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Rancho Boundary Recommendation Called a Compromise

Scenario would open the school up to a smaller neighborhood boundary and still allow for intra-district transfer students. Current students could stay under a grandfather clause.

Novato Unified's superintendent Shalee Cunningham called the district facilities committee recommendation "a compromise"—to move towards a neighborhood school with a smaller boundary of local students—and yet still make room to accept some students who want to attend the high-performing school with intra-district transfers.

"When you're dealing with families, we decided to go about it slower rather than faster, said Cunningham in the special school board meeting Tuesday. "It will be a successful transition."

The recommended "Scenario C" would grandfather all students — allowing them to stay in the school they currently attend — but would not automatically accept those students' siblings entering into kindergarten.

Cunningham said that even with the grandfathering clause, the implementation would take five years to complete. "If we add siblings, it's never-ending," she said.

She added that families with siblings can still apply for admission using the intra-district transfer process.  

Cunningham called the plan a hybrid. "It was definitely a compromise," she said.

Trustee Debbie Butler felt the recommendation was going in the right direction but was still supporting a full move to a neighborhood school under "Scenario A."  

"I feel that grandfathering is the transition," she said.  "It's not about dismantling a school.  It's about making it available to the neighborhood around it."

Trustee Derek Knell also had questions about why the district should go with a neighborhood scenario that would not have a cohesive feeder pattern from elementary to middle schools.

The recommendation, prepared by consultant Jack Shreder & Associates and a facilities committee, noted that allowing students to attend the schools closest to their homes took precedence over a cohesive feeder pattern, based on parent feedback.

Cunningham said that having the transition option also had benefits that would allow time for professional development and training of Rancho's teachers to adjust to the needs of the changing demographic that included more English-learning students. 

Rancho teacher Sue Spry took offense to that remark in public comments to the board, saying that the teachers at Rancho were qualified to teach English language learners.

Under the recommended scenario, Rancho would move from 80 percent white to 45 percent at the end of five years, said Cunningham.

According to the facility consultant's numbers, the Hispanic population at Rancho would rise from 5.8 percent to 36.2 percent under the proposed boundary.

While Rancho Elementary was the focus of the presentation, Cunningham said that the changed boundaries are taking into account that the district as a whole has declining enrollment. Specifically, was pointed to as a school with significant declining enrollment due to an aging neighborhood population.

Post-meeting, some parents sensed that the school board trustees were moving in the direction of approving the facility committee's recommendation. 

Parent Michael McIntyre preferred "Scenario A" to move Rancho to a complete neighborhood school but called the hybrid recommendation "thoughtful and serious."

"It's important to get either option done. We've got a changing demographic," said McIntyre, who has children at Loma Verde. "There's no way to predict what's going to happen with the grandfathering and the intra-district transfers," said McIntyre. 

Parent Ross Ingels also favored the complete shift to a neighborhood school as equalizing the school boundaries but sensed the board would vote for the hybrid option. 

"It's a compromise and its giving people time to adjust, but it's a short-term view," said Ingels.

School board president Cindi Clinton anticipates that the board will be ready to decide on the recommendation at the next meeting on March 20 after giving parents time to give feedback to the trustees.

For more coverage on the March 13 school board meeting, see this article in the Marin IJ.

Chip Tingle March 16, 2012 at 08:45 PM
Always nice to return to a community conversation in which I'm being called a hypocrite....onward. Justin, I think you're well aware I don't hold any data regarding the lottery system, but I would fully support any such data being released and discussed openly here, or anywhere for that matter. What I do have is my own impression and experience from a few years back when we stood in line and took the tour of Rancho, and then decided not to enter the lottery for our two daughters. What I'm also trying to point out is that a lottery based on the entire community’s population would by definition be more representative of that community than one made up only of members able and willing to leave work, home, family.....to be able to stand in line and take such a mandatory tour before entering such a lottery. Pretty basic, but maybe you still disagree. Hypothetically – what if we traded racial/ethnic, socio-economic shoes? If we were discussing a school with 80% Latinos (or any race other than Caucasian).....in a town where Caucasians were too often viewed as an “under class”.....where I got the feeling I was unwelcome by the culture and tone presented for years by the school......where most Caucasion families I knew and trusted told me of similar feelings and experiences.....etc., etc....I would very likely never enter the entire admission process for such a school. (more below)
Justin Hubbs March 16, 2012 at 08:50 PM
Kevin, sorry to confuse you; part of my question was directed at Chip (who had commented about GATE in other threads). Let me be more direct - Where does the equity / demographic discussion go post Rancho? We know you don't want to divert resources from programs like GATE (which hopefully no one wants to do) and you can't possibly think that neigborhood Rancho solves the problem. So besides turnining Rancho into a neigborhood school, how will you improve the quality of education for your friends that walk to school? Do you really believe that Rancho becoming a neighborhood school will alleviate someone's intimidation, improve their transportation or help them with proper paperwork should they want to transfer to some other school in the district?
Chip Tingle March 16, 2012 at 09:19 PM
(continued) These GATE-identified kids are a group of learners with their own special needs, according to any and every piece of educational research available to you and me courtesy of our friend, Google. They're being served brilliantly by the Lynwood program, something I'm fortunate to witness for our oldest daughter. Many are also being served in clusters, be it in Novato or elsewhere, and this seems to be the politically supported method judging by our new superintendent and others. I'm simply interested in protecting the choice of a full-time, self-contained program for students and parents when NUSD has moved to abolish such a choice, only to rescind such a move under immediate public pressure, then send it to committee and further discussion over the coming year....I'm also hopeful I would feel the very same way even if my own kids didn't happen to be involved. Fire away, Justin, but hopefully you more fully understand where I'm coming from.
Chip Tingle March 16, 2012 at 09:22 PM
(continued) I would hope all of us in this community of Novato would aim for a public system with equal access to educational resources, one completely free of any inequalities or discrimination toward anyone for any reason, a lofty goal I realize. No, I don't pretend to speak for anyone or any part of the community except for myself as a father of two kids in this system. This is how I view this forum, a valuable venue for open dialogue and exchange of ideas about our community of Novato.....white, black, brown, beige, polka-dot......our community. Yours and mine, Justin. Regarding GATE at Lynwood, I would ask whether testing was offered and administered equally and fairly across the entire student population of Novato to gain admission, and whether any hint of cultural bias has been removed. If not, we need to fix this immediately and publicly. I would ask whether there are any special funds spent on the full-time Lynwood GATE program seemingly under attack from many. I'm assured repeatedly that zero special funds are used or allocated here. Somehow NUSD budget figures don't openly and clearly show this for all, as I wish they would. (more below)
Chip Tingle March 16, 2012 at 09:39 PM
I actually think Rancho's fine teachers will indeed help solve some problems of inequality, as they put their skills to use for a larger number of ESL students, special needs students, etc...when compared to the present school population. Hopefully the removal of an arguably unfair lottery system will help alleviate feelings of intimidation, unwelcomeness, etc.... One could also argue that students whom have thrived will continue to thrive, no matter which school they're a part of in Novato, Rancho or another of our fine schools.
Tim Dalton March 16, 2012 at 09:40 PM
For the record... I am NOT Tim D. Tim Dalton Rancho Parent 1999-2011
Justin Hubbs March 16, 2012 at 10:14 PM
Chip, I'm not sure Latino's are the doormats we make them out to be. Maybe someday we can move beyond an imposed psychoanalysis and find a way to empower them so they can join the conversation (I don't presume to know anything about them). In the meantime, I trust they know what's best for themselves, their families and their community, and I also trust that they have the backbone to make decisions that are right for them. Data on the lottery system would be interesting and who knows...maybe it would have supported what you are saying. I don't know if anyone tried to survey this population to find out why they didn't / don't attend lotteries; on the other hand, maybe we're comfortable with what we think we know? GATE's "elite" program is popular so it's off-limits and I don't suspect anyone will make any agruments about equity, demographics, etc. there because it's popular(this is where I see hyporcrisy). Don't get me wrong, I think GATE is fantastic and wouldn't want to see another good program reorganized.
Chip Tingle March 16, 2012 at 10:58 PM
(I'll answer in parentheses below) Chip, I'm not sure Latino's are the doormats we make them out to be. (Describing feelings related to me by some parents, kids, co-workers....in no way makes me view Latinos as “doormats”) Maybe someday we can move beyond an imposed psychoanalysis (Isn't a socio-economic discussion and debate as it relates to education accessibility, equity of resources....exactly what continues to go on here? We're talking about a school with 80% white population in a community with very different makeup) and find a way to empower them so they can join the conversation (I don't presume to know anything about them). ((I hope many, many more will indeed join this and other conversations being held at every level.)) In the meantime, I trust they know what's best for themselves, their families and their community, and I also trust that they have the backbone to make decisions that are right for them. Data on the lottery system would be interesting and who knows...maybe it would have supported what you are saying. (What other reasons are you coming up with for the very unrepresentative makeup of Rancho?) I don't know if anyone tried to survey this population to find out why they didn't / don't attend lotteries; on the other hand, maybe we're comfortable with what we think we know? (I can only go by what I've seen and heard myself, or by what media I consume by choice, then make my own judgment)
Chip Tingle March 16, 2012 at 10:58 PM
GATE's "elite" program is popular so it's off-limits and I don't suspect anyone will make any agruments about equity, demographics, etc. there because it's popular(this is where I see hyporcrisy). Don't get me wrong, I think GATE is fantastic and wouldn't want to see another good program reorganized. (Actually there are very real, substantial arguments being had about cultural biases in testing, and I applaud such serious discussion. To lump GATE at any level into a discussion about Rancho borders on absurd for me. If you view GATE as elitist, that's obviously your prerogative. I just hope you'll do some more reading on the subject. You might also consider what age you'd support any type of “honors” courses, as this is a simpler analagous way to try to explain my views.)
Kevin March 16, 2012 at 11:33 PM
Chip, you're fighting an uphill battle with Justin, he's all over the place...
Justin Hubbs March 17, 2012 at 12:47 AM
I see, it is absurd to talk about the socio-economic and racial composition of GATE students even-though the GATE program is a competitor for public funds. Shouldn't those funds be invested in helping the underperforming and disadvantaged? Chip, before you said that you thought a fair lottery would be one that included everyone. Why wasn't that proposed? Why didn't the district just throw every eligible student into the lottery as a default? Kevin - I think people are following me just fine; they can also see that I asked you specific questions that you chose to dismiss.
Ernie Ganas March 17, 2012 at 03:48 AM
Shame on Debbie Butler, Derek Knell and the rest of the Novato School Board! A school that drew by lottery from all over Novato without regard to color or socioeconomics and consistently outperformed all the other schools is shut down. the District and the Board worked long and hard to shut down this blight on the school district underperformance
Edwin Drake March 17, 2012 at 04:38 AM
The GATE program doesn't cost the NUSD any additional or special funds. The GATE students receive NO special funding from the district, and need a teacher and a classroom no matter where they attend. So, you either have X-number at this school, or X-number at another school, but in the end it's a wash. from the funding perspective they are nothing more than enrolled students, worth the same amount to the NUSD no matter where they attend. Only the curriculum is different, and that's, mostly, a matter of HOW core standards are taught in class. GATE students are NOT taking money out of anyone's pocket.
Edwin Drake March 17, 2012 at 04:40 AM
I might add that with the move to clusters the program will cost more money, as more teachers insist on receiving their "professional development" so they can teach GATE in more classrooms. The district loves to send teachers way to conferences. This all adds up. But the students don't cost a dime.
Sylvia Barry March 17, 2012 at 04:41 AM
Parents - Make sure you bring your kids to this event tomorrow - Saturday! You will all have so much fun watching it and will be very inspired! http://novato.patch.com/blog_posts/san-marin-robotics-club-flex-geek-muscles
Chip Tingle March 17, 2012 at 05:08 AM
(answering in parenthesis below....again) I see, it is absurd to talk about the socio-economic and racial composition of GATE students even-though the GATE program is a competitor for public funds. (As I've tried to state before, even repeatedly, the Lynwood GATE program is receiving ZERO extra or special funding. I've also addressed how reasonable I think it is to look at the socio-economics of most any educational issue, GATE and its testing included, but you don't seem to either read this, understand it, or agree with it. I'm not sure which.) Shouldn't those funds be invested in helping the under-performing and disadvantaged? (Again, a false argument, as stated above, though I fully support the idea of funding proven effective programs) Chip, before you said that you thought a fair lottery would be one that included everyone. Why wasn't that proposed? Why didn't the district just throw every eligible student into the lottery as a default?(You'll have to ask more knowledgeable community members than me, and I think it's a good question, though way past due while Rancho changes go into affect now, as we speak) Kevin - I think people are following me just fine; they can also see that I asked you specific questions that you chose to dismiss. (I'll let Kevin choose whether to answer for himself, as I'm guessing he's grown about as tired as I have over what has become a tedious, tit for tat, kind of argument for argument's sake. Law school, right? Good choice!)
Tina McMillan March 17, 2012 at 08:29 PM
Mrs. R I agree Novato teachers are grossly underpaid compared to their counterparts in southern Marin. The decisions being made about boundaries, to the tune of $88,000, are not an answer to the problem of educating lower performing students and holding onto the committed, caring and experienced teachers we are fortunate to still have. With layoff notices being issued once again I am afraid we are creating a whole lot of energy around the wrong issues. Rancho was working, just as GATE at Lynwood was working; why not focus on the problems instead of dismantling effective programs.
Tina McMillan March 17, 2012 at 08:39 PM
http://www.marincatholic.org/index/tuition-and-financial-aid Annual tuition at Marin Catholic for 2011/2012 is $15,800. How many families have that kind of money for four years of High School and then are able to send their children on to four years of college? We have a right to want our local schools to educate our children without having to resort to private schools.
Tina McMillan March 17, 2012 at 08:54 PM
Kevin You are wrong. Rancho was started by families from Hamilton AFB when it was an active base because they felt their children were not getting a back to basics education including a high degree of structure and classroom discipline. These are Rancho's roots: structure, discipline and respect for education. If you read the stats, Rancho's test scores are higher for ESL and ED kids as compared to the same population in other schools. Their numbers are lower because fewer ESL and ED kids have chosen to attend Rancho. The key word here is choice. I agree that schools that have a substantial amount of ED and ESL children are underperforming because they don't have the tools to compensate for some of the problems that effect children whose primary language is not English and whose home lives include stresses due to poverty but the answer is not belittling or dismantling Rancho. We need to find a way to better educate the struggling children. Instead we hired a company to do a boundary study. Why are we pouring money into boundaries when the real problem is about education. Moving children around will not solve the problem.
Chip Tingle March 17, 2012 at 09:10 PM
No matter where one stands on Rancho's history, somehow this school became a population of 80% white, vastly different than its neighborhood population, Novato's population, etc..... Can we agree to reasonably ask how and why? Can we agree that this has increased the burden on other Novato schools and teachers when working so hard to help struggling students from across the spectrum? Tina, what if these skilled teachers are given the chance to flex their professional chops on behalf of more ESL students than at present? Even if average test scores drop, won't thriving students continue to thrive? Or should struggling students somehow continue to be channeled to the other schools, disproportionately away from Rancho?
Tina McMillan March 18, 2012 at 01:20 AM
Chip You are missing the point entirely. As far as demographics go Pleasant Valley has the same demographics as Rancho but as a neighborhood school. The real issue continues to be our inability to raise the test scores of ED and ELL children enough to make the required gains of No Child Left Behind. The $88,000 should have been spent on a study to see what the best way is to educate ED and ELL students. The teachers at Rancho are extremely capable like their counterparts in other schools. This has never been an issue with the skills of Novato teachers. The issue has been whether closing Rancho as a lottery school serves any useful purpose. My belief is it will not change the problem experienced by this demographic because the method of instruction remains the same.
Tina McMillan March 18, 2012 at 01:46 AM
Continued Here are some links that discuss different forms of ELL education including language immersion and sheltered classrooms. What the research shows is that ELL students are an extremely complex heterogeneous group of learners that require different interventions in order to be successful. Equally spreading out ELL and ED students among all our schools is not enough to make a difference. If it was, you would see gains by the time ELL and ED students reach High School. Currently we see losses among ELL, ED and LD students struggling to reach basic learning using both No Child measures and the CAHSEE. http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=105900115 http://roomfordebate.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/03/11/the-best-ways-to-teach-young-newcomers/ http://www.teach-nology.com/tutorials/teaching/esl/ http://www.centeroninstruction.org/files/Instructional%20Models%20for%20ELLs.pdf http://www.ncte.org/library/NCTEFiles/Resources/PolicyResearch/ELLResearchBrief.pdf http://www.csos.jhu.edu/crespar/techReports/Report63.pdf http://njrp.tamu.edu/2004/PDFs/Collier.pdf
Tim D March 18, 2012 at 04:11 AM
Everyone has an equal opportunity to Rancho's lottery. If 'minorities' are under-represented, that's clearly the responsibility of parents who never bothered to participate in the lottery. The burden is on parents to inform themselves of all the educational options available to them & act accordingly. Sad that so many cannot/refuse to see that the fundamental problems in education today start at home & w/ the parents. The teachers at Rancho are fine, but that's not the key variable that has made Rancho an outstanding school. As Joe & others have commented: Rancho works because the parents there put education first. Period!
S Samson March 18, 2012 at 04:26 AM
Sorry but no. The lottery did not draw from all over Novato. You had to BE there. How is that equal opportunity? Why are we so interested in how a school did as if it is the school, not the kids, that mattered? Why did many Rancho kids think they wer ein a private school"? Why do kids who live across the street from a public school, bu were not selected or could attend a lottery for admission, not walk across the street to school? What is fair about that? NOTHING.
Chip Tingle March 18, 2012 at 06:02 AM
Tina - I'll heartily agree with you about the $88k, a sum seemingly spent for fingerprint removal and a vacuum in effective leadership. I also appreciate the links and good info for me to absorb. My issues have been with fairness of process of admission for years. As I've stated elsewhere, a truly fair lottery would have had the name of every student in the hat - and equal chance for every single Novato child. But this is now history, and I look forward to more high quality teaching from the fine professionals at Rancho. I honestly see no reason why it won't continue to be an excellent school, even if its average test scores likely drop a bit.
Dexter Kaziff March 19, 2012 at 05:54 AM
Peyton Manning.
Hacky Sack March 20, 2012 at 03:44 PM
Chip - I am so glad you feel better about the fairness of everything now. My children and I are SO lucky to have people like you fighting the injustice of that high performing elementary school and those involved parents. By being so brave and speaking out, you and your righteous friends have really done us all a favor. Rancho's existence has had such a detrimental effect on education in Novato. I am so glad we won't have to worry about that anymore. Now we can focus on saving the "zero" cost, fair admission (not unfair enough to dismantle the program anyway), diverse (right?), no special treatment (well none that isn't deserved after all these kids do have "their own special needs") GATE program. We must have both missed something. Who would want to unravel a program that is "VERY SUCCESSFUL"? Where is the "third party, unbiased research and data which backs the notion"? I also wonder who "can honestly, openly say that such proposed changes are indeed best for GATE students?" Are these people "willing to back it up with unbiased, legitimate, scholarly research and data to support your claim?" I wish you luck in your fight. I know you are "simply parents whom care very deeply about protecting a brilliant program of which our kids are blessed to a part." Really, I just can't thank you enough - what a wonderful legacy. I'll be sure to remind future generations what you and your friends have done for education in Novato.
Kevin March 20, 2012 at 11:59 PM
You leave little doubt that your a Rancho parent....
Anne March 21, 2012 at 12:07 AM
Any bets as to what is going to happen tonight at the NUSD Board Meeting? Will it be Scenario A?....
Carrie Criswell March 21, 2012 at 12:32 AM
I hope, for the sake of all those people who served on the committee, that it is C. They put a lot of thought and effort into that decision, as did the consultants when they made the recommendation. What a waste of money and effort if they don't go with the recommendation.

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