Response To Community Questions
We do have students on “flexible” schedules on a case-by-case basis.
The bottom-line is that being chronically absent or having attendance challenges does not automatically put a student on a flexible schedule. Attendance is usually a side effect of something deeper whether it is health or family issues or other behavior concerns.
We do what’s best for students and try to meet them where they’re at. Nonetheless, they are still required to meet the graduation requirements in order to receive a FHS diploma.
The Ferndale School District is regulated by state and federal law, supervised by the Office of the State Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI), and is audited annually by the State Auditor’s Office (SAO).
The State Auditor’s Office just completed their audit of our District for 2017, and we earned clean audit results in the areas of accountability and general financial practices. We are celebrating this news and also the members of our Business and Accounting Team who work so hard every day to achieve these kind of results.
The Citizen Bond Task Force recommended a package of projects for Ferndale School Board’s consideration. The School Board accepted the package as presented. The projects include:
FINAL FERNDALE BOND PACKAGE:
Community Oversight Committee: to ensure that bond funds are spent according to what is detailed in the bond package, and that all projects are implemented as planned.
NEW Ferndale High School: $105 Million
Modernization of existing Performing Arts Center at Ferndale HS: $2 Million
Critical Needs (mechanical, electrical, plumbing, roofing): $4 Million
Safety & Security at all FSD buildings: $1 Million
Total Recommendation: $112 Million
Yes. Free & Reduced lunch applications must be filled out every year.
The District currently has over $60,000 in unpaid school lunch debt. Much of that would have been covered had an application been completed.
If an application for Free & Reduced lunch is not completed by October lunch debt begins to accumulate. The balance that is accumulated in the absence of a Free & Reduced lunch application is applied to a student’s account; and, unfortunately, any debt incurred before the completed application has been received and processed cannot be erased once the application is in.
That is why it is so important to fill out those applications early in the fall of every school year.
As part of the District’s safety program we have encouraged and supported law enforcement training at our schools. We share a belief with our local law enforcement agencies that law enforcement personnel who are familiar with our schools will be better prepared to come to our aide when we need them.
While we have not had an increase in training events, we are working to communicate with our community in advance when we know that law enforcement will have a presence at our schools.
The County SWAT team was using Vista after school hours on April 19 for Tac Med class, which is the professional version of “Stop the Bleed.” As part of our partnership with local law enforcement, the School District allows them to use our facilities for classes as well as tactical trainings.
No. No Ferndale teachers have been pulled out of class this year to train for the administration of state assessments. All training has occurred during non-student time. The assessment itself does occur during the school day, as required by the state, and teachers monitor the tests.
The District works hard to minimize the amount of time we pull teachers away from their students for meetings or trainings. The purpose of student early release days is to provide collaborative work time and professional training for teachers on a schedule that is predictable for families and that minimizes the impact of the current shortage of substitute teachers.
The District administration published a statement saying they do not favor arming teachers, but some citizens asked specifically about the School Board’s position on this topic.
Current State law prohibits teachers from carrying guns in school district buildings unless the local school board adopts a policy to the contrary. The Ferndale School Board does not intend to put in place a policy that contradicts the law.
The School Board discussed the concept of arming teachers with Ferndale Chief of Police Kevin Turner at their Study Session on April 18, 2018. The Chief shared pros and cons but ultimately indicated that he feels the dangers of arming teachers outweigh any safety benefits. Therefore, he is not in favor of arming teachers. This conversation reinforced the position of the School Board and the District administration against arming teachers in our school buildings.
The Police Department is helping the District train staff and students. Some parents and other local citizens have asked where they can get training as well.
To the extent that they have the necessary manpower, the Ferndale Police Department will put on active shooter response trainings for groups – churches, businesses, civic organizations, etc. – upon request. They also offer periodic trainings for individuals. A schedule of such trainings is posted on their website.
We do not have routers on the ceilings of our classrooms. Wireless networks use low-powered Radio Frequency (RF) transmitters called wireless access points to communicate with other low-powered transmitters in our students’ computers and other portable equipment like cell phones. The amount of Radio Frequency energy is very low and falls off significantly when individual students are not using their computers.
International research has failed to show any connection between Radio Frequency energy and health issues, especially when the RF fields fall below international safety limits, as ours do. The World Health Organization (WHO) published a statement recently saying that "no health effects are expected from exposure to RF fields from [cellular] base stations and wireless networks (WHO 2006).”
No. Officers of the law are exempt from the School District’s “no guns at school” policy. They are allowed to bring their guns onto our campuses.
Current State law prohibits teachers from carrying guns in school district buildings unless the local school board adopts a policy to the contrary. The Ferndale School Board has not to date put in place a policy that contradicts the law, so right now a teacher would not be permitted to carry a gun in a school building.
The School Board has not had a conversation about changing its policy on guns. However, members of the executive administration have talked about this idea with the Ferndale Chief of Police. The Chief indicated he is not in favor of arming teachers. Based on our conversation with law enforcement and other members of our Safety Advisory Committee, the Ferndale School District administration does not support teachers with guns in our schools.
The Task Force’s recommendations for the bond include the following:
- Build a mostly new Ferndale High School (everything except the Performing Arts Center): $105 Million
- Modernize the existing Performing Arts Center at Ferndale High School: $2 Million
- Address the most critical needs across the District (mechanical, electrical, plumbing, roofing): $4 Million
- Enhance safety and security in all District buildings: $1 Million
- Run a total bond package of $112 Million
- Form a Community Oversight Committee to ensure that bond funds are spent according to what is detailed in the bond package and that all projects are implemented as planned
As a whole, I want to be careful not to speak for the Task Force. The citizen group is an independent body. I can, however, report regarding some of the discussions I observed on this point.
The Task Force did not come to consensus on the issue of renovating North Bellingham to reopen it as an elementary school. The group went back and forth about how to balance overall cost, value, and long-term need across the entire bond recommendation package.
A strong majority of Task Force members asked the full group to consider withholding the renovation or North Bellingham from its recommendations for the 2018 bond out of respect for overall cost. In addition, there were lengthy discussions regarding enrollment projections for our elementary schools. At this time, enrollment does not show immediate need for more space.
The short answer is “yes.”
Our student athletes in multiple sports, including track and soccer, are no longer able to use our facilities for home games and meets. Other athletic facilities, including the football stadium, are in real need of repair and/or replacement. Upgrades to all our student athletic facilities will be achieved through investments from the bond package, if it passes in November 2018.
Earlier this month (March 2018), the School District was notified by Whatcom County Health Department that we had one diagnosed case of pertussis, also known as whooping cough, at Ferndale High School and one case at Horizon Middle School. (The two diagnosed students are siblings.)
The District’s practice related to infectious diseases is to follow the directions of the Health Department. In this situation, the Health Department directed us to send a letter to all families and individuals who may have had possible exposure to the students with the diagnosis. On March 15, we sent such a letter of notification to all parents and guardians of FHS and Horizon students. The Health Department did not direct us to exclude anyone from any of our schools.
As part of the District’s commitment to ongoing maintenance at Mountain View, we removed the portables recently. The portables had outlived their useful life and we want to make sure that we are great neighbors and caretakers of school district property.
The District plans to continue to maintain the Mt. View property, including the existing play structure. We are open to the possibility of hosting programs and/or long-term tenants, and we will be caring for the buildings with that in mind.
Safety is on everyone’s mind. District administrators have held several meetings recently to talk about how we can enhance our safety programs. Plans resulting from those meetings include the following:
- Working in conjunction with our building leaders and community first responders, we are initiating a process of reviewing, re-assessing, and revamping all our building safety plans looking specifically at evacuation plans and best practices related to emergency response.
- We are scheduling trainings at each school and worksite between March 27 and the end of the year to make sure all staff are briefed on any changes in safety plans and/or procedures.
- We are planning to start a monthly safety newsletter for all district staff.
- We are amplifying our efforts to address students’ social, emotional, and mental health needs. Two strategies we are looking at for accomplishing this work are: (1) expanding the scope of the District Safety Advisory Committee (SAC) to focus on prevention as well as response; and (2) pulling all the various pieces of this work together (PBIS, Second Step, the Ferndale Community Coalition, etc.) under one director beginning summer 2018.
- In the spirit of relationship building, we are implementing a new program called “Bite with a Buddy.” In order to get more first responders into our schools and interacting with our students and staff in non-crisis situations, Sodexo (Ferndale’s food service provider) has agreed to provide free breakfast or lunch to any of them who will come into school lunchrooms to sit down and eat with our students.
In 2017, 80.4 percent of high school seniors at Ferndale High School graduated on-time.
Beginning with the graduating class of 2011, the State of Washington began mandating the use of an adjusted cohort method for calculating graduation rate in all state high schools. To calculate graduation based on this method, we track a “cohort” of first-time 9th graders in a particular school year, and adjust this number by adding any students who transfer into the cohort after 9th grade and subtracting any students who transfer out.
The on-time graduation rate is the percentage of the students in this cohort who graduate within four years.
This question was first raised in our community in the summer of 2016. As a result of the question, our Assistant Superintendent, Scott Brittain, decided to join a state-wide review task force with the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction in Olympia to become better informed about the piece of legislation that governs the new health standards, the content of the standards, and the state’s plan for implementing those standards.
Through this work, Mr. Brittain learned that the health standards are broad statements with which very few of us would disagree. They include assertions such as “Students will comprehend concepts related to health promotion and disease prevention to enhance health.” There is little controversy about the standards themselves, but questions have arisen about some of the suggested grade-level outcomes, especially as they relate to gender identity and orientation.
Mr. Brittain learned that the state is clear about learning standards, but less prescriptive about outcomes. The following text is directly from the state:
The state determines learning standards. Standards are broad statements about what students should know and be able to do. They are required to be taught in public schools.
Districts, schools and teachers determine grade-level outcomes. Grade-level outcomes (or student learning outcomes) described in the standards are optional for schools and teachers.
Districts, schools and teachers select textbooks and other teaching materials (curriculum and instructional materials). The choice of textbooks and other teaching materials, the development of lesson plans and grade-level instruction, and the use of grade-level outcomes are all up to each school district.
The only state legislative requirements for health education topics are CPR and AED instruction, suicide prevention and mental health, and HIV and STD prevention (annual HIV prevention education beginning no later than fifth grade).
Sexual health education is optional. If a district chooses to offer sexual health education, it must be medically and scientifically accurate, age appropriate, appropriate for students regardless of gender, race, sexual orientation, and disability status, and consistent with the Guidelines for Sexual Health and Disease Prevention. These are requirements of the Healthy Youth Act, which was passed by the state legislature in 2007.
Parents may opt their students out of all or part of sexual health education classes.
Since we last responded to questions about the new health standards, we have worked with stakeholders to make decisions about grade-level learning outcomes that are aligned with the values of our Ferndale schools, families, and community. As a result, we have decided not to teach sexual identity/orientation in any of our Ferndale elementary schools.
Further questions on this topic may be directed to Scott Brittain, Assistant Superintendent for Teaching & Learning, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
One of the core elements under consideration by the Bond Task Force is creation of a Citizen Oversight Committee separate from the School District and the School Board that would oversee the use of bond funds throughout the capital construction and renovation projects. The Oversight Committee would be charged with reporting to the community on a regular basis about how their tax dollars were being spent.
District administrators and members of the Bond Task Force share a strong interest in building trust within the community by creating transparency and accountability throughout every phase of the bond process. Other communities have successfully utilized a Citizens Oversight Committee for this purpose.
At the administrative level, we have reviewed research about the benefits of starting school after 8:30 am for teenagers, and we have discussed the possibility of altering our current school schedules in Ferndale. However, we have not to date made any concrete plans to change the start time of our high schools and middle schools from the current 7:40 am.
Beginning in Fall 2017, the Bellingham School District changed its school start and end times. This year, Bellingham elementary students are attending classes from 8:00 am to 2:30 pm (in the past, elementary hours were 8:30 am to 3:00 pm); and Bellingham secondary students are attending classes from 8:30 am to 3:15 pm (in the past, secondary hours were 7:45 am to 2:15 pm). Availability of buses requires that elementary and secondary times be staggered in Bellingham, as it does in Ferndale.
Making this schedule change was a lengthy process in Bellingham. The administration proposed several options before they came up with a plan that wasn’t rejected either by parents or one of their unions. We hope we can learn from their research and experience to avoid some of the pitfalls they encountered, should we decide to start down the road of making such a change in our district. To this end, we plan to request information from Bellingham at the end of the current school year about the pros and cons of their transition.
Although the conversation about changing start times has been ongoing at the administrative level in Ferndale, we have received very few inquiries about this topic from our staff or parents, and we have heard no significant community support for the change.
In order to work from a common definition of “overcrowding,” the district and the teachers’ union have worked together to determine class size targets at each grade level. When class sizes exceed those targets, we have also outlined in contract language the process for addressing the overage.
Elementary class targets are as follows:
- Kindergarten…20 students
- First Grade…23 students
- Second Grade...25 students
- Third Grade…25 students
- Fourth Grade…27 students
- Fifth Grade…27 students
Since student enrollment numbers change throughout the year as some students move in and others move out, we get a new report of our class sizes across the district on the 10th day of each month. At our last report, we had 22 elementary classrooms over the targets out of a total of 93 elementary classrooms districtwide. They were as follows:
- 8 Kindergarten Classrooms: three at 21, three at 22, one at 24, and one at 25
- 4 First Grade Classrooms: one at 24, one at 25, and two at 26
- 0 Second Grade Classrooms
- 2 Third Grade Classrooms: one at 26 and one at 27
- 2 Fourth Grade Classrooms: both at 30
- 5 Fifth Grade Classrooms: one at 29, three at 30, and one at 31
- 1 Fourth/Fifth Grade Combination Classroom: at 29
As per our contract with teachers, when a classroom exceeds its target by one or two students, we increase the teacher’s pay. If the number grows larger than two over the target, the principal works with the teacher and district administrators to determine some kind of additional assistance. As outlined in the contract, such assistance might include adding planning time for the teacher, para-educator support in the classroom, or another teacher at that grade level. In some instances, remedies have also included closing enrollment at a particular school or even moving a student from one school to another when doing so works for the family.
We also have target numbers in our contract for secondary schools, and they work similarly. However, the secondary targets are more complicated and harder to capture in a simple chart, since teachers teach multiple classes, subjects, and grades.
In Ferndale, our schools already serve as hubs of community activity. Large crowds gather under the Friday night lights of the stadium to cheer on the high school football team. Concerts and plays draw huge throngs. Local sports clubs use our athletic fields and gyms. We give space to service providers whose mission is to serve children and youth. Recently, both the Ferndale Food bank and the Ferndale Public Library have contacted us about placing distribution and drop-off services on our campuses.
We are very excited to be welcoming the community in a new way beginning in March when we will begin offering adult ELL classes at Ferndale High School. We know that families of our ELL students need English language support in order to best support students and we look forward to using our high school library for this purpose.
We would welcome the chance to implement additional ways our high school in particular could be used by the community, and we believe a new and improved high school facility would support us in doing so. In fact, we envision a school that is deliberately designed to be a center of our community and serve a wider variety of community needs in some or all of the following ways:
- Helping to meet the community’s leisure, recreational, and wellness needs. (School facilities can be used for the kind of enrichment programs – festivals, theater performances, concerts – that enhance a community’s cultural assets at a fraction of what it would cost to duplicate the same types of spaces elsewhere.)
- Being accessible to people of all ages. (An onsite daycare facility could help fill a growing shortage of such services and also provide a learning lab for future teachers. A school building designed to be open later or longer could permit senior citizens to use the gym and health facilities during non-school hours or take evening classes in a computer or art lab.)
- Encouraging more active parental involvement. (A parent resource center built into the school could send a powerful message that we want parents to take an active role in their children’s learning.)
- Supporting relationships with local businesses that are productive to students and supportive of the local economy. (A school facility should also be welcoming to community mentors and local businesses. We have even seen high schools designed to house branches of certain businesses, like a sponsored student store or a small bank where students can apply their learning.)
- Allowing creative space and time configurations to expand the concepts of “school day.” (We believe we need schools that support learning after hours, at night, and on weekends, and where school-to-school partnerships and collaborations with higher education are encouraged and supported.)
The mission of the Ferndale Community Coalition is to build safe and healthy communities by providing leadership, promoting prevention, and building partnerships that mobilize youth, families, and neighborhoods to promote healthy relationships and consent, and reduce substance abuse, and other destructive behaviors, among youth and the broader community.
The Ferndale Community Coalition (FCC), established in 2012, is a group of Ferndale School District staff and community partners who share a common mission to promote youth health, safety, and resiliency. Meeting monthly, the members of the FCC are focused on creating the type of community in which we want our young people to work, live and play. They understand that, what no single organization or agency can do alone, we can accomplish together.
The FCC was born out of a STEP grant our district received from the U.S. Department of Justice. We were of one of nine communities in the country selected to receive this grant seven years ago. Recently we were the only one of the original nine grantees to be given a second grant by the Department of Justice (called Safe Futures). The reasons for the continued funding have everything to do with the diversity of our community coalition and the willingness our group has shown to come together around youth and families.
The Ferndale Community Coalition has become recognized as a model in the state for supporting students’ social, emotional, and mental health needs.
We are proud of students for taking action about something they believe in. We think it is our responsibility to protect and support their First Amendment rights, so long as we can do so without jeopardizing their safety or the safety of others. We want to help them exercise their voices in respectful dialogue and debate about issues that matter to them, especially since we know that passion and advocacy can lead to powerful learning.
At the same time, we are committed to ensuring that all students feel safe and respected no matter what side of a particular issue they are on. To this end, our schools and classes operated on normal schedules during the county-wide student protest/walk-out on February 21.
We also respect the role of parents in these activities. We informed our high school students know that we expected them to stay on campus on February 21 unless they had permission from their parents to participate in the off-campus protest. We demanded that our middle school students stay on campus unless they were physically picked up and transported by a parent or guardian. In a letter we sent to all parents, we asked them to talk with their older children about the protest that took place or February 21, whether or not they participated in it. Because we are aware that additional student-led events are being planned across the state and country for the weeks and months ahead, we encourage parents to help prepare young people for similar situations they may face in the future.
During the week of February 20-23, two concerning online communications were brought to the district’s attention.
The first was a hoax involving a school safety threat that was widely communicated online. The threat was investigated by the Ferndale Police Department and other police departments across the country. For more information please see a statement from the Ferndale Police Department. Although this incident turned out to be a hoax, we encouraged our community to assume all threats are credible and to continue to report all safety concerns.
The second concern brought to our attention centered on a Snapchat conversation from an unidentified user that was shared with multiple Ferndale High School students. The conversation, which contained a statement that could be interpreted as a threat, was reported to Ferndale High School administration who in turn shared it with the Ferndale Police Department. An active investigation ensued immediately, along with enhanced security and support on the high school campus.
We are always hyper-vigilant when it comes to student safety. We know the best way to ensure our children’s safety is to work together. We applaud the students, staff, and parents who have shared their concerns with us.
If you have information, tips or concerns about a safety issue, we encourage you to contact one of our schools or our district office directly. You can also report through our anonymous portal online at https://ferndale-wa.safeschoolsalert.com/ or by calling or texting 360.383.5353 or emailing email@example.com.
Windward High School has always been a school of choice. For the past 14 years, it has provided an excellent educational experience to the students who have chosen it. During the past few years, however, fewer students have elected the Windward option. Last spring only seven freshmen enrolled. When this year’s senior class graduates, there simply will not be enough students left to sustain the school. Sadly, that means we have had to decide that 2017-2018 will be Windward’s final year.
We didn’t make this decision until after the 2017-2018 school year had already begun. Last spring, the WHS staff and district administration put more effort into recruiting than ever, and right up until the last minute, we hoped more students would enroll. When they did not, we were forced to realize that we cannot recruit ourselves out of this situation.
With closure looking like an inevitability, we decided to make the decision final sooner rather than later. We wanted to give ourselves enough time to work with students and families to ensure each makes as soft a landing as possible into a new option next year.
While our main goal is to provide care and support for students as they go through this transition, we also want to support our Windward staff. All of them are guaranteed continued employment in the Ferndale School District next year. However, just as we need time with students, we need time to confer with each staff member about a future assignment that best fits his or her needs and desires.
On Thursday, January 25, Windward students and families, along with other secondary students in the district, were invited to an evening event on the WHS campus to provide information about the following high school options that will be available next year:
The Soar Program was created by the Ferndale School District several years ago as an option for students who have had barriers to success in a traditional high school setting but desire to graduate. One of its primary purposes was to provide an option for students to obtain Ferndale School District diploma by earning Washington State’s required 24 credits, just as Windward students do, rather than the 30 credits required of students at Ferndale High School. SOAR operates as a small school-within-a-school program at Ferndale High School. It provides a blended model with some online courses, some direct instruction, and access to a variety of Ferndale High School curricular and extracurricular programs. Its flexibility is designed to accommodate students who have outside commitments such as employment, medical needs, or family responsibilities.
Ferndale Virtual Academy will provide a personalized, flexible approach for students who want either a blended or fully online, anywhere, anytime approach to learning. Coursework at Ferndale Virtual Academy will be provided through the well-established and accredited Spokane Virtual Learning system. The menu of classes includes: 47 core courses, 7 Advanced Placement College Board approved courses, and a number of credit retrieval and elective courses. Students will be supported in their learning by Ferndale teachers through regular weekly check-ins and tutoring as needed. They will also have access to the virtual learning instructors who work in Spokane’s Virtual Learning system, all of whom are Washington State certificated teachers assigned to specific courses in which they are qualified.
IMPACT!, run by Bellingham Technical College on the BTC campus, is a flexible route to academic and career success. In addition to core academic subjects, students get support with such college and career readiness skills as time management, stress reduction, study skills, and accessing campus and community resources. They also get to take advantage of BTC’s career-focused programs leading to a two-year degree or technical certificate at no cost to them or their families.
Running Start gives 11th and 12th grade students the opportunity to get an early start on their college careers by attending all or some of their classes at a local community college and earning credit for those classes at both the high school and the college levels. Running Start is available to Ferndale students at both Whatcom Community College and Bellingham Technical College.
Ferndale High School remains another option for Windward students for part or all of their day.
In addition, the district is willing to work with families who want to design a completely new option (like a small evening high school) if enough interest exists for doing so.
We are working hard to create transparency at the School District. This means opening up, sharing our story, and answering questions. It also means finding new ways to reach people.
Over the last few months we have taken a long hard look at how we get information out to our community, and we are trying new things including an increased focus on social media; a brand new E-newsletter we published at the end of January; a new “We Are Ferndale” blog series; a trial run with Facebook Live (to communicate about Windward); and a general increase in opportunities for the community to interact with the school district.
At a recent Bond Task Force meeting, a question was raised by a community member about why the district no longer offers summer school programs.
Actually, the district offers five different summer school programs:
- Jump Start is an early learning readiness program for incoming kindergartners who have had limited exposure to formal school settings. Last summer we had 80 little Jump Starters in the summer program.
- The Elementary Summer Success Program serves students in grades K-4 who need additional support in reading or math. Last summer nearly 120 students participated.
- Summer Trek is a middle-to-high-school program that engages students to be community problem-solvers by involving them in service learning projects. Last summer approximately 30 students worked on projects dealing with water quality and hunger.
- Credit Retrieval is a high school program that allows students in grades 9-12 to make up the credits they need for graduation by completing online coursework. Last summer more than 90 students took advantage of this program.
- Extended School Year serves special education students in grades K-12 who need continued learning support to maintain gains made during the school year. Last summer, about two dozen students were enrolled.
What we don’t have in Ferndale that we used to have (more than a decade ago) is a summer program strictly for enrichment classes aimed at developing or extending students’ interests, like painting or robotics or creative writing. When such a summer school did exist in Ferndale, it was financially supported by community partners. The district would be willing to facilitate such an enrichment program again in the future. However, we do not have funding for teachers or supplies.
Every absence is a learning opportunity lost.
Studies show that missing just 10 percent or more of school (defined as chronic absenteeism) – whether absences are excused, unexcused, or due to suspension – predicts lower levels of numeracy and literacy for students by third grade, class failure in middle school, and higher levels of suspension.
Ultimately, missing school can lead to a greater likelihood that students will drop out of high school and/or have lower levels of persistence in college. Every absence, excused or unexcused, can have significant impacts on a student’s success in school and life.
With that said, we know some absences are unavoidable due to health problems or other circumstances, and we are not suggesting parents should send sick children to school. We just want to make sure they are armed with good information about the impact of attendance, which is the reason we are focusing so intently on this topic across our district.
Over the years, drainage problems have buckled the track’s surface making it uneven and unsafe for student use.
In 2009, the district paid a contractor $50,000 to make repairs to the track. He was reluctant to do so, because the only thing possible was a one-year emergency fix. We went ahead with the work despite the lack of a warranty because we didn’t want to deny our students or our community the use of this part of our facility. However, the fix didn’t last. Within two years, the track surface had returned to its previous unsafe state. Even if we wanted to continue to invest in temporary fixes, we would not be able to find contractors who would take on the work. According to their expert opinion, the only remedy is to rebuild the track completely above the water table.
Depending on the recommendations of the Bond Task Force and the decisions of the School Board, a new track may be part of the bond package offered to voters in November 2018.
A rat was discovered in our 400 Hallway on January 19, 2018. Maintenance staff trapped and removed the rat that day. School District staff also contacted rodent exterminators that day and requested an extensive inspection of our buildings with action as needed.
There has been at least one other sighting of a rat in an FHS building this fall and also some evidence of rat droppings. We take health and safety seriously and are committed to addressing this problem through a thorough process.
As part of our process, the Health Department inspected our buildings at Ferndale High School. The health inspector gave us a general thumbs up saying that the district is doing the right things to address the rodent problem. When we get his official report, we will be sharing it with the community.
Our community has been engaged in healthy dialogue about student safety and bullying. This conversation has given us the opportunity to listen to concerns and share our policies and practices.
Bullying is never ok. We are adamant on this point and principals in every Ferndale School District school are committed to supporting students who report bullying behavior. All of them have created procedures for reporting and dealing with bullying. All of them have also implemented teaching programs specifically designed to prevent bullying altogether and/or to stop it quickly if it occurs. Such programs include PBIS (Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports), Second Step, and Capturing Kids’ Hearts.
As part of our effort to bring the community into this conversation about putting an end to bullying, we are hosting an upcoming Facebook Live session with our secondary principals on this topic. More information will be forthcoming.
Yes. At their meeting on January 22, the members of the Technology Advisory Committee decided to change our current practice regarding internet filtering on student devices.
All of our student devices are equipped with a filtering system called iBoss, which is a firewall that denies access to internet sites that may be inappropriate for school-age users including many social media sites. The iBoss is activated on all student computers all the time they are at school. However, when secondary students have taken their devices home, they have no longer been covered by the iBoss filtering system unless parents or guardians have requested that it be extended to cover all internet networks at all times. In other words, we have been operating our out-of-school filtering as an opt-in system with the default being no filtering except that which parents themselves impose. The decision to set things up this way was made by the Technology Task Force when we first started one-to-one and was based on input from parents.
This practice has been under review; and, as a result of that review, we are going to change from an opt-in to an opt-out system for all middle school students. Starting on February 2, the beginning of the new semester, iBoss will be turned on 24-7 unless parents or guardians request that it be turned off when their student(s) leave school. The reasons for this change have to do with online safety and student supervision.
The Community Bond Task Force is made up of approximately 50 volunteers and is run by a neutral outside facilitator. So far, the Task Force has met to evaluate school building conditions, prioritize needs, evaluate future plans, and provide input regarding a potential bond package recommendation. The work of the Task Force is not done. If the Task Force remains on schedule, members will deliver a recommendation to the School Board at the end of February. The School Board will then create a resolution to put before voters in November 2018.
Here are a few examples of the types of questions the Task Force is asking:
- How much space does each school need to accommodate future growth?
- Should we build “new” or “renovate?"
- What do our buildings need to better safeguard our students and staff?
- Are there educational needs we cannot meet in current buildings?
- How much of our building infrastructure is obsolete?
The members of the Bond Task Force have launched their own website to share the work they are doing and also gather input from citizens. It is not too late for any Ferndale citizen to add his/her thoughts to the conversation. Visit the Bond Task Force at https://fsdbondtaskforce.participate.online.
For the past 14 years, Windward High School has provided an excellent educational experience to the students who have chosen it.
Windward has always been a school of choice. During the past few years, fewer students have chosen the Windward option. Currently, there are fewer than 70 students enrolled, and 25 of them are seniors who will be graduating. Last spring only seven freshmen chose to attend Windward and two of them have left or are planning to leave. This tells us that we need to develop new options.
The current School Board and the district administration have always supported Windward. However, when this year’s senior class graduates, there simply will not be enough students left to sustain the school.
We discovered last spring that we cannot recruit ourselves out of this situation. The staff and administration put more effort into recruiting than ever and fewer students than ever signed up.
Therefore, we have made the difficult decision to close the school at the end of the 2017-2018 school year.
The School Board and district administration are still deeply committed to providing a variety of options for students. They know one size does not fit all. To this end, they have begun to develop several new options which might be offered beginning in 2018-2019 if students let us know they are “the right options” by choosing them. Such options include: (1) a small evening high school; (2) a virtual academy; (3) a blended learning school-within-a-school with some digital courses and some traditional courses; and (4) a partnership program with Bellingham Technical College that could lead to a technical degree or certificate. This is neither a guaranteed list of options or a comprehensive list, just the beginning of our planning process which we intend to continue with input from students, families, and staff.
The Windward staff, supported by the School Board and district administration, pledges to work with each individual Windward student to ensure he/she makes as soft a landing as possible into a new option next year.
The Windward staff are highly valued members of the Ferndale School District team. Their continued employment in the district is guaranteed. Just as we work to find the best possible next placement for each student, we will be conferring with each staff about a future assignment that best fits their needs and desires.
Vista Room 16 has been reserved as a conference space and is regularly used as a meeting space for district and community meetings. Its proximity to the district office and its outside entrance onto the shared parking lot make it ideal for this purpose. However, it does mean that a number of people are entering the Vista building each week without checking in at the main office, which is located on the other side of the campus.
This situation has raised questions about what measures we are taking to ensure appropriate security at Vista. Such measures include:
- Ensuring the Vista main office staff is aware of the meeting schedule in Vista Room 16.
- Requiring everyone who attends a meeting in Vista Room 16 to wear an official school district identification badge or an authorized visitor badge.
- Requiring meeting attendees to use only the staff restrooms at Vista, not the student restrooms.
The district owns a 29-acre piece of land on Church Road. However, this parcel is not big enough for a comprehensive high school with numerous CTE (Career & Technical Education) offerings, a very popular performing arts curriculum, a large athletic program, and all the parking required by these activities. Such a high school would require a minimum of 40 acres.
We provide laptops to all our students because they are important learning tools in today’s society, and they will continue to be so in the future in which our children are going to live and work. They are the textbooks of this era. We have decided to issue them to students to use full-time for all the same reasons we used to issue textbooks to students to take home with them. Our motivation is aimed at ensuring equity. Some students have their own devices at home that they can use for doing school projects or other kinds of learning. Some students do not have their own devices. By giving a school device to everyone, we are trying to level the playing field.
The question has been raised about whether students can use their laptops for non-school-related uses. Although the initial Technology Use Agreement we drafted for students and parents to sign specified the devices were only for schoolwork, we are coming to realize that a hard line about school-only use is very hard to maintain for students and staff, and we are rethinking that part of our contract. If a student wants to check weather patterns on his or her device to see how warmly to dress tomorrow, do we want to prohibit that? If they want to check movie times or email a friend in the evening or at lunchtime, should that be against the rules? We think the internet is so ubiquitous and our students are working on assignments that are so diverse, it becomes difficult to draw a box around what is school work and what is not. Therefore, our approach is moving toward a hard line between what is appropriate and what is not, rather than what is schoolwork and what is not.
We have implemented a filter system within the school district that prevents students from accessing websites that have been deemed inappropriate. We also provide guidance to parents and guardians about how they can manage and/or block their children’s internet use at home. With that said, we realize we can never do enough blocking or filtering to keep students from misusing technology. We must also teach them to be ethical and critical consumers of the information they find on the internet. We must – and we do -- provide Digital Citizenship education in our classrooms, and we also offer this education to parents and guardians so they can reinforce the concepts at home. Among the topics included in our Digital Citizenship curriculum are digital footprint, safe social media use, cyber bullying, digital etiquette, and health & wellness.
Use of devices by our students is constantly evolving inside and outside of school. Inside school, we used to block Facebook. However, now we are using Facebook as one of our primary district communication tools. Therefore, we allow students access. As things change, neither teachers nor parents alone can be internet patrols all the time. We have to work together.
When students misuse their laptops, our responses vary according to the severity of the misuse. If a student is on a wrong site during a class period, the teacher might just redirect him or her. If a student is using the device to access inappropriate content or to engage in bullying or harassment, the same consequences will apply as they do when these offenses are committed without technology. In addition, students may lose internet privileges.
The district’s improvement goal for behavior states that "in every school, the total number of students assigned Exclusionary Discipline will decrease by 50% or more when compared to the number who were excluded during the 2017 school year." The question was raised about whether this means we will ensure students are “50% better behaved” or we will “reduce our expectations by 50%.” The question is a valid one.
In retrospect, our goal would have been more aptly stated as a desire to reduce the number of students who act in a manner that requires them to be excluded from their classrooms or schools, since it is not our intention to lower our standards for behavior. In fact, we have been working very hard to improve student behavior through more direct teaching of our behavioral expectations. This is a foundational piece of the PBIS (Positive Behavior Intervention and Supports) philosophy our district has been working to implement for the past five years. The behavior goal in our district improvement plan is intended to measure the success of that work.
A question was also raised about the second part of our behavior goal, which addresses our desire to eliminate the disparity in the number of disciplinary sanctions applied to various subgroups of students. The questioner referred to the American value that “justice should be blind,” and inferred that all interventions should be applied equally regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, or other distinction.
We are committed to fairness and equity, which requires us to take off our blinders and look carefully at what the data might suggest about disparities and inconsistencies in our system. If, for instance, we notice that the subjects of 75% of our discipline referrals are boys and that 75% of our dropouts are boys, we need to ask ourselves whether the behavior of boys is inherently worse than the behavior of girls, or whether our system is not set up to meet the needs of boys as well as it meets the needs of girls.
Our ultimate goal is to meet the needs of all children so they can learn at the highest levels possible, progress successfully through school, earn their diplomas, and become contributing members of our society. We believe it is our responsibility to adjust our system in ways that support this goal.
Our goal is to make the work of the Bond Task Force as transparent and accessible as possible. To this end, we have taken the following steps:
- Instituted a practice of emailing weekly updates on the work of the Bond Task Force to all district staff and School Board members.
- Formed a Bond Task Force Communications Sub-Committee that will be meeting for the first time on Thursday, November 30. The committee’s agenda will include: (1) developing key messages; (2) communicating the work of the Bond Task Force; (3) exploring online participation channels; and (4) seeking community input.
- Hired a Communications/Social Media Specialist to assist us in getting the word out.
- Committed to creating and maintaining a separate Bond Task Force website, which will be launched by the end of the first week in December, to share information about the Task Force work with the broader community as well as to collect comments and suggestions. Names of Task Force members and dates of all Task Force and sub-committee meetings will be posted on the website, along with agendas, minutes, and supporting materials.
Questions about the work of the Bond Task Force can be directed at any time to Superintendent Linda Quinn (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Assistant Superintendent Mark Deebach (email@example.com).
When the 2017-2018 school year started, the Custer playground was partially but not completely fenced. In September, a parent asked whether the fence could be repaired and extended. The Custer principal also identified this as a need. Our new Director of Maintenance, Jamie Plenkovich, committed to getting this work done by the end of the 2017 calendar year. On November 16, Mr. Plenkovich reported that the fencing project had been completed. The Custer community is grateful for this safety upgrade at their school.
Last school year (2016-2017), we experienced a record number of school days missed due to weather. As one snow day followed another, we realized what a hardship multiple closures can cause for families who have built their work schedules around our school schedules; and we began devising a plan for mitigating some of that impact.
Our goal is to be able to provide a free "day camp" style child care program for district elementary students on snow closure days – should there be any – during the winter of 2017-2018. A survey of elementary parents conducted during fall conferences indicated that such a service would be much appreciated by families.
The planning process for our “Snow Day Camp” is currently underway. The one obstacle the district has encountered, however, is staffing. So far, we have not been able to identify staff members who feel certain they could get to work on snow days to run the camp. (If you know anyone who might be interested in this type of part-time work, please encourage him/her to contact Mark Hall at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
When/if our plans are finalized, we will advertise this daycare option to parents of district elementary students. The one requirement for taking advantage of Snow Day Camp will be signing up in advance.
This situation occurred on Friday, November 3. Snow and ice on the roads in parts of the district prevented us from transporting students at the regular start time. Such weather conditions demanded a two-hour delayed start. However, November 3 had already been scheduled as an elementary early release day for parent-teacher conferences. Since it is impossible to run a late arrival and an early release on the same day, we canceled the early release. Although we realized this decision would likely create challenges for some families and would require parents and teachers to reschedule some conferences, we believed it was a better option than canceling the whole day and having to make it up in June.
In the future, any time inclement weather requires a late start on a day that has been previously scheduled for early release, we will cancel the early release and run classes until the regular dismissal time.
Last spring, the Ferndale School District received a school website accessibility complaint from OCR, the Office for Civil Rights. We subsequently learned that school districts and other educational agencies across the country have been similarly notified that their websites are not ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliant.
The complaint brought to light issues that we were not aware we were neglecting. We learned that school websites – just like other parts of our school campuses – need to be accessible for everyone. We learned that some of the most universal problems are lack of appropriate tagging of pictures and closed captioning of videos, insufficient color contrast, and failure to properly label online forms.
In August, we began taking steps to make all our websites – at the district level and at each school -- more responsive and more accessible to all our audiences. This was a complex process that involved rebuilding each site from the ground up. We contracted with a company called Campus Suite to help us do this work. With their assistance and support, we were able to go live with our new ADA-compliant websites on Friday, November 3. Users may have noticed changes in the appearance of our websites.
We want every student, staff member, parent, and member of the school community at large to be able to utilize fully all the important content on our website. Therefore, we are pleased to have been able to make these necessary improvements.
Currently, we are in the process of training key staff on making sure all future website posts are fully accessible as well.
One of the many winter events we planned last year that was foiled by inclement weather was a holiday-themed community sing-a-long. So, we are going to try again this year.
On Wednesday, December 20 (the day after students are dismissed for Winter Break), the district will be hosting a community holiday event from 5:30 pm to 7:30 pm at Ferndale High School. During the first 90 minutes of the event (5:30-7:00), we are inviting parents to drop off elementary-age students to participate in playing games and decorating cookies while Mom and Dad use the time to shop, hopefully locally, since we are partnering with the Chamber’s “Shop Local” campaign.
At 7:00 pm, parents can bring their gifts back to FHS to take advantage of wrapping services and also to take part in a community sing-along in the FHS gym.
All of these events will be free to the participants.
The first meeting of Ferndale School District’s Bond Task Force was held on Tuesday, October 24, 2017. Approximately 40 people attended, about one-third district staff and two-thirds community members.
Membership on the Bond Task Force is voluntary. For the past four months, we have published information in various formats through various venues inviting people to take part. We intentionally reached out to community members, since they have historically been an underrepresented voice. The people who showed up at the first meeting were those who responded to the invitation.
All Bond Task Force meetings are open to the public.
Ferndale School District is committed to offering every member of our community a safe, welcoming, and inclusive experience. When we fall short of this ideal, we need help in bringing problems to our attention. When someone experiences something that offends or insults, whether it was intentional or unintentional, there are three groups of district staff who are always ready to listen and address concerns: (1) our building principals and assistant principals, (2) our school counselors, and (3) our district office staff (see contact information below).
When we learn about specific incidents that do not meet our standards, we respond. Usually, we begin by collecting as much background information as possible, typically engaging those involved in thoughtful dialogue so that we can better understand how their words or actions may have been inappropriate or hurtful. If the problem is complicated or the behavior is repetitive, we can assign formal retraining. If this does not resolve the problem, we can elevate the case to include some type of formal discipline. This would be true for staff as well as students.
As an example, a parent recently shared with us her concerns about a PTO fundraising message that included as an incentive the school principal’s “becoming an Eskimo and sitting on blocks of ice for 10 minutes.” The parent rightfully deemed this characterization as perpetuating racial stereotypes, oppressive behaviors, and cultural appropriation. The immediate reaction from the school principal (on behalf of both himself and the PTO), the president of the School Board, and the superintendent was to acknowledge the blunder, apologize, and began to apply corrective action. The principal’s responses to the parent included the following statements:
I completely agree with you that this should have never gone out as it is. I will be working with our PTO today to amend the literature and ensure that the rewards that are earned meet a high standard of cultural sensitivity. Please feel free to contact me directly anytime you have concerns. When we all work together, we can do our very best for our children. I apologize that we fell short in this instance and I assure you it will be rectified today.
Thanks again for alerting me that this had gone home so we could fix it. I am sorry that you had to, but glad that you did. I invite you to join our PTO and get involved, as we could really use your perspective and your help. Once again, please accept my apology for any hurt that we caused.
As noted above, our organization is fully committed to honoring, celebrating, and embracing our diverse community. This is a long-term effort that we take very seriously, knowing that we have not yet arrived. We work with all our buildings and departments regularly to build knowledge and understanding about our students’ cultural backgrounds and ways we can serve and elevate them. We monitor programs and student performance to address opportunity and achievement gaps (see our District Improvement Plan) in an effort to provide every child in our care with the highest levels of learning. Finally, we work to engage the broader community in this critical work through events such as our annual Culture Fair.
Linda Quinn, Superintendent, 360.383.9207
Mark Deebach, Assistant Superintendent for Business & Support Services, 360.383.9203
Scott Brittain, Assistant Superintendent for Teaching & Learning, 360.383.9210
Mark Hall, Executive Director for Teaching & Learning, 360.383.9211
Jill Iwasaki, Executive Director for Student Services, 360.383.9221
Paul Douglas, Executive Director for Human Resources, 360.383.9206
At the beginning of this school year, we experienced a number of issues with our district instructional technology. Recently, however, our technology is working better in most classrooms and throughout the district.
The district hired a new technology support vendor in late summer, so we anticipated some challenges with our conversion protocols. When we decided to upgrade our Microsoft Office products on 2500 student devices, which we were deploying during the first two weeks of school, we encountered our first major issue. The upgraded Microsoft Office program conflicted with the product that was previously installed on the devices, thereby essentially “crashing” the entire Microsoft Office Suite. In an attempt to repair the problems, we had to slow the network down to inoperable speeds for a period of time, which definitely created a hardship.
In the end, the problem was solved, but not before our entire district was impacted.
Since we recovered from the Microsoft issue, we have been working hard to provide daily service in a more timely fashion. We have not experienced further network or application issues of any great consequence. While we continue to have some “growing” pains with our new service provider, our technology support program is getting better every day.
When we received feedback that the Print Shop was not performing at a level that matched staff expectations, we sought anecdotal information and asked for samples of jobs that were not completed as expected. Staff was very good about providing specific examples, as well as sample jobs, that we were able to pass along to the Print Shop.
Our second step was to conduct a survey open to all staff to get more quantitative information about how the Print Shop was performing and to inform us of specific areas that needed improvement.
We then shared survey results and sample jobs with Ricoh management staff. Ricoh (the vendor who is overseeing this initiative) committed to develop a plan that would get the Print Shop performing at a level that matched our expectations. The action steps they came up with are outlined below in the message from Ricoh’s Print Shop Manager.
Ricoh staff have collaborated on implementing action items that we believe will improve the performance of the Print Shop by addressing concerns about accuracy and timeliness. In the meantime, district staff have stepped in to help complete both printing jobs and the corrective action items they could take care of themselves.
Ferndale Print Shop production improvements and actions developed by Ricoh in early October 2017 include:
- Tyler (Print Shop Manager) returned to work September 29. At that time, there were 56 jobs in the production queue representing 12,619 impressions. We are keeping up with current job flow.
- Kevin will work on site Wednesday afternoons until further notice.
- We will train a new FSR for the site.
- We will work with Mark Deebach on re-appropriating teacher device(s) to prevent production equipment backup.
- We will add the capability of an instructor-accessed device to 3-hole punch and staple.
- We will better organize the space to reduce clutter and define specific work areas: production prep, in production, quality check, pick-up/delivery.
- We will use a checklist system for quality control.
- We will continue to work with instructors to plan and have their academic materials printed well in advance of need, especially projects requiring considerable prep to print, such as scanning and assembly of files or other documents.
- We will continue to train instructors on how to use the PrintNet tool through Lunch & Learn presentations and other meetings. This can be done in a one-on-one setting as well.
- We will add a second employee, starting with part time if necessary.
- Per the item above, we will stagger shifts when volume dictates.
- With the assistance of a second employee, we will implement a quality control process involving one person’s reviewing the other person’s work.
The district’s next step will be to conduct a follow-up survey to make sure the performance of the Print Center is improving.
When concerns about using actors with simulated injuries in the Iron Viking exercise were brought to our attention, we decided to offer two variations of the training. In addition to the originally planned moulage version, we added a non-moulage version, giving staff members a choice about which they would attend.
The non-moulage training was conducted in the Vista library and focused on a review of the first aid techniques taught in the TICS (Teacher Initiated Care System) class that staff attended last spring, as opposed to the practical application of the techniques during the Iron Viking simulated emergency situation.
Feedback was positive about offering the two variants of the training exercise, and members of both groups reported worthwhile benefits from their experiences.
When the district recognized the need to augment the gravel under and around the playground equipment at Eagleridge Elementary, our Maintenance Department tilled the existing gravel and filled in with some additional gravel, After this process had been completed, we were informed that several screws had been found in the gravel. The area of the Eagleridge playground impacted by this problem was closed to children, while the district maintenance crew used shovels, rakes, and magnets to locate and remove the screws. We believe the problem has been eradicated. The Health Department has also assessed the Eagleridge playground and verified that it is free from any unwanted debris.
This fall we found evidence of a rat in the Culinary Arts room at Ferndale High School. Personnel from the District Maintenance Department responded by locating the probable entrance point being used by the rat, setting out traps, monitoring them closely, ultimately capturing and removing the rodent, and continuing to monitor for any rodent friends. At this point, they have patched all the holes they have detected that might be used for critters to gain access to the building. They are implementing best practices regarding non-chemical pest control and continuing to watch the situation closely, taking all necessary actions to ensure our high school building remains free of rodents.
The Custer playground is mostly, but not completely, fenced. This past fall, a parent asked whether the fence could be repaired and extended. The Custer principal also identified this as a need. Therefore, we took the request to our new Director of Maintenance, Jamie Plenkovich, who committed to moving forward to get this work done. He immediately went to the campus to assess the situation and then scheduled Northwest Fence to come out and give him a bid on October 12. We anticipate we will have the Custer fence project completed by the end of the current calendar year.
A district staff member who was learning the ins and outs of our complex student data management system believed she was working in a practice mode. She was not. As a result, she inadvertently sent out a batch of practice email letters to real families. The letter in question, which happened to be written in Spanish, informed the families that their children did not have up-to-date immunization records on file with the school district and were thus in jeopardy of being excluded from school as per Washington State Law. Understandably, this caused distress in the parents who erroneously received the letters.
The district staff member responsible for the mistake felt terrible about it, although we assured her that we understood her error was neither malicious nor a reflection of her competence. Mistakes are a part of the learning process, a fact that is foundational to our core business as educators.
At the same time, we are very sorry that we caused needless worry to some of our families. As a district, our response to these families included the following:
- We sent a notification to all district families via our student information system and district Facebook page letting them know we had made this mistake and apologizing for it.
- We identified the specific families who had mistakenly received the letter in question and sent them a written explanation and an apology both in English and in Spanish.
- We adjusted our training protocols to prevent this kind of error from happening in the future.
The district takes several steps to ensure volunteers have been vetted. First, as a basic precaution, all volunteers are screened using the WATCH (Washington Access to Criminal History).
If a volunteer is chaperoning an overnight activity where he/she is supervising students through the night, we also require that he/she submits to a fingerprint screen, which allows for in an in-depth criminal background check through the national data base. Chaperones for high school overnight trips, where students are paired together in hotel rooms and chaperones have their own rooms, do not require fingerprinting.
When the district discovers that a volunteer has a criminal history, we conduct a review to determine the type of offense, the date when the incident occurred, and whether the incident involved children. Not every offense is deemed sufficient reason to deny a person the opportunity to volunteer.
However, any volunteer with a criminal background is required to disclose this on his/her volunteer application. Failure to disclose could result in disqualification from volunteering. When a potential volunteer does not disclose, he/she may be contacted and given the opportunity to provide further information.
The district maintains a database to keep track of all volunteers. This year we have moved to requiring all volunteers update their information annually to ensure our records are accurate and current.
Starting on August 16, 2017, the district sent out the first letters to parents whose students were on the free or reduced meal program during the 2016-2017 school year.
In August, Food Service Staff attended school meetings in order to answer questions about the application process as follows: Vista open house on August 31, Community outreach night at Horizon on August 29, Orientation for Freshmen and Upperclassmen at FHS on August 29 and 30, Custer Ice Cream Social on September 5.
In August, a reminder notice was posted on the District Food Services webpage that the free and reduced applications were being accepted and were due on October 18. In addition, hard copies of the reminder and application were made available at the student’s school. Families were informed that they could submit their applications online or on paper.
On the first day of school, every elementary school student received a hard copy of the free and reduced application along with a letter containing instructions for filing out the application.
Another set of letters (approximately 400 this year) were mailed between October 7 and October 9 to families who had previously had students qualify for the program but had not yet filed out a new application.
On October 10, an automated phone call was placed to all households in the district stating:
If your family is on the free and reduced meal program and you have not submitted a new application for the School Year 2017-2018, please do so prior to October 16, 2017. Last year's applications will expire on October 18, and after that date your child or children will no longer have benefits for free or reduced meals unless you reapply. The cost of any meals incurred by your child/children will be your responsibility.
October 24, approximately 150 letters were mailed to households that qualified for the program last year and did not submit a new application prior to the October 18 deadline.
We are continuing to accept applications at any time. There are no time restrictions on when new applications can be accepted. Unfortunately, charges incurred prior to the new eligibility are still the responsibility of the parent since the date of the eligibility is not retroactive.
Whenever we receive an anonymous complaint or concern, we assess the content and follow up on anything related to the safety of our students, staff, or families. However, anonymous complaints are more difficult to deal with because they do not allow us to get the whole story, even though there is generally more than one side to a controversy. Our goals are to address wrong-doing and solve problems to the greatest extent possible. When the information we are working with is anonymous, and therefore one-sided, we feel hampered in our ability to achieve these goals.
Anonymous messages are harder to investigate because we are limited to whatever information was submitted. We do not have the ability to follow up or ask clarifying questions.
We encourage people to submit complaints with their identity known so we can work collaboratively with them to address concerns. The district has a zero tolerance policy regarding retaliation, because we do not want fear of reprisal to dampen anyone’s willingness to report wrongdoing.
Over the last 15 years, the celebration of Halloween has been gradually phased out of schools across the United States for a number of reasons. In the Ferndale School District we have chosen to minimize rather than eliminate the impact of Halloween and other holidays on the school and classroom environment as part of our ongoing effort to stay focused on our core mission of educating all students.
On the other hand, where there is a clear overlap between what is happening in our community and the curriculum we deliver to our students, we make every effort to highlight and build upon those connections. This could mean that our younger students who are learning about calendars and celebrations would make reference to Halloween in books or art projects. It could also mean that different afterschool groups choose to offer activities that are tied to a particular holiday such as Halloween.
With all that being said, there are two primary reasons why the Ferndale School District has deliberately moved away from allowing Halloween costumes and parties in our classrooms during the school day: (1) To preserve and protect limited time for instruction pointed directly at the state learning standards. (2) To follow our district’s food policy, which limits sharing food in classrooms because of nutrition and food allergy concerns.
The law is still very new and interpretations about how it is to be implemented are still somewhat vague. We anticipate over the course of the next year, the specific impacts will become more clear. With that said, we offer the following answer to this question based on what we know at this point.
During the last legislative session, the Washington State Legislature passed what has commonly been referred to as a “levy swap,” which means they renamed the local M & O (Maintenance & Operations) levy money that the Ferndale taxpayers voted to pay through their property taxes as state levy money. In other words, we are talking about the same money (from local property taxes), but in the future it will be considered state money as opposed to local money. In addition to this “swap,” the state will be allowing individual school districts to run local levies (as soon as their current ones expire) for a smaller amount to fund the “extra” items that are not part of the state’s definition of basic education (such as art, music, and a large portion of special education).
The new state levy replaces the old local levy at a reduced dollar amount.
There will be a new smaller local levy so that we can continue to fund programs that the state does not include in its definition of basic education.
It should be noted that a capital bond, which is also funded from property taxes, is a separate standalone proposition which is not covered by the new legislation pertaining to school levies.
Like FFA and DECA, Jazz Band at the middle school level in Ferndale is a co-curricular program that occurs outside the regular school day. It is not a class. As such, we need to recruit an advisor/coach to run the activity. In the past, the middle school band director, who was a veteran with lots of experience, took on this extra duty.
We have allocated a stipend to continue the middle school Jazz Band program, and we have advertised for an advisor through our Extracurricular Coaching and Advising selection process. We are hopeful we will be able to find someone who is able and willing to take on this extra task so that we can continue to offer the program.
Less than half of the country’s public schools employ a full-time nurse. In most school districts, including Ferndale, nurses rotate among schools,
This situation isn’t new. The majority of Washington schools have never had full-time nurses. When budgets tightened heading into the Great Recession of the early 2000s, many districts were faced with hard choices between maintaining lower class sizes and keeping nurses, counselors, librarians, and other certificated support staff.
As it stands now, each Washington school district decides how to utilize its nurses in much the same way it determine how many teachers are needed — by enrollment and budget. That usually means a school nurse might work in more than one building, with a trained staff or volunteer available for certain duties when the nurse is out.
According to data maintained by OSPI, only one of Washington’s 295 school districts (Shoreline) has committed to assigning one full-time nurse to each of its schools. However, unlike Ferndale and most other school districts who classify nurses as certificated employees similar to teachers and counselors, Shoreline categorizes nurses as classified employees, in the same category as instructional assistants, cafeteria workers and bus drivers, and they are thus subject to a different pay scale.
Across the country, you are more likely to find students of color than staff members of color in our public schools. The diversity of the educational workforce does not represent the diversity of the children they serve. Recent statistics show 40% of the nation’s students are students of color, while people of color make up only 17% of all teachers and principals.
The current composition of the Ferndale School District reflects this disproportionality. However, under the leadership of Dr. Paul Douglas, we are taking steps to close the gap. We have, for instance, rewritten our interview questions to focus on candidates’ strengths and highlight differences. We are working to build stronger relationships with colleges and universities, and we are offering more internships with the goal of attracting more diversity. We are supporting alternative routes to certification for some of our classified staff members. We are keeping data and regularly tracking our progress in this area.
In addition to monitoring data about our workforce for our own use, Dr. Douglas reports annually on the make-up of our employee groups to OSPI. Some recent statistics look promising. The percentage of administrators of color in Ferndale has risen from 0% to nearly 10% in the last two years. According to county utilization data, we have a higher than average percentage of teachers of color at both the elementary and the secondary levels.
Diversifying our workforce matters to us. Without educators who represent the students they serve, we aren’t going to get the best results from our school systems. Greater diversity will sharpen our competitive advantage and improve our organizational performance. In recognition of the School Board’s fourth Strategic Commitment (to honor, celebrate, and embrace our diverse community), we are committed to achieving a more diverse staff in Ferndale’s schools.
As is the practice in most school districts, the Ferndale School Board evaluates the performance of the Ferndale Superintendent annually and then takes an official vote on whether to renew her contract.
This year, Superintendent Quinn’s evaluation was conducted in an executive session before the July 25 School Board meeting. For this purpose, Dr. Quinn prepared a report on the accomplishments and shortcomings of her work during the previous year, which the Board received and reviewed in advance.
During the executive session, which Dr. Quinn did not attend, School Board members discussed her performance. At the open public meeting following the executive session, they voted unanimously to renew her contract. They also voted unanimously to give her a 2% raise.
By law, a superintendent’s contract in the state of Washington cannot exceed three years in duration. However, when the members of a School Board renew such a contract, they have the option of restarting the three-year period. This option was exercised by the Ferndale School Board when they approved a new contract for Dr. Quinn for 2017 through 2020
In September, a letter about a sexually transmitted disease was inadvertently sent home with elementary students. This was a mistake on the part of the school district, and we are taking steps to ensure it does not happen again.
Most of the information the district provides to students and parents is generated within the district. However, some information the state or federal government requires the district to provide students and parents. The letter in question was among the latter. The state requires us to send the letter to all 6-12 grade students and/or their parents.
The letter was included in a packet of beginning-of-the-year information sent electronically by the superintendent’s office to all district principals for distribution. The letter should only have been sent to secondary principals. At several of our elementary schools, the mistake was caught before the information went home. Some elementary schools sent the information electronically to parents, so students never had access to it. At one or two elementary schools, the information, including the letter on sexually transmitted disease, was printed and sent home in backpacks where students were able to see it and possibly read it.
To ensure this kind of mistake does not happen again, we are:
- more carefully scrutinizing information sent from the superintendents’ office to schools in order to make sure it is age appropriate; and
- asking the principals and administrative assistants in our schools to double check everything before sending it home.
We apologize for any distress caused by our mistake.
The district covers all normal wear and tear on the computers they provide to students and all accidental damage that occurs at school. However, students’ families are responsible for computers that are lost or damaged due to vandalism, exceptional roughness, or inappropriate use. This is no different than age-old practices regarding school textbooks.
In many cases, school computers damaged at home are covered by parents’ homeowners’ insurance. However, generally such policies carry a significant deductible. Therefore, some parents asked the school district to look for an inexpensive insurance policy that just covered a student’s computer.
We looked and we found one. For $46 per year, families can purchase computer insurance with zero deductible that will cover anything that might happen to the device, regardless of whose fault it is. Parents are not required to purchase this insurance. It is offered as a service.
The first meeting of the Bond Task Force is scheduled for Tuesday, October 24, 7:00-9:00 pm at Ferndale High School.
On September 25, Mark Deebach sent out the following letter of invitation to everyone who volunteered to serve on the Task Force:
Thank you for volunteering to be part of the Ferndale School District’s Bond Task Force. We are encouraged by your interest and look forward to collaborating with you on this important work.
We have spent the summer searching for the right facilitator to help guide us through the process of developing a bond package, and we have narrowed the field to three finalists. We will be meeting with all three during the next two weeks and selecting one in time to have him or her on board for our first meeting.
We have scheduled the first meeting of the Bond Task Force for Tuesday, October 24, 7:00-9:00 pm in the Ferndale High School Library.
Once again, please accept our gratitude for your willingness to take part in this critical school district/community project. We anticipate an educational and enjoyable experience with positive outcomes for the children of Ferndale.
We look forward to getting started on October 24. Please let us know if you will be able to attend. RSVP to Tammy Longstaff at email@example.com.
If you know someone else who would like to participate, let Tammy know that as well. Or if you have any other questions or concerns before October 24, please feel free to contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here we go…
During the public comment section of the August 29 Ferndale School Board meeting, a community member reported being told by a colleague at work that he didn’t want to participate on district committees or task forces because when he came to a meeting of the Facilities Committee, he was required to sign a non-disclosure document declaring that he would not to share the content of discussions at committee meetings with the public and that he would support the recommendations of the majority even if he did not agree with them. He said he was not comfortable signing something that didn’t support clear, honest, and open dialogue with the community so he quit participating on the committee.
After researching this concern, we determined that the document in question is a Social Contract that was developed by members of the Facilities Advisory Committee. At an early meeting of the FAC in 2010, the committee’s facilitator asked all participants to engage in a process of developing some mutual understandings about how the committee would operate.
- She began by asking several questions, such as: What kind of environment do you need to be able to work effectively? In your opinion, how does a good committee function? What do you think we should do when we disagree? And so on.
- Everyone shared thoughts, which were recorded and compiled.
- A draft document was taken back to the group for discussion and revision.
- Participants were asked if their ideas had been captured correctly and revisions were made accordingly.
- When committee members felt a good draft reflecting their combined ideas had been achieved, they were asked to indicate their approval by signing around the edge of the “final” document.
We have used this Social Contract process with many of our groups. The School Board has created its own Social Contract, as has the Administrative Team. The School Board chose at one time to put their Social Contract on a poster and all sign it.
The guidelines on the resulting FAC Social Contract came from group members, not from the district. The items that have anything to do with sharing or not sharing information, or with supporting a position whether or not you agree with it, are as follows:
- Be honest and open-minded.
- Try to put personal agendas aside to focus on the common good.
- Try not to take opinions and decisions contrary to our own as personal affronts.
- Do not be afraid to question data that is presented, and do not be offended if your data is questioned.
- Seek inclusive processes for collecting input and feedback.
- Honor requests for confidentiality when they are made.
- Avoid dominating conversations or debates.
- Work for the good of all students, not just those we most closely represent.
- Allow for differences of opinion.
- When making major decisions, allow for both majority and minority reports.
- When reporting out decisions, avoid ascribing them to individual committee members unless there is an explicitly agreed upon reason for doing so.
- Once a decision has been made, honor and support it in public spaces.
The entire Facilities Advisory Committee Social Contract is attached at the end of this document.