of shuffling schools or redistributing groups of students that have not been able to meet No Child Left Behind standards. For example, we could avoid program improvement status by rejecting title I funds. Right now Loma Verde, Lynwood and Hamilton are in PI as was Hill. Reading through the budget and the funding process the glaring problem is with ADA requirements. What business develops a budget around "attendance"? What school can survive if its funding is based on how often children get sick? If we had a budget based on registered students we might not have to pink slip teachers every year. And if the state would repay the tax dollars it has withheld we would be able to pay our teachers a living wage.
Tina McMillan March 18, 2012 at 07:23 PM
continued As far as handing over Novato to the county that opens up a whole other host of problems. Novato has one of the largest districts in the county. Next to San Rafael we have the largest population of English language learners. We need to assess other programs that are successfully educating ELL and ED kids and model ourselves after them. The only one I could find to date is in Victorville CA. It is called 6th Street Prep School. Over 90% of their students are ED. It is primarily a school for ELL students. It is not language immersion but a hybrid that provides all education occur from 8am until 3pm. It reminds me of elementary school in Ohio in the sixty's. If this program is as successful as it looks on paper we could set up a comparable model here in Novato. We could keep Rancho, Lynwood GATE, Waldorf Charter; all successful models. The reality is that we don't need to fight amongst ourselves; we do need a board and a superintendent that are willing to move beyond status quo. Their lack of vision, e.g., the $88,000 spent on a boundary study, is what holds us back.
Tina McMillan March 18, 2012 at 07:24 PM
Thanks for the reminder!
Tina McMillan March 18, 2012 at 07:36 PM
http://www.marin.edu/ivc/index.html From what I have read IVC does not belong to Novato, it belongs to Marin Community College District. It isn't a freebie as far as relocating the High Schools to one campus. COM is implementing ongoing plans to revitalize the campus. You should check out the newest building. Though aesthetically bland, practically speaking it is wonderful. The classes include a fantastic multimedia/digital arts program that dovetails with MSA. Here is a sample of what programs they offer: "Over the past four years College of Marin's Indian Valley Campus (IVC) has served as a vital resource for workforce training featuring a variety of programs, including Solar Technology, Automotive Technology, Automotive Collision Repair Technology (ACRT), Environmental Landscaping and Organic Farming, Water Management, Administration of Justice, Business, Business Office Systems, Computer Information Systems, Court Reporting, Dental Assisting, Early Childhood Education, Emergency Medical Technician, Machine and Metals Technology, Medical Assisting, Multimedia, and the Marin Regional Simulation Center. These programs provide high-quality learning opportunities for students of all ages interested in pursuing a career."

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