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Rancho to Draw In More Neighborhood Kids ... You OK With That?

Trustees unanimously vote on scenario that changes enrollment boundaries for all eight elementary schools in Novato.

One of Novato's stickiest and most contentious civic issues could be on the way to a settlement.

After a year of studies, discussion and debate, the took a step toward turning the lottery-entry into a neighborhood school Tuesday. But it will be gradual.

The district board of trustees voted unanimously to approve a scenario that allows some students from the Rancho neighborhood direct enrollment into the school and the rest of the student body to enroll via the long-established lottery system. It was part of a larger decision to change the boundaries of all eight elementary schools in the district.

"Overall when I look at the situation, I think it's the right thing to do," said trustee Derek Knell of the Rancho situation just before the vote "... I think we have to get this done. I think that 90 percent of us agree that we've just got to get this done."

Trustee Tom Cooper said the research was thoughtful and it was healthy for the district to revise the school boundaries. "That said," he added, "I think we'll be revisiting this on a yearly basis."

Rancho, the highest-achieving elementary school in the city and always among the best in Marin County, is the only non-charter school in the district that does not have traditional geographic boundaries from which to draw its students, resulting in a student body from all over town. It was a "back to basics" school from the 1970s to the early 2000s but now, by state law, teaches the same curriculum as the other elementary schools in Novato. A lottery system is used to determine who is accepted each year.

The community seemed divided in its support for Rancho's enrollment setup. Supporters pointed to the awesome academic results and the fairness of the lottery system, which is open to all. Detractors said there was no reason to have a lottery and that the socioeconomic and racial makeup of the student body was not as balanced as it could be.

So how do you feel about the Rancho decision? More than a year ago, Novato Patch drew a record amount of reader comments (just more than 200) on a story titled " Only the topic of affordable housing quotas has rivaled the Rancho conundrum in the past year or so.

Let us know your feelings about the trustee's decision by adding a comment below.

For another story about the issue, check this piece by the .

Chip Tingle March 28, 2012 at 07:12 PM
Tina - why does one approach exclude the other? Aren't they compatible? Or to take your logic to a further extreme, how about we pool ALL of the most severely struggling students/families we have in Novato into ONE school so that another school(s) can test higher, waive their test score trophies around for the county's real estate agents, and compare coupons for the next BMW as they tell each other which neighborhoods to stay out of. This obviously makes no sense!!! Sorry, but nope.
Tina McMillan March 28, 2012 at 07:31 PM
Chip You have seen the multiple links I have posted on this subject. If you decide to take the time to read them through many are compatible with a school with mixed demographics but none are met by our current system. The non ELL, ED, LD kids in our school district are doing well. It is the population of english language learners, economically disadvantaged and learning disabled that continue to struggle. The boundary study did nothing to address this problem and cost $88,000. If you read the article about the teacher's trying to create a contract with the district you will see how much more NUSD spends on consultants and administrators compared to comparable districts. My statement is that our focus is misplaced and we still haven't addressed the problem of how to educate a struggling population. Read the links.
Chip Tingle March 28, 2012 at 08:09 PM
Tina - I agree, the links you've pointed out are indeed compatible with schools of mixed demographics. That's part of my point. Your argument seems to be a slightly different one than most here on ze patch when addressing changing Rancho to a neighborhood school. To me, the studies are not an argument against making Rancho a neighborhood school, but a good educational philosophy for our entire district to put in place when addressing ELL, ED, LD....including Rancho. I'm saying a good focus would include both your philosophy as evidenced by your links, and making Rancho a neighborhood school. One doesn't exclude the other. I happen to agree with you on many points about NUSD spending, but I'm separating this from what I view as your unique argument for somehow leaving Rancho untouched, unless I'm misunderstanding you here.
Tina McMillan March 29, 2012 at 04:09 AM
Chip Thanks. My feeling is don't change it if it isn't broken. Having lived here for 30 years and worked with children from all NUSD schools I feel the focus on boundaries and Rancho detracted from the real problems. I also support self contained classes for GATE at Lynwood in addition to cluster programs at each neighborhood school. I advocate for more rather than fewer choices. I appreciate your taking the time to understand what I was trying to say. So many discussions on Patch become polarized. It has been painful to watch Rancho become the focus of an argument over which they have no control.
HistoryLover April 11, 2012 at 03:30 PM
"You can't make a weak man strong by making a strong man weak." --Abe Lincoln Rancho's scores were the highest in ALL Marin County, and was a draw to families who liked the creative learning environment & staff. Some other NUSD schools are in Program Improvement, meaning test scores are not at standard, so tearing down the 'best' school will make the others look better on paper.Glad I am going private!

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